Rider feature

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How cycling saved my life, by Andy Clark

Andy Clark in the 80s

My name is Andy Clark. I was racing in the mid 80’s when we thought Avocet computers were cool and we frowned on the new fangled 'funny bikes'. I started with the Rotherham Wheelers and moved on to the Askern CC, some of you may remember me, if you don’t remember me you might know my Dad, Ron Clark. I drifted out of cycling in the mid 1990’s, but cycling never left me. This is my story of How cycling saved my life.

2015. My beloved Father passed away, throwing me into crisis and despair, but I coped with the help of my wife. I wrote and read Dad’s eulogy, which allowed me to swear in Rotherham minster (it was Dad's words I used, so I got away with it, dead sneaky eh).

2016. At the time I was a bus driver and as you know, bus drivers have to have a medical every five years. Well in March I failed mine due to high blood pressure and I was referred to my own GP, where it was found I was overweight (96kg), my blood pressure was sky high and so was my cholesterol, so the doctor told me I had to take statins and lose weight. I refused the statins and this lead to a battle with the doctors for the next few months.

Andy before losing weightOn the 17th March 2016 I drove a bus for the last time. The next day I was fifty years old and unemployed. I started my fitness programme on the 19th by going swimming, another passion of mine; I was taught to swim by my Granddad Sherry when I was four years old, so it was a good place to start. The next day, Dad's 86th birthday, I hosted a birthday party for him and scattered his ashes in his favourite place under beautiful blue skies with a piper playing Scottish tunes. But I still needed to lose weight and get a job, which I did. In June I got a job in a warehouse sorting parcels into postcoded areas, it was physical work and I loved it, I was promoted to collections driver in March 2017, and I love the job even more. The weight began to drop, so did my swimming times. My fastest half mile swim was 19.22, which I never matched, so swimming began to get boring, I needed something else. But what?

2017 There are only two sporting events in my life, the six nations rugby and the Tour De France. After watching the 2017 tour I said to the present Mrs Clark, "I’m going to get a bike and start cycling again". She looked up from what she was doing, rolled her eyes at me and tutted. Being a gentleman, I rolled her eyes back before I set off to Halfords and a new life. I bought a lovely blue aluminium road bike. Do you in the carbon fibre brigade remember aluminium? It's a metal and I know I will get laughed at when I turn up at a time trial on it, but remember, it's not the bike, its the rider.

Anyway where was I? Ah yes, the bike. I had to make a few adjustments. I replaced the 38/48 chainset, added clipless pedals, which were just coming in as I left racing, and better tyres. I then started ordering my clothing and was truly amazed at the quality of the items I bought, so much better than the 80’s stuff I wore. Mrs Clark started to grumble about the cost but shut up the first time she saw me in my lycra shorts! Andy now! The day of my first ride, I spent most of it adjusting the saddle height and the position on the cleats on the shoes I bought from a charity shop for twenty quid. It was a hilly nine miles which took me 44 minutes and when I got off, my legs were like jelly. But I persisted.

At the same time we moved house and I found the trousers I wore at Dad's funeral in the wardrobe. I put them on, fastened them up and let go, and they fell to the floor without touching me; things were happening in the weight loss department. The more I rode, the more weight I lost and this was noted when I went for a check up at the doctor's. My weight was down, my blood pressure was normal, so was my liver and kidney functions. But the biggest change was my attitude, I was now happy and cheerful, not morose and depressed as I was as I bus driver. I am now 75.6 kilos (I know this cos I’ve just checked), thanks to the bike. I ride every morning in the dark but I don’t care because the cycle lights have improved so much, much better than the Pifco lights I had to use all those years ago.

So now I want a kind race promoter to allow me to ride a time trial and let me show my mettle. The first race will be a poignant affair for me because I know in my heart that Dad will be there with his SLR camera ready to take my photo at the start and finish but that will only spur me on, give the chance and I will prove that sheer bloody mindedness and determination will win, or in other words, it's not the bike, it's the rider. See you up the road.

George Steers

George Steers 1923 - 2015

George was born on 18th February 1923 and got his first bike aged 12, built for him by his cousin. He continued cycling until the age of 86. He joined the Rutland CC in 1944 and was one of a number of Rutland riders who dominated the 24hr championship from 1955 to 1959: 3 individual champions and winning the team award 5 times - George was a member of the team in 1958/9 and achieved a pb of 456 miles.

