To break a competition record is a rare feat, but to break one and then come back after 15 years of alcoholism, six stones overweight and go even faster is much rarer. This is exactly what time trial legend Paul ‘Porky’ Bennett did.
In 1965, Bennett, who died this month aged 75, became the first man to break 54 minutes for 25 miles. With his 53-31 the Watford rider joined the greats of British time trialling, but his achievement was — for him — overshadowed by his non-selection for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
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His competition record was a veritable ‘I told you so’ to the GB selectors, whose chosen squad came home without winning a single medal. But Bennett was unable to shake off his disappointment at not going to the Olympics and a long period of alcoholism followed.
He was eventually hospitalised at St George’s, London and was given just six months to live. He turned things around in 1979 when, weighing 18 stone, he got back on his bike. In a miraculously short time he was back down to 12 stone, had bettered his 1965 time for 25 miles and was winning again with the Edgware RC-Revox team alongside a young Ian Cammish, Renny Stirling and Mick Burrow.
He had beaten alcoholism and was faster than ever, but Bennett’s weight still fluctuated, hence the nickname. Despite this, he could still win on hilly courses against much lighter, younger men.
His daughter, Pauline, would joke with him that he was so fast in his forties because his body had been preserved by alcohol. Bennett raced until he fell ill with cancer and his last win, in a veterans event, was just two years ago. He spent his last days in the Watford Peace Hospice where he was looked after “fantastically well” according to his daughter. He is survived by a daughter, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Bennett’s daughter, Pauline, would like help setting up a memorial event in her father’s name and asks his former clubs to contact her on 07710 627075.
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