THE INVITATION SCRATCH FIFTY (1)
NEW clubs had appeared with mushroom-like growth during the late nineteen-twenties. Many of them emulated the older clubs and promoted open events. Some of these new events were good, some were bad and a few were ill-disguised attempts at making money. The older clubs wanted to put something into the game and the best of the new clubs were providing opportunities for the rapidly increasing number of time-trial enthusiasts to ride in open competition.
It was not unnatural that the Cheshire Roads should want to make another attempt at running an open. We had run the first ever Open 12-hour event in the Manchester district in 1925 and burned our fingers financially. But in 1931 our standards were still high and after our Annual General Meeting had authorised the running of an Open it had to be the very best and that meant an Invitation Event. The ordinary Open charged an entrance fee - the Invitation was by direct invitation to the clubs the promoting club wished to participate and there was no entrance fee. Fifty miles was the distance chosen, the event was to be a scratch one instead of the usual handicap, riders were limited to 60 instead of the customary 100 and the team race was to be decided on a points basis instead of aggregate time. Prizes had to be of a standard commensurate with the quality of the event and it was decided to award a fastest time prize of £4, second fastest £3, third fastest £2, and fourth fastest £1, with three silver medals for the first team and three bronze medals for the second team.
The Invitation Scratch "50" was run for four years - 1931 to 1934 inclusive - with outstanding success, and then had to be abandoned for financial reasons.
George Mundell continued as President in 1931. Dick Gerrard took over the Editorship and Fred Turner succeeded "Andy" Wilson as Captain. "Andy" had given years of sterling service in this office and with Bill Bailey (re-elected Hon. Secretary) had shared the top places in club-run attendances for many years. A demand was made for longer runs. It was decided to award club standards at all events from 50 miles to 24 hours instead of at 12 hours only. It meant that the standards had to be so high that only Turner, Parker and possibly Power could possibly win "Golds".
Fred Turner travelled to London on January 17th to attend the first of Cycling's Best All-rounder Concerts, where he received his award for finishing eighth in the initial competition. The first of the concerts was held at the Queen's Hall, subsequently the venue became the Albert Hall. Fred was supported by a party of eight members and friends. The railway fare from Manchester to London and back (excursion fare), leaving at midday and returning by the midnight train was 23/-. A weekend ticket cost 30/9!
A member joining us this Spring destined to give us long and faithful service was Bill Bentley, who formed a notable partnership with his friend Frank Hollins (alias Barney). Billbee and Barney were names to be conjured with for many years to come - they rarely missed a run and the worst of weather never daunted them.
The Annual Dinner was held at the Victoria Hotel in February - a very successful affair. The tickets cost 6/-.
The first of the longer runs was held early in March - lunch at the Crown at Llandegla and tea at Mrs. Barker's, Four Lane Ends, Tarporley. A perfect day with an easterly wind made the morning's ride comparatively easy, even though it was in the region of 60 miles for most. The run to tea was long enough for anyone to be content with the shortest distance between two points. Parker, however, persuaded a small group to essay the route over the Horseshoe Pass to Llangollen. This wasn't so bad until in the vicinity of Bangor-on-Dee they hit the easterly wind and Parker said that he knew a short cut. Parker always said that and never did! The party wandered in the Wilderness until everyone was "cobbled". Just then Jimmy Atherton picked up a drawing pin in his tyre and was hailed as the saviour of the party. Parker (the inimitable Parker!) produced a packet of chocolate and the lives of everyone were saved. It was said that the pin in question was gilded and placed in the Club Museum.
The centre for the Easter Tour was Coniston, our headquarters being at "Holly How" which charged 8/- per night for dinner, bed and breakfast. The event of the tour was the crossing of the Sticks Pass by Atherton, Fretwell, Leonard, Price and Wild, this at an altitude of 2,420 feet is the highest pass in the Lake District. The time taken from Patterdale to Thirlspot is recorded in the Club News as 2 3/4 hours, which, had not the writer recorded it himself, he would now find hard to believe! Another feature of the tour was that Chris Price rode a fixed wheel without brakes all through the tour. He was a thrilling sight pedalling all-out down such declivities as the Kirkstone Pass and Dunmail Raise. Traffic may not have been as heavy as today, but it took a lot of nerve!
