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Derrick Woodings - My Cycling Career (Chapter 4)

We hope you enjoyed Chapter 3 of 'Derrick Woodings - My Cycling Career'

Here is the next chapter from Derrick's memoirs:

Chapter 4 - My racing career Part 1 - Racing as an amateur

My racing career can be divided into 4 distinct eras: I started racing in the mid-fifties as a club rider competing in club 10 and 25 mile time trials, working my way up until entering my first open event in 1958 coming up against established stars such as local national champions the incomparable Ray Booty and Gordon Ian. This was where I first came across Ron Hallam (winner of the ‘Johnny’ Helms memorial TT in 2014) a team mate of Gordon. In those days depending on which club you were in, you were either a roadman or a time triallist, and as explained earlier was the rather eccentric and unique way cycling had developed in this country and why it has taken so long for British riders to be in contention for events like the Tour de France. There were exceptions of course, such as my teenage hero Brian Robinson and later Tommy Simpson and others but they were relatively very few in number. During this earlier period I also rode the local track leagues at the now defunct Municipal track on Osmaston Park Road Derby and later the Harvey Hadden track at Nottingham( also now defunct), where I looked up to established stars Eric Thompson of Derby (winner of the Commonwealth games road race 1954) and multi-national sprint champion Lloyd Binch. Geoff Cooke (now the supreme master veteran sprinter, holder of multiple national and world titles) also cut his teeth in this league, eventually pairing up with Eric on the Tandem, later(1964) to become national tandem champions.

On the road I gradually became established as a reasonably fast local 25 mile time trial rider winning well over 100 races. This culminated in my highest placing, finishing 6th. In the national 25 mile championship in 1963 behind aces Dave Bonner and Hugh Porter (now a regular commentator for cycling on the BBC). A month after this rather disappointing ride I did my fastest 25 mile time just 38 seconds short of the British competition record held by Bonner, who had lowered it at the end of 1962 by about 25 seconds. From this performance and my win in the 100 mile TT championship I was shortlisted by the BCF for specific training to try and qualify for the new Olympic discipline of the 100km. team time trial. A very specialised event for teams of four (introduced at the Rome Olympics in 1960) with the World Championships and Tokyo Olympics as the target. This gave me further confidence in my ability to last longer distances at high speeds. The RTTC national 100 mile time trial championship was being promoted by the Newark Castle Club on local Notts roads later the same year.

100 mile TT Championship

I had decided to go for this longer distance event, but having only ridden 3 of these longer races before, was a relative novice. I was riding against established 100 mile riders, the 1961 and ’62 winners to list a few. I drew up a modest schedule for the ride based on my best performance from the previous year, but aiming to improve on that ride by 5 minutes. I did a ‘Graeme Obree’ to my bike for this - fitting close ratio rings and a close ratio 5 block. I put on my track tyres and fitted my 28 spoke front track wheel, although having to use a 36 spoke standard road wheel at the back. Starting near Newark, apparently one of the timekeepers later told me he had remarked to his assistant that I was going to win today. Starting like it was a 25 I broke one of my sprockets so limiting me to 8 gears, but I ended up by beating my personal best by 15 minutes and easily winning the event by 2 minutes from the 1961 champion Jon Baylis of Southampton and had nearly caught the ’62 winner Brian Kirby for 5 minutes before he pulled up and retired: My first national championship!

I was also riding road races against top independent (semi pro) and international riders at this time and one of my best performances was a win in the Tour of Belvoir on a hilly circuit in east Notts, I put this win down to the fact that the top ‘indes.’ didn’t know me and didn’t chase until too late when I attacked on the flat at the foot of the mile long finishing climb. I still, however, persisted in time trials as it was difficult to give up on a winning formula to the more uncertain road races where there is a certain amount of luck involved in winning when riding solo against teams and more experienced riders.

Time trials were a regular income and was mainly used to buy equipment). The system for converting prizes to equipment was to run a tab at our local bike shop, for me it was Mercian Cycles. Being an amateur it was forbidden to take cash prizes in those days. So, for instance if I won a prize of £5 I would ask either Ethel or Tom Crowther for a receipt for £5 to cover the winnings, which was used to offset any outstanding debt on my tab. This receipt was posted on to the race organiser who would send me a postal order to that value. There were exceptions to this especially at track meetings where cash was given, although this could have had consequences.

I defended my 100 mile title in 1964 but, suffering with a cold was beaten into 2nd place by a young upcoming and promising Yorkshire rider, Peter Hill, who was later to decamp to the continent; one consolation though was our team, Derby Wheelers, took the team prize, the other counters for the team being 3rd placed Mick Brown and 12th Mick Potts.

1965 saw me regain the 100 mile title again. I was by this time becoming more disillusioned with riding time trials week after week preferring the cut and thrust of road racing even if the wins were more difficult to come by and at the end of the year I had decided that I wanted to really branch out and made the decision to join the independent ranks the next year. I could not countenance riding TT’s for the next several years. I have every reverence for e.g. Ian Cammish an outstanding 100 miler who won the 100TT many times.

Note: This chapter is a summarised account from Derrick's memoirs, Derrick can expand on any of this so if you have any questions, please reply to this post with a comment and Derrick will respond.


Coming up next time: Chapter 5 - My racing career Part 2 - Racing as a professional

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