Outside Norwich City Hall, the remaining forty-three gladiators lined up for the final stage into London, leading them out would be the ‘Lone Star’ rider, Ken Russell. Could he possibly pull it off against the might of the well-organized teams and win the greatest prize in British cycling?
Content once more to drop back into the pack of the peloton, Ken sat and waited, only a breakaway led by Les Scales or Bob Maitland would cause him to attack. After twenty-six miles, Aldridge and Newman broke away and built up a one-minute lead on the peloton. Through Newmarket Thomas, Maitland and Scales moved fast to the front, Russell sensing the danger moved with them. The Aldridge and Newman team were sucked un at fifty-two miles forming a new seven-man breakaway. Ken Russell could well be in trouble now with a force of three BAS riders against him. His salvation came forty-five minutes later when the peloton reformed after a surge from the main field. For the next ten miles, they jockeyed for positions until Jones made a dash for it leaving the main field for dead. By Royston, Jones was three minutes up and the pack was getting jumpy. Again Bob Maitland and Scales tried to sprint off the front hoping to dislodge Ken Russell. Ken ever ready for any move by this pair answered every challenge. Eighty-eight miles out Just before Stevenage, Jones was caught and now the five riders were three minutes upon the main pack.
Disaster struck for Ken Russell his crank started to work loose and the tyre softened, all his hopes and dreams of winning this most coveted of prizes was vanishing just as quickly as the air from his tyre. Having fought so bravely over the past weeks and after almost fourteen-hundred miles, Ken may have missed out within shouting distance of his goal.
Ken looked over towards the Belgian rider Michaux and in his best French, not knowing a word of Flemish, “Donnez moi vote bicycle” Michaux did not hesitate but jumped from his machine and swapped with Ken then set about the task of repairing the stricken machine.
Ken sped off in pursuit of the leading group once more, however, he was not out of the woods yet. Michaux machine had developed a crack in one of the front forks and with thirty miles remaining it would have been foolhardy to push an attack. Ken contented himself and sat behind the other riders onto the finish.
As they entered Alexandra Palace, ken made a big effort in the final yards coming second and ten lengths behind Les scales. Sadly for Les, he was beaten into second place overall by virtue of three minutes. Unbelievable as it may sound and after a total distance of one-thousand-four hundred and seventy miles, a mere three minutes would separate first and second place. Ken Russell has now crowned the Daily Express 1952 Tour of Britain winner.
Three men, Les Scales, Bob Maitland, and Ken Russell, were never out of the picture from start to finish. Ken won, but there were no real losers in this race. The final time was Les Scales four hours fifty-three minutes and twenty-seven seconds.
At the time of writing 2002 (the 50th anniversary) Bob Maitland, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, and Ken Russell, Bradford, West Yorkshire was still riding. I cycled alongside Ken a lot during those days, and where the inspiration came from for me to write the piece for the club newsletter. He told me that sadly M. Michaux, who became a close friend of Ken, now suffered from Alzheimer’s and that the disease was at an advanced stage. Ken was a keen photographer and a member of the local photography club. When I went off to Spain for three weeks to ride the Compostela de Santiago, Ken looked after Tim, the dog and it was he who took the picture you see of Tim with a ball taken in Ken’s back garden in Bradford.