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April 2014

BIDLAKE REUNION PARTY AND PRESENTATION OF 2013 BIDLAKE AWARD

LUNCH WITH THE BIDLAKERS by John Taylor (added 9-01-15)

Last year saw the 80th anniversary of the Bidlake Trust, the committee who meet to decide which outstanding person from the sport of cycling is to receive this prestigious annual award. Lynne, Liz and myself were delighted to receive an invitation to attend a momentous lunch to celebrate this occasion, along with many others from the world of cycling. We had no hesitation in accepting the opportunity to be re-united with some of the top riders in the country. In his invitation the secretary mentioned that Lynne would have made a very worthy recipient, and that got me thinking, “Yes, why didn’t she get the award?” I then started to recall the few years immediately after the new millennium when she’d dominated the women’s long distance racing scene, and had broken the ‘End to End’ no less than three times, three years running, culminating in taking Eileen’s 1000 mile record in 2002. I remembered the poor coverage in Cycling magazine of anything relating to time-trials, or road record breaking, especially over the long distances, and how our own amateur ‘home-grown’ sport was pushed into obscurity while ‘Sportives’, ‘Drug Scandals’ and the ‘Tour de France’ received massive coverage for many months of the year! I’ve got to admit to not noticing any publicity about the Bidlake Awards during those years, or who had won the award, but then there was a lot going on.

Everyone who attended the anniversary lunch received a booklet which tells of Bidlake’s untimely death a short while after being hit by a car, which in turn led to the formation of the Bidlake Memorial Trust, the construction of the Bidlake Memorial Garden on the great North Road at Girtford, and the start of the annual awards in 1934. The first recipient was the Australian, Sir Hubert Opperman, for breaking seven RRA road records including the End to End and 1000 miles. But it isn’t always a racing man or woman who receives the award; it can also be a person who has greatly enhanced the sport of cycling by their work, either as an organiser, a coach, an administrator, a cycle engineer or designer, an artist, cartoonist, track or velodrome designer, publicist or promoter. In fact, anyone who puts the sport of cycling favourably into the public domain. Since the awards inception, 46 racing cyclists and 26 sport ‘enhancers’ have received it. There have also been 7 years when no award was given and 2003 was one of them. If I remember rightly, it was to be awarded to Tour De France professional David Millar, who later confessed to taking drugs, and the award was withheld.

The buffet luncheon held at the Stone house Hotel, near Stone, was sponsored by Phil Griffiths of Yellow Ltd, who needs no introduction to anyone in the cycling trade. Phil himself was an Bidlake award recipient in 1975 for being the dominant time-triallist of the 1970’s at the BAR distances, taking five BBAR titles, many National Championships, and broke many RTTC and RRA records, while also taking numerous road-race victories. The guest list included the greatest WRRA lady road record breaker of all time, 30 in total, Eileen Sheridan, still looking radiant, if a little fragile at 90 years of age, accompanied by her daughter Louise. Charlie Burton, daughter Denise and her husband were there (Beryl Burton won the award in 1959, 1960 and 1967, an unprecedented three times), also Les West with fellow ex-pro roadmen Colin Lewis and Geoff Wiles, Eric Tremaine, Mandy Jones, Andy Wilkinson, David Duffield, Kevin Dawson, Keith Butler, Julia Shaw, Brian Robinson, Marie Purvis, Dick Poole and his wife, Sandy Gilchrist, Eddie Adkins, Bob Downs, Frank Colden, John Woodburn and Glenn Longland.

Paul Carbutt, a talented all round top BBAR time-triallist turned professional road man, broke the End to End and won the award in 1979. Sadly he later developed the crippling motor-neurone disease and passed away in 2004. Paul’s widow, Janet, and their two sons, Anthony and David, were there to represent him, and it was good to have a chat with them. I told her how Paul and I kept in contact for details of his ride while I was writing my book The End to End Story, and how I had hoped Paul would live long enough to read the book; my hopes were in vain, as it took another year to get it published. I’d also been at the Riverside Theatre, Hammersmith, in March 2003 with Lynne and Liz and a host of past ‘End to Enders’ including Paul, to see a video made from old movie film clips of John Woodburn’s End to End entitled “Two Days and Two Nights”. It was probably one of Paul’s last public outings, and he was in a wheelchair then. He was surprised at the esteem shown to him and all the other record breakers – he was such a modest man. I was glad to get the chance of presenting Janet with the book, and even though it came too late for Paul, his lads, who are both triathletes, may learn more about him and draw some inspiration from reading it – perhaps enough to tackle the record themselves one day?

