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Derrick Woodings - My Cycling Career (Chapter 5)

We hope you enjoyed Chapter 4 of 'Derrick Woodings - My Cycling Career'

Here is the next chapter from Derrick's memoirs:

Chapter 5 - My racing career Part 2 - Racing as a professional

This next phase was a big gamble made more difficult by the fact that the UCI had declared that the independent class was to be abolished and only pros. or amateurs were to be recognised (although as usual the continentals sidestepped this edict by recognising the independent (semi pro) category as ‘Hors categorie’: (not the BCF though!). Having made the decision, I carried on and took out a professional licence, joining a small team of four riders sponsored by Sid Mottram Cycles of Leicester. This is where my long involvement with Mick Ives began, teaming up with Eddie White (now involved in managing the Raleigh team) and Jim Hendry (a future official to be with the BCF)

I was a real novice at this level, a naive ‘time triallist’ up against ex semi pros and top internationals from the old amateur ranks, riders such as Albert Hitchen, Arthur Metcalfe, Pete Chisman, Wes Mason, Colin Lewis, Dave Bonner, Billy Holmes, Goz Goodman and Bernard Burns to name but a few. (All either ex champions or international riders). Albert Hitchen had decided to up sticks and ride abroad with George Drewell (London) this first year in the Willem11 team (Cigarette manufacturer), coming back for the national champs and then for the 1967 season. The only thing going for me was my strength in the longer events. I started out well finishing 4th in my first stage race, and getting well placed in other races. My first big test in the pro ranks was the 8 day Tour of the west in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. I finished 2nd in the first stage a 15 mile time trial, but I made a tactical error in the later stages and dropped to 10th overall, but redeemed myself by just missing out winning the last marathon stage from Plymouth to Weston –Super-Mare, a 150 mile stage. Where I was beaten by Dutchman Rein de Jong, I had again gone clear with 2 km to go taking de Jong along for the ride.

Later that season Jim Hendry (a Scotsman living in Leicester) engineered the team an invite to ride the 4 day 5 stage Tour of Luxembourg along with co-opted Albert Hitchen to make up the numbers. Jim had told me that the race would suit me as there was a time trial stage. (I found out on receiving the race manual that it was only 5 km and when I actually came to ride it, it was mainly uphill to boot) Albert was to be our key ‘supported’ man; we had contracted a local cycle dealer Bim Diederich to do our servicing and manage our performance as ‘team manager’. We were all really out of our depth at this level, except for Albert who had had several good placings on the continent that year. The race field included Rik Van Looy’s (Professional World road champion 1961and 62) squad, Solo-Superia and Andre Darrigade’s, Kamome-Dilecta team were riding and also a certain Johnny Schleck (Pelforth-Sauvage, father of the 2 Schleck brothers who both later rode the Tour de France); all seven man teams. But to me it was a great experience and even though I was very naive I rode reasonably well: I did actually finish the race; all of our squad apart from me and Albert were eliminated on stage 1. I carried on with Albert for the next two stages including of course the ‘time trial’ (and I finished well up in that, even ahead of Rick Van Looy, who was booed for not trying: but then he was only training for the Tour de France next month and was not in a good position for contesting for a place in the overall classification) but on stage 3 Albert punctured and Bim ordered me to wait, but Albert deciding that there was no point in carrying on, abandoned. I was undecided what to do now being well out the back. Albert, now in the team car, advised me to carry on for the experience so I put my head down and finished the stage inside the time limit, I got much support from the fans, who must have thought I was crazy to carry on riding well off the back. The last stage was a revelation to me, extremely hilly at the start, in the Ardennes of northern Luxembourg, but finishing in the much flatter area of Luxembourg City. I managed to stay with the peloton in the hills - just, several times having to fight back on with other dropped riders. (The terrain here reminded me of north Derbyshire) watching the great Rick Van Looy getting pushes up the hills by his team mates. The speed in the final 40k was absolutely tremendous, but I was by now going really well and even tried attacking a few times always with a ‘Solo’ rider on my wheel. Not realising that Rick Van Looy’s team were controlling the peloton, I urged one of his team mates to come through to help maintain our advantage, no chance! They must have been laughing at me. Still they got their comeuppance when one of the Planckaert brothers (Willy) won the sprint from Rick Van Looy. Considering that up to 9 months previously I was riding mainly time trials in the UK up and down dual carriageways I believe that I performed well above the level my capabilities had suggested.

My next big test in ’66 was the British professional national championship held on a brutal course in Devon. The race started and finished in Paignton. The route was a run out from Paignton over a hilly link to the actual 20 mile loop which included a climb up Kingsbridge hill each lap. We had three laps of this circuit before running back to the finish in Paignton. It was an attritional race and by the time we came back towards the finish there were only ten of us left three of whom went out on Kingsbridge, now down to seven to contest the sprint for the line. Peter Chisman, Roger Newton and myself were the only solo riders left. There being three good sprinters, with lead out men. Then with six miles to go Albert punctured, giving me an extra incentive to go for a long early effort. As the last couple of miles were slightly downhill I attacked at 1.5 km out and opened a gap, assuming the sprinters would hesitate which they did, the lead out riders then started to chase, but I’d still got a reasonable gap but then disaster, I felt my rear tyre bumping on the rim, I couldn’t maintain my advantage and the whole group came past at the 200 metre mark. Nearly but not quite! I was very disappointed, but 6th place was a good result for an ex tester.

Tour of West 1966

So 1966 was a relative success given my novice status and I looked forward to the next year and continued through 1967 and 1968 getting many podium places and the occasional win and moreover I was enjoying the racing which was far more challenging.

Tom Simpson, Me and Eddie

Having a few wins in 1967 and again In the Tour of the West 1968 I won stage 2 and actually became race leader by a small margin although only able to hold this for one day due mainly to lack of team support. In 1969 I was asked to continue by our major sponsor Bantel to ride as a team man for sprinter, Londoner John Clarey, also recruited was ex continental star Vin Denson who had ridden with major French and Italian teams on the continent.

Winster GP

The squad was an 8 man team and we had many successes, although being a team support rider my wins were minimal that year.

In 1970 I was not retained by Bantel and joined a minor team to continue the season. Not having a good season and unable to train properly due to domestic duties I decided to retire and stopped in July.

At this stage my options were to continue and just carry on riding but no racing and I was able to sit out 1971 assisting local coach Ken Jones (Chesterfield) with some junior riders. I was then eligible to re-apply for an amateur license. This was granted in 1972 and I rode two more seasons with a great deal of success. Whilst riding as a Pro and until 1974 I kept up my membership of the Wheelers.

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 6 - My racing career Part 3 - Racing as an ex- professional

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