Monday, 24 June 2013

1953 The First six day tour of New Zealand

1953 The Field;

R. Atherton (Bob)
S. Mildon (Sid)
T. J. Arlow (Thomas)
J. M. Hargreaves
N. Coker (Norm)
R. Connell (Roy)
F. N. Geraghty (Neil)
G. Garrett (Gordon)
D. G. Humphries (Dave)
R. Lowes (Ross)
F. R. Harvey (Bob)
E.S. Redward (Ted)
B. Lynn (Brian)
B. H. Naylor (Bruce)
C. E. Bishop
W. J. Spencer (William)
I. Fleming (Ian)
H. Hubber (Harry) DNS
D. A. Shattock (David)
G. R. Moore (Grahame)
R. Treloar
A.W. Stonex (Alan) DNS
J.S. Downie  Stewart) DNS
S. J. Taylor (Sam)
W. James (Bill)
J. F. Curtis
R. A. Wallis
P. Baird (Peter)
C. Herbert (Clive)
J. H. McRae
C. R. Adams (Charles)
V. Borich (Vic)
B. J. Howlett (Brian)
G. P. Morgan (Graham)
M.W. McCardle
T. R. Coburn (Trevor)
C. Scurr (Colin)
L. Davies (Len)
B. W. Gibb (Brian)
N. Webster
M. Matich (Mate)
T. Lambert (Ted)
N. Larson (Noel)

 On this program of the 1940 100 mile Papakura to Morrinsville Road Race, a letter has been written on the back, by an unidentified rider, in which he tells of the talk of a six day race being conceived to take place after the War. This is the first mention I have found, or have heard of in relation to a six day Road Racing event in New Zealand.

A setting for the first New Zealand Tour  

Before we really get into the nuts and bolts of the first tour,  it wouldn't be a bad idea to give you a little background to the environment that cycle sport existed in New Zealand at the time.
There were at the time two distinct camps of sporting cyclists riding in the country at this time;
the amateurs and the professionals, or 'cash riders' as they were known.
Amateurs and cash riders rarely mixed on or off the bike, and to make a swap from one camp to the other (especially from amateur to pro) was no small matter. Changing from cash to amateur could elicit a stand down period of up to two years, in which you could not ride competitively for either camp.
This wasn't a choice to be taken lightly.
Another consideration was that one could not of course ride for their country if they were a professional.
Prior to the Second World War the cash scene was king and many, but not all, of our best riders, and certainly most of the track stars, rode cash. This was for several reasons, but of course the main one was money, or more specifically the lack of it. It was not unusual for competitors to ride 100 miles to just get to the race, and then win or lose, ride home. As you can imagine winning was a serious business, and could make a real difference to the situation of the rider and his family that week.
Bikies on those days were nearly always broke, so the stakes were high and the racing, like the men who raced, tough.

Tough pre War cash rider J Fogarty


The swing from Cash to Amateur 

In the post war economic boom from 1945-73 that saw at times, nearly full employment, and rising real wages, the lack of money in the pocket slowly became a little less intense by the early 1950's.
In this new environment two things happened which changed the racing scene forever, firstly the need to race for money alone became less pressing.
Secondly, an  amateur rider named Nick Carter(some nice footage of him here) from Nelson captured the public imagination, when he won Silver in the 1950 Empire Games road race held in Auckland along Hobson Bay, in a hotly contested sprint finish in front of 25,000 spectators.
All of a sudden that special allure of the silver fern had became the focus for many young riders.
This shift from cash to amateur would tell in the ranks of the cash scene, and have a bearing in the eventual end of the cash clubs altogether.
One man who immediately recognized the potential of this new young movement was Mr Cyril.l.Herbert, secretary of the Northern Club, and president of the Auckland Cycling association.

 Nick Carter get cooled off, 1950 Empire Games, on Auckland's water front.
Empire games 100 mile road race, 1950.

A race in born, and gets its name.