Racing in 1931
The season commenced on March 1st with a (then) novel event promoted by the. Anson C.C., a newly formed club named after the Anson Estate in the Longsight district of Manchester. This was a "Rough-Riders 25". The course started at Monks Heath, followed the lanes to North Rode, behind Bosley reservoir and back to the start. These lanes were pretty rough and loose in 1931, but the course was nothing like those used in Cyclo-cross today. Of all things, there was a heavy overnight fall of snow and the promoters were seriously considering abandoning the event when Parker rolled up in tights and alpaca (the only rider not to wear ordinary cycling apparel), saying "What about this race?" So the race went an and resulted in a triumph for the Club, Fred Turner returning fastest time of 1-59-51 and with the aid of Frank Grisbrook, 2-16-26 and Parker, 2-20-26, winning the team race. The times look slow even for a rough-riders' "25", but the snow-covered lanes made the event more a test of endurance than speed. Parker, it should be mentioned, was now living in south Manchester, and was very keen on recovering his form of 1928, which injury and living in the wilds of Lancashire had made very hard.
Turner returned 1-8-31 (4th fastest) in the Stretford Wheelers' "25" to Parker's 1-11-51. The Club then travelled down to the Bath Road to ride in the Charlotteville "50" on Easter Monday with moderate results - Turner, 2-22-4; Parker, 2-25-2; and Grisbrook, 2-34-l, but, against the country's best, the team was placed 7th. Southall won with 2-13-29.
The first club event was a "50" run on Apri1 26th. Turner was fastest from scratch in 2-16-14 and took the third handicap, first in the handicap going to Power and second handicap to Bill Walton. Parker was not on the card.
A week later Turner returned third fastest time (2-17-32) in the Dukinfield "50", won by F.T. Brown (Potteries C.C.) in 2-13-25, a very good ride on the Siddington triangle. Parker did 2-22-47; W.S. Partington 2-27-3; Frank Grisbrook 2-30-22 and Tony Power 2-33-11. Parker maintained his consistency in the Clifton "50" with 2-23-47, the event being won by J.W. Brooke (Gomersal) in 2-13-22. Turner had a spill on the way to the start and did not ride.
The first of the Invitation Scratch Fifties.
This was held on May 17th, the Sunday before Whitsun and a most representative entry from the North and Midlands was received. Through Fred Turner's friendship with Freddy Frost (Allondon R.C.), we had. the satisfaction of the entry of a rider currently second only to Southall in fame. The course started at Sandpit Lane between the 5th and 6th milestones from Holmes Chapel, proceeding along the A.50 through Knutsford and Mere to the first turn at Latchford Chapel, back down the A50 to the far turn at Rode Heath (40 miles) to retrace to the finish near the starting point. The day was extremely wet and the quality of Freddy Brown's win in 2-12-49 can be assessed against the names and times of the first twelve on the result sheet :
The times were returned by Mr. N. M. Higham, N.R.R.A., an independent timekeeper, to whom a fee of two guineas was paid. There were 55 starters (of the 60 on the card) and 47 finishers. Turner's ride in such company speaks for itself. The entry was so hot that only three other members were fast enough to be accepted, namely, Power, who returned 2-22-15, and Parker 2-26-21 (with a puncture). Our other rider, Frank Shubert, left his symphony unfinished, as Editor Dick Gerrard pithily put it. Frost's ride on a completely strange course was indicative of his class. The team race went to the Anfield with 22 points against the East Liverpool Wheelers' 27 points. The event was hailed as a great success by everyone concerned.
On Whit Monday we had a team finishing in the Anfield "100" for the first time in years. Turner did a fine ride of 5-3-3; Parker 5-29-38; and Power 5-36-59. Fastest time went to H. J. Townsend, (Speedwell) in 4-53-10.
At the end of Whitsun the Club went over to Retford to compete in the Sheffield Central "50". This was on a fast course and Turner put up a splendid ride of 2-12-48 (club record), Parker coming in with 2-22-50, and Grisbrook 2-24-9. Ted Bloodworth, Broad Oak, won in 2-11-32. Hitherto an August Bank Holiday fixture on the Shawbury triangle, the East Liverpool Whee1ers brought up their Open "50" to the fast roads of the Wirral this year. To our delight Fred Turner did the ride of his life to return fastest time of 2-10-27 against the cream of northern racing men. At the time this was the fastest fifty ever ridden in Cheshire! Disappointingly, Parker did not start owing to a septic finger and our other riders did not give Fred much support, Grisbrook 2-27-0, Chantler 2-29-48 and Fretwell 2-31-5.
The second Club "50" (June 14th) resulted in another win by Turner in 2-14-11 on a pretty hard day. Tony Power was second fastest in 2-24-50, and George Hearder third fastest and second in the handicap with 2-27-3. A fine ride of 2-31-36 by long marker Bill Bentley gave him a well deserved first place in the handicap, third place being won by Harold Chantler. There were 20 entries of which five, including Parker, did not finish.