George continued racing for 50 years until 2001 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and prescribed a hormone implant which he still has to take. One of the side effects of the implant was to lower his testosterone level therefore losing his strength and he didn't race again for 4 years. During this time he took to fishing and he and Jim Hall spent many hours at the waterside. Eventually the desire to race again took over and he started competing, setting many group and national age records. He still holds 4 national and numerous group records. He beat the hour for the first time aged 76 (! - Ed) with a 58m 33s; this was probably his best year as he went under the hour again and also did a 10 in 23m 25s, a 30 in 1-11m 39s, 50 in 2-03m 12s and 100 in 4-31m 55s.

As if that wasn't enough, George was also the 10 mile champion in 1993 and the 30 mile champion in 1999, and was awarded the C.W.Cooke trophy for the most meritorious performance of the season, nominated by the group, in 1995/96 and 2006/07. He still holds numerous group records.

Sadly George's racing came to an end in September 2009, shortly after setting a tandem age record with Alan Steward of 21m 56s (with a combined age of 150 years), and the day after setting what is probably his best age record of 25m 15s, aged 86. On the Sunday after the 10 record George was cycling down the hill into Bakewell when he was overtaken by a car which then turned left across him resulting in him going over top of the car and as well as servere bruising and damage to his face George suffered spinal nerve damage from which he has never recovered.

Sadly George passed away on April 29th 2015 after a fall at his home, at the grand old age of 92.

Harworth and District CC

John Scully remembers Harworth & District CC

Posted 24th Feb 2015

This is a picture of the junior section of Harworth and District CC in about 1951. John is second from the left, top row. It was taken on Eel Pool Road at Mattersey just after a club 10TT. Some of the older cyclists will probably remember it or have ridden it - it was what you may describe as a sporting course.

It started on Eel Pool Road just down from the junction and carried on through Clayworth with a dead turn just before Hayton and back. Check it on Google maps.

Note the scarcity of proper cycling clothes. Shirts and pullovers were common in those days. Having said that, I did save up and get some cycling shoes. Tommy (Simpson, 4th from the right) was a little skinny 14 year old then but was already showing gritty determination in races which eventually became synonymous with his riding style.

John Scully

Two other juniors, Bill Womack (on Tom's right) and Lennie Jones (on Tom's left) developed into good racers, and a great rivalry developed between them.

Here's a photo of John, aged 16, racing on the course in what looks like his holiday shorts :-)

What John didn't say is that he rode the Tom Simpson Memorial ride on Sunday, aged 79, as a sort of tribute to his old club mate. Well done John, and thanks for the photos, they are really great.

Iris Miles

Iris Miles

Posted 5th March 2014

We are sad to report that Iris Miles (Scala Whs / Doncaster Whs) passed away on the 26th February in Doncaster Royal Infirmary, aged 80. Although she was no longer a member of North Midlands Vets she was very widely known especially in South Yorkshire - just look at this list of her achievements:

  • 1957 Womens BBAR
  • 1957 50m Competition record
  • 1957 50m National Champion
  • 1957 25m Competition record
  • 1956 Womens BBAR
  • 1956 100m National Champion
  • 1956 50m Competition record
  • 1956 50m National Champion

Iris was married to Ken, also a good time trialist.

The funeral will take place on Thursday 13th March at Rosehill Crematorium, Doncaster, at 12 noon. Afterwards at Punches Hotel, Bawtry Rd. Doncaster.

Please take the time to read this great article by Dick Snowdon from the October 1957 issue of The Coureur, 'the Magazine for the Sporting Cyclist'. Many thanks to the Snowdon Sports Archive for sending it in.

Mick Allen (left)

Mick Allen, Belper BC

Although Mick (left on the podium) is a member of the North Midlands VTTA, he is not in a North Midlands club, so we don't see much of him. Looking at his extraordinary achievements from 2013, it seems he's been focussing on track rather than time trials, although he has still found time to do a 21m 03s 10 mile and a 55m 25 mile. Pretty impressive!

Mick's palmares for 2013, at the age of 66/67 (all track):

  • BCF Masters World Championships - gold in the Points and Scratch
  • BCF Masters World Championships - silver medal in the Pursuit
  • LVRC - gold in Point, Scratch and Pursuit
  • European Championships - gold in the Pursuit (65-69 age group)
  • European Championships - silver in the Points and Scratch (sadly he had mistakenly been placed in a lower age category, so it could have been another gold)

More info: http://belperbc.wordpress.com/