Martyn Roach was there with the Hounslow BAR winning team of Jeff Marshall and Kevin Fairhead. Initially I thought Martyn with his domination of the time trial scene in the 60’s had won a Bidlake award, but that wasn’t the case; he’d actually given ‘Woody’ a lift there with his bike so that he could ride home with Glenn Longland, who was in strict training for his forthcoming tandem End to End. The Hounslow team always add charisma to any awards they attend and like many other famous riders, their efforts all those years ago, has earned them a life-time of esteem. Also attending the award was Cliff Tremaine (Eric’s brother) and Martin and Alison Purser who represented the Tricycle Association. Members of the Bidlake Trust present were Christine and John Watts, Peter Whitfield and his wife Nancy, Trevor Bracegirdle and his wife, and Graham Thompson. The award this year was won by Dot Tilbury from the Isle of Man. She came over to the mainland with Marie Purvis, and there in support of them both was ‘Pocket Rocket’ Steve Joughin. Godfrey Barlow, the author of the book Unsurpassed: Tommy Godwin’s World Year’s Mileage Record, was there, and we reminisced about what it must have been like in 1939 with so many road records being broken prior to the outbreak of WW2.

In complete contrast to the previous year’s recipient, Sir Bradley Wiggins, this year’s winner, Dot Tilbury, is the unsung hero of many young Manx riders, and has been for the last 20 years or so. She has organised junior cycling events, competitive and non-competitive, during those years, and a young Mark Cavendish was amongst those juniors; he is a reminder that even world-class riders have to start at amateur grass roots level. Dot’s award recognises the dedication of all the people who work in this way to ensure that the sport continues to have a future, not only for Olympic or World Champions, but for everyone. Dot told us of her surprise at being chosen, especially on realising who’d won it the previous year, and prior to that, Mark Cavendish in 2011.

She gave us a short description of her work on the Island, the ‘open-door’ approach with the children from a very early age, letting them ride around the track, taking them on short rides in groups, and arranging trips to the mainland for her ‘up and coming’ young racers. Dot recognised the great support given by many other volunteers and helpers, her family and friends, as well as fundraisers. Whenever a squad of youngsters were invited over to compete in the UK, the race organisers knew it would always be a tough, spirited event. Dot also mentioned one experience when she’d entered a group of youngsters for a selection race in the UK, and had been turned away by the selectors who said they’d got enough talented riders and didn’t want anymore. One of the riders turned away without a ride that day was Mark Cavendish!

 

Thanks to Kevin Fairhead for these pictures


Dot Tilbury with Trevor Bracegirdle

Last weekend saw a unique gathering of former champions at Stone in Staffordshire, when the 2013 Bidlake award was presented to Dot Tilbury for her work with junior riders on the Isle of Man.

The last two Bidlake award winners were Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, but this year it was the grass roots of the sport that was recognised. In accepting the award, Dot described her work in building up junior cycling to the point where hundreds of young riders every week are taking part in races or fun rides, ensuring a strong future for the sport.

Among the many great riders at the lunch were world champions, BBAR champions, End-to-End record breakers and road-race champions: Mandy Jones, Frank Colden, Andy Wilkinson, Lynne Taylor, Dick Poole, Les West, Julia Shaw, John Watson, Steve Joughin, Martyn Roach, Sandy Gilchrist, Keith Butler, Denise Burton, Dave Duffield and others “too numerous to mention”.

The two greatest links with the past were provided by 1950s legends Eileen Sheridan and Brian Robinson. The party was generously funded by Phil Griffiths, himself a former champion, Bidlake award winner of 1975, and now a major figure in the bike trade and a patron of the Bidlake Trust.


Brian Robinson and Eileen Sheridan


Phil Griffiths, Peter Whitfield and Frank Colden

 

 

 


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