Turner got third place in the Manchester Wheelers' "50" with 2-15-51, the winner being Joe Brooke of the Gomersal with 2-13-14, Tony Power doing a useful 2-21-8 and Grisbrook 2-28-59.
The Club had seven riders in the Manchester Grosvenor Wheelers' "100" on the last Sunday in June. Fred Turner was fifth fastest in 4-49-2, whilst, to use Editor Dick Gerrard's fine turn of phrase, Parker put joy in our hearts and tears in our eyes by finishing 40 seconds outside the coveted standard of even time (5-0-40). Power was not so far behind with 5-4-3 and good rides were accomplished by Frank Grisbrook 5-17-39 and Eric Vallender 5-25-56. Bren Orrell (Anfield) returned fastest time of 4-41-9.
Fred Turner maintained his excellent form in the Altrincham Ravens' "25" with a new club record - 1-4-25 for third fastest time. Tony Power won the third handicap prize with a really excellent 1-5-35, with Parker not far behind in 1-6-40.
Fred Turner was again honoured by selection (as one of the best 12 fifty-milers of the season) to compete in the North Road Memorial "50". He ran seventh in 2-13-46, a most honourable position in the following list of finishers :
Bill Bentley, Ted Rigby and Eric Tweedale made the long journey to Girtford Bridge in support of Fred.
Tony Power headed a party of 11 members who rode in the Apollo Wheelers' "50". He did 2-23-15 to Parker's 2-24-33 (with a puncture).
Five members went over to Retford for the Sharrow "50", Grisbrook, Hearder and Fretwell beating evens with 2-24-52, 2-26-15 and 2-26-42 respectively. During this week-end (July l7th/l8th) Tony Power ran fourth in the Anfield "24" with 366 1/2 miles (winner F. Hancock, 389 1/2 miles).
On the last Sunday in July Fred Turner took second place in the Lancashire R.C. "12" with. 218 3/4 miles, and with support from Stan Partington, 202 3/4 miles, and Charlie Smith (194 1/2 miles) took the second team prize.
Turner, Parker and Power entered for the Bath "100", and on a hard day, Turner excelled himself by returning third fastest time of 4-47-40 (a new club record), Freddy Frost (Allondon) being the winner in 4-39-40 and Len Cave (Veg. C. and A.C.) beating Turner for second place by merely 21 seconds.
A member rode through the night to witness the 1931 Bath Road "100", The conditions must have been such a contrast to the heavily congested conditions of today that an account of the trip as published in the Club News of September 1931 is worth repeating in this volume as follows :
"The last time I sampled this night-riding stunt was in late October some years ago, to be present at an attempt on the N.R.R.A. "50" record over in Yorkshire. On that occasion, having received a severe walloping I swore a vow that never again would I exchange the bed for the saddle during the dark hours.
However, vows are made to be broken and 10-30 on Saturday night prior to August Bank Holiday saw me leaving Trentham with my nose towards Pangbourne. Stone and Rugeley having been passed I began to crave sleep, but as I had burned my boats there was nothing for it but to keep on pedalling.
Lichfield (where a sleepy policeman eyed me suspiciously), Bassetts Pole (hot coffee), Kenilworth (owls and dawn), these are outstanding features, besides, of course, the expected basins of acid. Looking not for ladies on white horses, but for fried eggs grouped gracefully on large rashers of bacon, I crept into Banbury at 7-30 a.m..
Off again, feeling like a new man (almost new, anyhow), I dashed through Oxford with the wind well and truly abaft the beam and reached Pangbourne by lunchtime. The afternoon I spent in well-earned rest on the Thames side in company with our friend Freddy Frost and his intended wife.
Fred Turner arrived at tea-time, having travelled by "rattler" as far as Reading, whilst Smith Parker appeared later in the evening by road from Oxford. Bill Bentley and two friends completed the outfit, Tony Power staying in Theale with his brother.
"Five-four-three-two-one-GO!" said the Timekeeper to A. E. Ward, (Anerley B.C.) and the Bath Road "100" of 1931 had commenced. Our team comprised F. Turner, S. Parker and A. J. Power, all of whom started on time. At approximately 44 miles Freddy had caught and passed L. Cave, who started a minute before him and was third fastest at the point, twelve minutes inside evens. Syd was just behind, whilst Tony, who was a late starter, was in too much of a hurry to take our drink. Methinks he had a "special" somewhere.
