CONTENTS

Foreword – A Man in Full by John Wilcockson ‘Our Man on the Spot’ by Adrian Bell Clubmen and Gentlemen Called up to the North Arnold’s ‘Unbelievable’ 24 Wadley – A Gentleman and a Champion Record Breaking Kemps Breaks ‘Bath and Back’ Record George Laws on the ‘Bath and Back’ A Cornish Comeback The Classics Shay was ‘King’ of the Flemish Mountains Incomparable ‘Derby’ Stablinski Shows the Way from Paris to Roubaix Interviews Rest Day in Luxembourg with Nicolas Frantz George Ronsse who Learned to Ride at Shepherds Bush Eugene Christophe - the Greatest Loser of the Tour The Vélodrome First Visit to Ghent Sprinters ... Stayers .. Americaines Six Appeal Tour de France Bahamontes Wins from the Front Into the Alps Time-Trial Without Bracke Cyclotourisme 27th Brevet de Randonneur des Alpes A Tribute to Jock by Neville Chanin

Sporting Cyclist – the journal for which J.B. Wadley is best remembered. After four issues as a quarterly called Coureur, Sporting Cyclist appeared each month from May 1956 to April 1968. Its front cover, designed by Art Editor Glenn Steward, was invariably clean and uncluttered.

TOUR DE FRANCE
J. B. Wadley always remembered the first time he heard that mystical phrase - Tour de France. It was one night in March 1929, and he, not yet 15, was out on the Colchester Rovers’ mid-week club run. In darkness, barely pierced by their acetylene lamps, they veered off course and braked to a halt on a narrow, sloping farm track. ‘Cor,’ exclaimed one of the older riders. ‘Just like the Tour de France.’ It was another 26 years before JBW got his first opportunity to follow the race from start to finish and, then, in 1955, he was the only British journalist on the Tour. But he was lucky, René de Latour used to say, because he got there just in time, when journalists were still having to use their eyes and not rely simply on what they heard broadcast over Radio-Tour. In fact, Wadley never stopped using his eyes. He developed the habit of jumping out of the Press car at the critical moment of a stage, closely watching the entire peloton pass, and then, by prior arrangement, getting picked up by one of the following cars. In those early days he did his Tours the hard way, organising his own accommodation on the spot. Nothing was booked in advance; he would seek out lodgings in the stage town at the end of the day’s racing. What he liked was the kind of cheap auberge paysanne where you could go into the kitchen and refill your own glass of wine or cognac from the barrel. He was a fully-fledged Francophile, as well as being in love with the Tour. For his second Tour Wadley asked Brian Robinson to keep a diary, and in the week after their arrival in Paris (where Robinson finished fourteenth overall) they polished his personal, day-by-day account which then formed the basis of the fourth edition of his Coureur.lt was an instant sell-out, and it established a pattern. From then on, every September’s issue of Sporting Cyclist was devoted to the Tour. It would be impossible to do justice to J. B. Wadley’s work without including one of these reports in its entirety. In 1959 he was able to describe a particularly interesting Tour, for here was Bahamontes with more serious ambition than ever before, not content simply to secure the climbers’ prize, and aided in his intent by some remarkable intrigue within the French national team. And from the British viewpoint it was a good year - Vic Sutton transforming himself in the mountains to become the revelation of the Tour, and of course, there was Brian Robinson. Not only did he win his second stage by a massive 19-minute margin, he was the animator of a scorching stage through the Massif Central. It was surely

one of Robinson’s best rides, and JBW’s description and analysis of it is masterly. Two years earlier, Wadley had only been able to follow a part of the Tour, and a rather dull race it had been. One particular day in the Alps was fascinating, however, and his report of it is included here. It was not so much that it paved the way for Anquetil’s first Tour victory, but that it was a throw-back to the pre-War days, and offered a true glimpse of what had come to be known as ‘the Heroic Era’, when riders performed on roads that were no better than the farmyard track on to which the young JBW had skidded all those years before. The final piece in this section, ‘Time-Trial Without Bracke’, shows a different side to J. B. Wadley’s Tour. He chafed at being confined to the Press car throughout the three weeks, and, whenever possible, begged, borrowed or hired a bike. In 1964, the rest day in Andorra gave him that opportunity.

