WHEN the N.C.U. announced the amateur road team for this year's world championship race in Switzerland, there were many who wondered why the name of Birmingham's Arthur Ilsley had been omitted.
In three selection mass starts he had been placed first, eighth and tenth: in the Manx International, he was third, and on the season's form looked a "cert" for international selection.
However, the cycling world soon learned the reason, for Arthur, in the same week as the N.C.U. was chosen, had taken out a B.L.R.C. independent licence and had signed up with the star B.S.A. team.
The many who earlier had wondered why he had been "overlooked" again began to wonder why he should turn independent in preference to a probable international cap."
Arthur knew what he was doing. In his seven years of racing, cycling had become his full-time hobby - and then he decided to make it his career.
He was lucky enough to have an offer from a big manufacturer, and gratefully he "signed" for B.S.A., joining his former amateur club-mates Bob Maitland, Stan Jones and Alf Newman.
Lot to Learn
Having put himself into the semi-professional class, which one day he hopes will become fully professional, our 23-year-old Personality is not thinking in terms of vast Quantities of £ s. d. coming his way or easy living. Far from it, he knows only full well what a hard fight cycle-racing is.
" I have got a lot to learn," he says, " but I have been lucky enough to get in a team of knowledgeable and experienced riders, and I will learn all I can."
Ilsley has proved to himself that he is not afraid of bunched racing, where, possibly, nerves, just as much as general fitness, are part and parcel of a rider's make-up.
Circuit racing, he maintains, has given him this necessary confidence.
"Some of the races I have ridden in at Church Lawford and other flat circuits," he said, "have been much harder than some of the open road races I have taken part in."
His First Club
Arthur did not own a bicycle until he was 15 years old, although in his early youth he used to borrow other children's machines to pedal the odd-hundred yards Lip and down the street. He persuaded his mother to buy a bicycle for him on his fifteenth birthday. The black war-time sports model duly arrived. Its make? A B.S.A.!
For the next year he was one of the hundreds of ]one tourists travelling around the countryside. On Sundays he attempted distances of 100 miles - and liked it! He used to see, on these excursions, other cyclists, some of whom were speeding away on machines without mudguards, and at first he wondered what they were doing!
After a year of touring he met a former school friend, Ted Dunn, who was just about to join the Birchfield C.C. - and so Ilsley, in 1946, joined his first club.
Promptly he "felt the urge to race." A club 10 saw him clock 27m. 34s., and later in the year he had his first mass start event in Handsworth Park, finishing seventh, half a lap behind. He said he felt " bewildered " by it all - but not in the least nervous.
It was to be the bunched-game from then on, and except for the odd time trials here and there, Arthur has stuck to mass starts. The following year saw him take second place in the Midland junior championship, and he was placed between seventh and tenth position in other races.
Along came his call-up and in the two years between 1947 and 1949, during which time he served about 15 months in the Middle East, he did not ride a bicycle at all. In fact, he remembers that about his only connection with cycling was in the early days when his bed was placed next to another young chap, who belonged to the Kingston R.C. It was Cyril Peacock."
“I went along to say cheerio to the Birchfield lads when I was demobbed," he laughed,
But after spending an evening with them I had my mind changed for me."
Arthur Willington took him gently back into the racing game, and Ilsley slowly found his place in bunched events, racing at Handsworth Park, Brands Hatch, and Church Lawford.
In 1951 he was second to Bob Maitland in the Midland senior championship, and at Blandford came eighth behind' winner Procter in the national championship.
A race in the Isle of Man - the Mannin Veg - saw him take a tumble, but he stayed upright in his three events in Ireland later in the year, and in which country he enjoyed his first open road race. He also attempted his first 50, 100 and 12-hour time trials.
It was " a standstill year "in 1952, he said, with Arthur Willington taking the club mass start title (run on points system) from him, which he won the previous year, and placings of thirteenth in the Isle of Man; tenth in the London-Leamington; fourteenth in the first N.C.U.-promoted open road race at Birmingham; equal fourth in the bunch finish in the Birkenhead national mass start championship, and a personal best 25 of 1-2-0.
