1950s Biographies - Doug Petty



Finding something new to add about Doug Petty is difficult - mainly because he is already so well known amongst the cycling community. And not least because he has organised cycling trips to Majorca for over 40 years.

< But here is one of my personal shots of Doug riding for Croad Automatics and tackling one of the toughest climbs of the Huddersfield 2-Day sometime in the 1960s

The search for more continues .... and I have now tracked down a partial copy of the missing web pages that were formerly online at “The Independents”. So below is a “pirate copy” of the Doug Petty page - put back online until the original author can be traced. Most of the text seems to be there but the photos are missing.
Update 15-Mar-2011: Author Pete Jepson has been in touch and has generously allowed his story (along with the ones about Ken Russell and Albert Keenahan) to remain on this site.

Some external links -

  • Doug Petty info at The Independents [This link has recent gone dead - see opposite]

Doug Petty
With Albert Keenahan and Pete Jepson

Credit: formerly online at

Doug rode his first BLRC race in Keighley town centre in 1947. When he showed an interest in cycling, his father took him on one side and said, "Now look, Douglas, there's this outfit called the BLRC, you must have nowt to do wi' 'em!" so of course Doug was hooked.

He got his mates together when he saw an ad in the Keighley News for a local team to enter the "massed start" race. They rode wearing Keighley rugby jerseys, the only matching kit they could find at short notice. Such was the public interest in this exciting new sport that the road was lined ten deep with spectators watching the brightly coloured bunch whizz past. Cycle road racing was well on the way to becoming a national sport as it was in Europe, with over 100 Indies and Pros. But the BLRC tore itself apart with personal disagreements, and the NCU with backing from Cycling magazine took every oppportunity to undermine the road racers. (see "Ride and Be Damned" by Chas Messenger) "It all collapsed on Amalgamation," says Doug. "Then Dave Orford found out that we didn't need to join them, as they were nearly broke!"

Dirty Tricks Dept
While Doug was in the Army and riding with Surrey Velo, NCU types phoned the police to tell them that BLRC London Section's dinner was a communist meeting; the Police descended in force, pinning all the cyclists face to the wall with their hands up!
In Sheffield - Newark, Sid Wilson and others were fined 50 - a huge sum then - for crossing the white line. Later, Orford phoned to tell Doug the official responsible had been killed doing a U-turn in a time trial. ("NCU officials were a bloody menace!" -Albert)
The new BCF dumped the Indies, and made sure there were no more races. Dave Orford stepped in and organised over 150 races. The Pros were banned from racing abroad, so Doug raced in Belgium - in with Rik van Steenbergen and Brik Schotte - using his old BLRC licence. He even manufactured a licence for himself while in an aircraft at 33000 feet!
Some NCU riders were suspended for playing darts with BLRC friends.
In the forces, despite it being impossible elsewhere, NCU and BLRC riders were compelled to ride together.

In 1953 Doug signed as Indie for Wilson Cycles of Sheffield, assigned the job of teaboy for Belgian racing trips. "They don't 'ave tea over there, kid." He suffered his first telling-off when his mum bought inferior quality tea from Keighley Market. "WHAT'S THIS?!" bellowed Jim Wilson. "Er - it's t-tea Mr Wilson!" stuttered Doug.
"We're goin' to tak thi abroad kid," said Jim later. "Whatever they've telled thi, it's six times better." When they saw a huge field of rugged Belgians lined up for a race near Ghent, one of the team blurted out, "These aren't cyclists, they're bloody wrestlers!"

Doug found himself at the front; as one or two were struggling, he decided "I'll just slow it down a bit" for the team. "A big hairy hand came out of the bunch and gripped me from behind and shot me backwards; then another hand did the same, and another and another, till I were shot right out the back!"
"I forgot to tell thi kid - they don't do teamwork 'ere!" Jim commented.
Another race, the rookie as keen as ever: "What's tactics for today Jim?"
" 'Ang on as long as thi can!"
Head down in another race, Ken Stratford hit a post and fetched six riders off. Jim collared Doug at the finish.
"Kid, if tha sees Ken, tell 'im not to come back 'ere. They're goin' ter kill him."


Doug rode the legendary Manx Premier International Road Race in the Isle of Man on 17th June 1959 - the "Coppi race". There were 25 continental riders in 5 teams; including 3 Tour de France winners - beside Coppi. [A full copy of the start sheet is available online here - Ed]. Completing the start sheet were 53 British based Pro's! The O'Brien-Wilson Team were: 39, Dave Bedwell; 40, J.F. Wilson; 41, Sid Wilson; 42, A. Bladon; 43, Doug Petty; 44, J.A. George.

Doug recalls: "Dave Orford said, 'I'll get on Bobet's wheel!' then he punctured. Coppi did a huge effort and split the field in pieces. Andre Darrigade attacked and went up to the break, and I hung on his wheel and he took me up; and he won the race." Fausto Coppi died the same year, of malaria caught on a hunting trip in Africa with Raphael Geminiani.

In 1968 Doug took a few local riders to Majorca for early season training; and he has been doing it ever since. He runs 'Majorca 68' with Liz, his wife, based at Hotel San Diego [NOTE: now located at the newer Ayron Park Hotel - Ed] where owner and staff are keen cyclists, and where the continental Pros stay. He has been honoured for services to Balearic tourism - in Spain he is 'Don' Petty.