The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

T

his was the longest day of the tour and after yesterday’s grueling day in the mountains, there was always the possibility of the field splitting. Surprisingly the majority of the riders kept up the pace and there was very little between them. Again the riders were favoured with good weather, all be it for a stiff breeze, this did not prevent breakaways and twenty miles out a group of eight riders went off the front and clear of the field, they swooped on through Machynlleth and on the windswept climb to the summit of Mynydd Gwern, it was O’Reilly who made the running over the top first, a good hundred yards ahead of the nearest rider. Remarkable, since earlier on the leaders on the climb had left him for dead.

After some sixty miles, seven riders formed themselves into a group, intent on chasing down the leading nine riders. Passing through Bala they had the leaders in their sight and by Queensferry they merged, this group of sixteen held a full four minutes over the peloton at this time.

Winning the crossing from Wales into England was Trevor Fenwick, having put in a great sprint, he claimed ten pounds prize money for his effort.

In Preston, the big Scotsman, Ian Steel (Steel by name Steel by nature), made a bid for glory, but Ian’s reputation was formidable and never allowed to make a move without someone jumping on his wheel.

I spoke with Ian at his home in Ayrshire where he showed me the cup he was presented with for winning the first Tour of Britain, in 1951 along with one of the two crystal Peace Prize trophy’s, he won in 1951 and again in 1952, one he retained at home the other was with his daughter.

We talked about the Second Tour of Britain, and he told me then, he was a marked man all the way.

The stage would be a mass sprint finish, on the line it was impossible to separate the bunch so close were they packed. A photograph gave the win to Ken Russell, over Scales by half a tyre width, in a time of seven hours fifty-eight minutes and thirty-seven seconds. A copy of the photograph can be seen in the Ron Kitchin Library in the Otley Cycle Club’s clubhouse, (the writer a former member of that club).

Wednesday, August 26th was a rest day, fortunate indeed since the weather had turned nasty, gale-force winds and torrential rain lashed the seafront at Blackpool.

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