At first sight, the agenda for this Saturday’s (November 13) British Cycling National Council meeting in Manchester appears to be doing the right thing at last, offering a place in cycling history to the British League of Racing Cyclists.

These were the rebel body of men responsible in the post-war years for battling against all the odds to bring road racing to Britain – banned since the Victoria era. All were banned for life by the National Cyclists Union.

But they fought on, formed the BLRC and planted the seeds from which has grown our modern and hugely successful sport.

For in 1959, the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC) amalgamated with then governing body, the National Cyclists Union, to form the British Cycling Federation, now known as British Cycling.

Curiously, there is a second proposal, to also recognise and acknowledge the National Cyclists’ Union for their role!

Curious because the BLRC will tell you that for years the NCU did their level best to hold the sport back. There was real fear among these NCU reactionaries  that bunched road racing on the highway would back fire and the authorities would clamp down, not just on this new Continental sport, but perhaps also time trialling, the staple diet of cycling sport for some 50 years.

Their merger with the BLRC to form the British Cycling Federation was a shotgun wedding which came only after a 16-year bitter war.

Even then it is said former NCU people continued to undermine all the BLRC had achieved, killing off the pro class for a start.

For British Cycling to now propose giving equal credit to the NCU  smacks of political correctness. It creates the illusion they were bedfellows, when history records otherwise.

The first proposal says:
“At the conclusion of our 50th Anniversary celebrations, this National Council acknowledges the vital role played in the development of this sport by our predecessor body, the British League of Racing Cyclists.

It is followed by a second proposal; word for word the same, to acknowledge the National Cyclists’ Union role.

One former top  BLRC international I have spoken to says the Board’s proposal needs to differentiate clearly between the two warring sides.

It’s to be hoped National Council do the right thing.

  • Howard Thomas

    Dear Editorial Staff,
    Please forgive my ramblings, but maybe they may provide something of interest (such as your possible re-publishing the tip about emergency repairs to damaged tyres as detailed below)!
    After wallowing in nostalgia whilst on-line, seeking info and images of the Paris Tour de France type cycle I once rode from about 1954 to 1968. I then decided to see if I could find any trace of Johnny Pound and Nev Taylor, both top cyclists in the Sheffield area in the early 1950’s. Nev once told me that he ‘trained on Woodbines’, so maybe he isn’t around anymore, but thanks to your website I seem to have found Johnny Pound. What a marvellous surprise!
    We both went to Nether Edge Grammar School in Sheffield at the same time (me 1947-1952), though John was probably about a couple of years older than me. I was very disappointed when he left school early to attend, if I remember rightly, the School of Art just up the road from NEGS. (or had he received a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Art, I can’t quite be sure).
    Would it be possible for you to let him know how pleased I am to discover that he’s still alive, well and to learn that his interest in cycling has not waned. By the way, in those far-off days, John rode to school on a Holdsworth bike, the frame of which was lugless. This cycle was the first I’d ever seen sporting tubs! At the time, my bike was a lowly Dayton Roadmaster finished in yellow and chrome (ughhhrrrr) with 26″ Dunlop HP rims and GB brakes etc. The fact that Dave Bedwell rode a Dayton when he won the First Tour of Britain (correct me if I’m wrong) didn’t make me any prouder to own one. I would have liked a Carpenter at that time but finance was an issue. I wonder if John has memories of those days?
    I bought copies of the ‘Cycling’ Magazine from time to time when in my ‘cycling phase’ and it must have been around 1958 when one tip I’d just read came in handy. After watching trains in Sonning cutting (Reading) for some hours, I discovered when it came time to return to Aldershot that my rear tyre had a long slash in the sidewall and was unrepairable. Fortunately, it was Autumn and many leaves had already fallen from the trees, so I removed the inner tube and packed the tyre with leaves, as sightly as possible. The ensuing 25 mile ride back to Mons Barracks was done entirely off the saddle – it was impossible to sit down because the whole bike was doing a kind of dance with me as a very unwilling partner. Nevertheless, the article in the magazine proved to be invaluable…..

    My best wishes for your continued publishing success,

    Howard Thomas.

  • John Pound

    The recent reluctance to acknowledge the role of the BLRC in my opinion stems more from the RTTC support within the present controversy than the NCU itself. Don’t forget that on the amalgamation there was a surge of enthusiasm for road racing from hithertoo staunch NCU club riders and most of the road races were still being promoted by what had been League clubs. NCU riders previously had to be satisfied with time trials or the occasional closed circuit race and did not want to risk the loss of their main source of competition. When the BSA team was formed, circa 1952, it was solely formed from NCU riders. This caused “extra competitiveness” in the Tour of Britain that year and it made Leaguer Ken Russell’s virtually single handed win all the more incredible.

  • smedis

    The NCU’s ‘vital role’….’in the development of this sport’`? Is this some new revisonist history?
    When the BLRC organised the first open road race, the NCU was incandescent (suspension for all concerned) and ten years later highly alarmed when the UCI acknowledged the progress the League had made, following Ian Steel and the BLRC team winning the1952 Warsaw Berlin Prague. This lead to the BLRC receiving temporary recognition in 1953 by the UCI which forced the hand of the NCU leading to negotiations between the NCU, BLRC and RTTC for the overall administration of the sport in all its specialities. Six years later saw the formation of the BCF.
    The NCU was passive at best and counter-productive at worst. In reality its operational function was administering track racing. It had sub-contracted time-trialling to the RTTC and promoted very few road races, in parks and on aerodrome circuits. This from the longtime UCI-recognised national body!

  • old hedgey

    Why don’t they just reform the BLRC and have done with it. The ‘suits’ are currently destroying X-Cross in its traditional form, – for what end?

  • Sid Ellis

    At least the identical proposals should help stimulate the debate but it does seem provocative when the very existence of the BLRC was as a result of the deficiencies of the NCU in stopping the development of the sport’s major activity (road racing) and the League’s aims were precisely the opposite!
    It can only be hoped that there are those present with enough knowledge and interest to make appropriate amendments to the existing proposals to produce something that is acceptable to those of us still around, passionate about the sport, and proud of what we acheived all those years ago.

  • Alan Gifford

    It is good to see that at last the tremondous effort of the BLRC during the formative years of Road Racing in this country are due to be reognised at the BC AGM this weekend. However the association with a similar resolution recognising the role of the NCU is very hard to swallow! They did nothing to further the sport and in fact went out of their way to inhibit its progress. I just hope the delegates to the AGM will recognise the huge discrepency bewteen the two organisations- it is certain that if the NCU had had their way their would be no British riders competing at the highest level in world cycling today!
    Derby Mercury RC – League rider 1947-1954