TIME-TRIAL BIKE WITHOUT BRACKE Rest day at Andorra. I first heard about that last winter before this racing come-back idea entered my head. I thought how pleasant it will be looking round the “Pocket state” on foot, with maybe a trip into Spain in the car. Then, on re-examining the situation as an active cyclist, I realised that if I could borrow a bike, then, whichever way I rode, it would not just be uphill, but up-mountain. The road running through the little independent republic is only 20 miles in length and this led to and from Spain or France, and there was one route off at right angles to the north which ended abruptly after ten miles at the foot of the great Pic de Seguer. The Tourmen approached Andorra from the French side, branching off the well-worn Route des Pyrénées after the descent of Puymorens and immediately beginning the climb of the 7,900-foot Col de l’Envalira. Surprisingly this col had figured little in international competition and fearful tales were told about its severity. When dirt-surfaced it must indeed have been a tough one; now it is a fine wide boulevard. We saw Jiménez reach the top well clear of the main group, then swooped down past him into the narrow main street of Les Escaldes at the

eastern end of Andorra-la-Vieille, the smallest capital in the world with a population of 600. On the way down I decided that so far as my rest day riding was concerned, my choice was now down to two roads. I didn’t fancy toiling up that bit of col on my day off! That night, in a restaurant, our table was next to that of Raphaël Geminiani and Raymond Louviot, and by the end of the meal the two tables had become one. I had, too, their permission to borrow one of the Gitane bikes ridden by the Saint Raphaël team. “Call in at our hotel at Les Escaldes in the morning and see my son, or Louis Debruyckere,” said Louviot. To visit a team’s hotel often means that the place turns out to be miles away on the other side of the town. In Andorra it was easy. All 12 teams were in a group of hotels at Les Escaldes with 50 yards covering the lot. It was while walking towards the Hotel Europa, where the Saint Raphaël team was staying, that I came across a Peugeot team driver writing cards on the terrasse of his hotel. He told me that Torn Simpson had just gone over the road to the field where the team’s cars and vans were parked. “Going for a ride?” Tom asked. He was strapping a spare tyre on the saddle. “Yes; later on. I have to go to see Louis or Louviot junior to get one of their bikes.” “You don’t have to do that,” said Tom. “Have one of ours. You want a fairly big frame. Bracke’s should suit you O.K. He won’t need it, anyway; he was eliminated yesterday. Why not come out now with me?” An invitation not to be missed. Directeur sportif Gaston Plaud approved the loan, and Tom rode with me down to my hotel. While I was changing, my Paris-Normandie car-mates came to talk to le sympathique Tom, who always finds an interesting paragraph for Pressmen. “Did you know that I ride the Tour on my wife’s handbag?” he was asking as I rejoined the party. “It’s true. I am using a plastic saddle, but it is covered with a bit of one of Helen’s old leather handbags. It is perfectly comfortable even in the hottest weather.” Then came the choice of which road to take. This way or that? “This,” the direction in which our wheels were pointing, was towards Spain. “That” was back towards France, whence Tom had come on Saturday and whither he was due to return on Monday. He would hardly want to go that way on his Sunday off. But he did.

“Do you mind if we go back up the Envalira?” he asked. “I have some Belgian friends camping up there on the pass. They live in Ghent, and I would like to call and see them.” So the bikes were turned round, and back through the town we went, just as you see us in the picture. That was taken by friend Honore Willems of Brussels whose more vigorous photographs of Tom and others have so often been admired in our pages. If he had not been around, however, this article would not have lacked for photographs. All the Press cars seemed to be heading towards the Envalira, which seemed strange until I remembered that there was a reception up at Radio Andorra. Colleagues photographed us at least half a dozen times.