During the 1952 Tour of Britain, in which he was, interested, he was doing 15 days' "Z" training in Dorchester, and was unable to see the Tour as it passed through on the way to Weymouth.
This year he left the Birch-field and joined the Concorde, and the Beacon R.C.C. mountain time trial which he won in 2-55-32 (16 seconds outside Maitland's record), he records as his finest-ever victory or event, coupled with his Isle of, Man third placing last June.
Ilsley, in company he does not know, has a shy social; make-up. His name always' appears at the top of the finishing list or thereabouts, but try to find him afterwards and more often than not you find he has disappeared, or, in theatrical language, has made a ,,quiet exit."
In strange company in his first B.L.R.C. Professional/ Independent race, this year's Tour of the Peaks, Arthur showed he was not shy when it comes to racing, for he rode into a creditable fifth placing. In his first multi-stage race, Tour of Britain, he rode well, proved a sound team man, and was twenty-seventh.
He is a strong, forceful rider of much promise, and is likely to make rapid strides in the new company he is going to keep from now on.
ILSLEY'S SPRING CLASSIC
Maitland's fine effort leads to team's success
Credit: Cycling 11-Apr-1957
ARTHUR ILSLEY, the Birmingham independent, scored a good win over a strong field of amateurs and trade-sponsored men in the South Elmsall Vikings' 84-mile Spring Classic road race - but it wouldn't be fair to call him the man of the race.
The win was, in fact, "laid on” for him - though he rode intelligently to score it - and the stars of the race were that game Midlands battler Bob Maitland, and the Yorkshire man in form, Ron Coe from Barnsley.
All the drama of the race was packed into the last lap when Maitland, who was lap leader every time after the second of the eight laps, and jumped away first with T. Oldfield and then alone for the last 25 miles, saw a lead of 45 seconds gradually diminishing.
That was his lead when he breasted the prime hill for the last time, and had about nine undulating miles in front of him to the finish. Behind him were Ron Coe, Arthur Ilsley, and Brian Haskell - but only Coe was really working. Haskell was too tired, and Ilsley obviously didn't want to chase his team-mate. Out on to the main road part of the circuit, Maitland's lead was being very slowly cut down - and then, turning for the last six miles to the finish Coe really turned on the heat. Haskell was shot off the back, but Ilsley was still glued on as Coe, overtaking motor traffic as they sped through Hemsworth, gradually cut down the gap. Maitland, glancing around, could see them, but he could do nothing about it, and with a final gain of 200 yards in about half a mile, Coe bridged the gap. Now they were about three miles from the finish, and the pace eased right up to the last 150 yards when, over the uphill finish, Ilsley, who had enjoyed a sheltered ride, went by to win by three lengths. Maitland was a further four lengths down, and Haskell was next in, 80 seconds behind the trio.
Coe wasn't prominent until midway through the race, and it was Tyneside visitor W. Baty who was first up the prime hill; then Oldfield led from amateur R. Bartrop and Bob Maitland on the second. Bartrop, K. Jowett, P. Ellison and Haskell were subsequently in the forefront on the prime hill, but from the fifth to the eighth lap it was Maitland and Oldfield who dominated the race before that thrilling last few miles.
A. V. Ilsley, Ilsey-Maitland Cycles, 3-59-25, 1: R. Coe. independent, 2: R. J. Maitland, independent, 3: B. Haskell, independent, at 1-20, 4: J. L. Gill, independent, at 3-25, 5: R. M. Bartrop, Falcon R.C., at 3-52, 6: P. Ellison, independent, at 3-52, 7: T. W. Oldfieid., independent, at 5,13. 8: A. S. Jones, independent. at 8-35_9; W. Baty, Tyne Velo, at 8-35, 10. Team - Ilsley-Maitland Cycles 13 pt.