G. W. Jenkins was the first finisher, his comparatively slow time indicating the toughness of the going. In a few minutes we began to look anxiously for our captain. "Who's this? Cave! Oh heck, what's he done to Freddy?" We peer down the lane and see a jacket fluttering wildly. "He's here. Oh, will he do it? Hard lines, Fred! He's pipped you by 21 seconds, 4-47-40 - well done!" "Frost", yells someone else, and last year's winner has repeated history and won by almost eight minutes, Cave being second and Freddy third. Syd (Smith) who is not at his best under hard conditions came in with 5-17-5, whilst Tony contributed a meritorious 5-9-29. After breakfast-cum-lunch at Pangbourne, the party split up, each having various ideas on how to get home. In view of Fred's exertions of the morning, I decided to accompany him by train from Reading, just in case he collapsed you know! In this way Stockport was reached at about 8 p.m. without any "cobbing".
During the August Bank Holiday week-end John Houchin made a solo journey to the Speedwell "100", recording 5-36-23, and a week later, partnered by Bill Oglesby (Manchester Grosvenor) won the first handicap prize in the Altrincham Ravens' Tandem "50" with 2-4-13, actually better than the existing Club record. As it was done with a non-member it could not, of course, count as such but it was probably John's best ever ride.
Fred Turner returned fastest time of 2-14-33 in the Clarion "50" but although in such fine form he had to stand down from the Club "50" a week later (August 23rd) with a cold. This event was won by Frank Grisbrook, a promising rider, in 2-23-12, with handicap prizes going to Eric Vallender, Stan Wild, and Jimmy Atherton, in that order. Syd Parker was riding in the Tricycle Association "50" on the same morning and returned second fastest time of 2-38-24.
The Manchester Wheelers' "12", held on Saturday August 29th was won by Bren Orrell (Anfeld) with 226 1/2 miles. Of our four entries Tony Power and Frank Grisbrook covered 209 3/4 miles and 202 1/4 miles respectively. On the Sunday of this week-end Fred Turner ran second in the Clifton "12" with 222 3/8 miles. On this same day Parker returned second fastest time of 2-20-12 in the Stretford Wheelers "50".
In the Palatine "50" Parker beat Turner for the first time since 1928 with 2-15-23 against Turner's 2-16-26. also winning the third handicap prize. Ted Gilbert (East Liverpool Wheelers) won in 2-12-56. We had nine entries in this event, of which Tony Power (2-19-15), Frank Grisbrook (2-24-1), and Harold Chantler (2-27-49) beat even time.
For the inter-club tandem "50", with the Manchester Wheelers and the Mersey Roads Club, Turner partnered Fred Heginbotham of the Manchester Wednesday with great success. They returned fastest time of 1-58-29 - to beat 2 hours being a rare feat in Cheshire in those days. Johnny Berry and Harold Crye of the Wheelers, were second in 2-0-17, and Parker and Grisbrook third in 2-4-5. The winning time did not qualify for Club record, but the ride by Parker and Grisbrook did. The entry was not good consisting of 11 pairs from three clubs.
The last Club event of the season, the "25" saw Parker winning his first race since 1928 with 1-4-55 against Power's 1-5-2, the handicap prizes being won by Frank Grisbook, Ted Rigby, and Jimmy Atherton. On this morning Turner returned fourth fastest time in the North Road "100" - 4-49-5, the event being won by Charlie Holland (Midland C. and A.C.) in 4-43-15.
Thus the end of another racing season. The only member to win a Gold Standard was Fred Turner for his fine ride in the East Liverpool W'heelers' "50". Two unsuccessful attempts were made on Northern records, the "24"by Tony Power, and the Tandem "50" by Fred Turner, partnered by Fred Heginbotham (Manchester Wednesday). Turner lowered Club records at 25, 50 and 100 miles and Parker and Grisbrook the tandem "50".
Turner again had a most successful season and finished ninth (one place lower than 1930) in Cycling's Best Allrounder competition. His rides of 2-10-27 (E.L.W. "50"), 4-47-40 (Bath Road "100") and 222 3/8 miles (Clifton "12") gave him an aggregate speed of 20.795 miles per hour.
Here are the first twelve in the 1931 B.A.R. table:
1. F. W. Southhall, Norwood Paragon. 21.852 mph.
Altogether the season had been a most successful one for the Club and Fred Turner in particular who had carried the Club colours to every part of the country in great style.
Owing to the rapidly increasing number of open events it had not been possible to find a day suitable to both parties to continue the inter-club "50" series with the Mersey Roads Club.
On a touring note it is worth recording that a member rode to Cape Wrath on the north-west tip of the Scottish mainland, which is still regarded as no small feat by cyclists who accomplish it today.
A final note of interest. The Annual Dinner, usually held in February during the Social season, was this winter brought forward to December. This function, held at the Victoria Hotel, Manchester on December 5th 1931, was the last to be in the form of a dinner and Social evening. From 1932 onwards we have held a very successful Dinner-Dance each year.