(Photo: H. Willems)

As for the members of the public who saw us passing by, even in that area where cycling stars are seldom seen and television has not yet reached, Tom Simpson was immediately recognised. But who was the other rider? Even those with newspapers were unable to check the number, since that had been removed on Bracke’s retirement. It was tough being an unidentified Tour object, for, from the first stroke of the Stronglight we were beginning to climb. Although Tom took it very gently on my account, it was tough enough. After a few kilometres round the ever-mounting loops we came to the Radio Andorra station on our right, the forecourt packed with Press and official cars. Upwards we pressed - or rather I pressed, for Tom’s pedals seemed to want no pressing at all- until, after seven kilometres, we came to our destination, the “first camping on the left” (appropriately the village is called Encamp) where Tom’s friends were staying. The young couple and small son were in a fine tent and the lady of the canvas house soon had coffee ready for us as we relaxed in deck chairs. We spent a pleasant hour in their company before rousing ourselves to tackle the seven kilometres back to base. On the way up I had not much time to spend considering the bicycle I was riding. I had been on the smallest and the biggest (reading from front to back of the bicycle) with hands on top the whole time. On the descent it would have been possible to switch over to the biggest and the smallest, but there was no point in that since 60 kms. per could have been achieved with no gears at all. My “discovery” on the way down, when it was necessary to be down on the bars the whole time in order to apply the brakes, was the very forward reach on this Peugeot of Ferdinand Bracke. At the time, of course, he was unknown as a pursuit rider, but with a big reputation as a road timetrialist. Chatting with the Belgian before setting out on this ride, I noticed that he was about 5ft. 11ins., or just below my height. I was stretched right out when holding the business-ends ofthe bars - a bit too stretched for my comfort. Bracke probably has a longer back and arms and looks very comfortable and streamlined in action. No doubt because of this long extension and forward gripping position and steepish head, the bike’s downhill behaviour was quite remarkable; it seemed to be on a descender’s beam operated by some past-master of the

art like Leducq or Magni, and all I had to do was sit and be dropped down into the town with no more to do than occasionally apply the brakes. On the way down I noticed the precincts of Radio Andorra were now choked with cars. In there, enjoying the local hospitality, were scores of officials, Pressmen, sporting directors - and one rider, Anquetil. Jacques had scorned the usual rest-day ride, and colleagues who were at the reception say that he sampled all there was to eat and drink without a thought for the morrow. Twenty-four hours later, when passing Radio Andorra at the start of the stage to Toulouse, Jacques was already beginning to suffer, and further up the col he nearly retired. Having promised the mechanics to have the bike returned to the hotel by five o’clock and with work to do in the afternoon, it seemed that 16 kms. or so was to be the extent of my rest day ride. On the way back with the bike just before five I met the mechanic in the street. He had changed his plans - and I could have an extension until 7 p.m., at which time he wanted to lock up the equipment for the night. So, back to my hotel, back into shorts, back on to the bike. Of the two roads left, I rejected that towards the Spanish frontier as I heard it was busy with motor traffic. It was the Ordino road, climbing steeply northwards out of Andorra, through the Gorges of Sant Antoni, that I took. Whereas the lower Envalira road we had ridden in the morning had the freedom of a wide valley in which to find its upward way by the gentlest possible route, here the path had been hewn out of the towering rocks. Three dark, damp tunnels came near the top of the climb, which revealed a rock-topped bowl of sunlit enchantment which tapered off in the distant Valira del Nord. How I wished that there were time to go right to the end of that inviting road! My “turn”, alas, had to be Ordino, a pretty village where the locals noted my arrival with friendly but puzzled applause. They seemed to recognise a real Tour bike all right, but couldn’t quite see the slim greyhead as a rival of Bahamontes or Anquetil (with their country being tucked in between France and Spain, Andorrans are inevitably a little bit of each in many respects; from my brief visit I got the impression that they are much more Spanish than French). Back towards the tiny capital, up towards the tunnels, through them with care for the surface was wet and slippery, then swish down through the gorge on the shooting-Bracke-bicycle into the town. I returned the bike

in good time, and walked back to my hotel, the tops of the legs aching slightly with every stride. That Peugeot may have known its way down the mountains, but it left things to me on the way up. ••• Just over three months later I saw Ferdinand Bracke again. He had qualified easily for the quarter-final of the World Professional Pursuit Championship, the final of which he was destined to win in splendid style. In common with many riders he used to warm up on the Parc des Princes on a road bike. It was a Peugeot, of course, and it pleased me no end when he told me that it was the same machine I had borrowed in Andorra, the day I rode my slow but enjoyable ride against the mechanic’s watch.

Sporting Cyclist, January 1965