Mr Herbert, or Slim as he was known by all, owned a transformer company in Auckland where more than a few would have "jobs" with very flexible working hours over the next decade.
Armed with a passion for cycling, and a son Clive Herbert with good potential, Slim unleashed his vision. The Auckland and Waikato centres hosting a 600 mile (965 Km) massed start stage race run over six days, including a time trial.
Most amateur races run in New Zealand at the time were run on the handicap system, so the massed start component was a very important piece of the new event.
His two stated aims were to bring cycling to the public, and to recruit more racing cyclists.
Slim and his co organizer Des Moxtan set to work on their incredibly ambitious undertaking with a fiery determination.This single minded attitude was going to be a real asset in the coming months as not everybody thought New Zealand was ready for such a hair brained idea.
Some contemporary newspaper articles I have read, can barely contain their pessimistic outlook for the event.
However in a inspired move, Slim managed to  bring the sports department chain Wisemans on as naming sponsor,and the Wisemans Six Day Tour of New Zealand is born.

The start of the first Tour.
The Auckland Mayor, Sir John Allum, handing 'Slim' Herbert
Director Sportif of the Wisemans Tour, the Maillot Jaune.
The riders are Graham Morgan (left), Trevor Coburn.

The first six day course.

The course was finalized to run in six stages. Starting from the Auckland Town Hall on Monday 12th October 1953 on to Hamilton, Rotorua then to Tauranga. The fourth stage is a 38 mile TT held in Tauranga, then the next day on to Thames and then back up to Auckland, finishing at Western Springs stadium, on the 17th. The whole course covering an actual 554 miles (891 km). The longest stage was to be the Hamilton to Rotorua 124 miles (199 km) which included the punishing climb of the Mamakus.

 Ross Lowes and Alan Stonex await the start of the first 1953 Tour.

Monday 1st October 1953
Auckland-Hamilton 150 km

At nine thirty in the morning 1953, down town Queen st, Auckland, New Zealand's largest centre, played host to the launch of this countries most ambitious cycle racing event yet witnessed.
The forty pioneering road-men who had assembled for the start of this very special race, were trying to keep calm and relaxed, as the sporting spot light of the country focused it's beam directly on them, for probably the first time in most of their lives. 
Television film crews and newspaper reporters hustled for position as the race organizer Slim Herbert handed Auckland Mayor Sir John Allum the Yellow Jersey, the Mayor held up the Maillot Jaune in one hand the starting pistol in the other, and fired off the beginning of  a New Zealand cycling tradition that was to remain in one form or another, New Zealand's most prestigious road cycling event for over five decades.

After clearing the neutralized zone at Penrose, the peloton rode together at a brisk pace until  Pukekohe, when suddenly Jack McRea, a Akarana Wheelers club junior made a spectacular break.
In doing so he also won the first prime of the race.
McRea's break did little to stir the bunch at first, with a stiff cross wind and regular showers, most thought this showy junior would soon be back in the ranks. However McRea was known to his fellow Akarana Wheelers to be a very competent time trialist and strong climber. He showed real maturity by pacing himself well and staying out.

Jack McRea the Akarana Junior who made the first break of the Tour, followed by Ted Lambert.
 The first to stir into action was the Nelson rider Sam Taylor, riding off from the bunch on his own, he was quickly joined by Aucklander Graham Moore, and Waikato's Neil Geraghty.
These three soon picked up the young breakaway, who held their wheel for ten punishing miles until falling back to the main bunch, which by Te Kauwhata was two and a half minutes down on the leading trio.
As the crosswinds turned into a following wind, the breakaway worked wordlessly together to turn that deficit into five and half minutes by the next prime in Ngaruawahia.

Unknown to these three, there was a carnage of mechanical breakdowns and punctures behind them, some leading pre race contenders suffering up to three punctures. Dave Humphries from Invercargill had three punctures a stripped rear axle and a faulty pump. He arrived later in Hamilton by bus, complete with his bike!
With the finish on Victoria St. next to the main city Post Office in sight, the three men threw caution to the wind and wound up their speed, with a 150 meters to the finish, Geraghty rose from the saddle and sprinted to the line, winning the first stage of the first New Zealand tour by six lengths from Taylor then Moore. His time was 3hrs 36 m 49s at over 42 kph.
The main bunch came in, in a massed sprint over eight minutes later. The break had been out for over 100km's.

With the first three riders coming from the Waikato, the South Island and Auckland respectively, everybody was happy, Slim couldn't have written a better ending for the first stage of his race.

Neil Geraghty pull on the Maillot Jaune,while race director Slim Herbert (left)speaks to the crowd

Tuesday 13th October 1953
 Hamilton- Otorohunga-Rotorua 200 km

Heavy rain delayed the 9.30 start of the second stage, which didn't get underway until after 10 a.m. from Hamilton's Victoria St. 
The riders were all anticipating a pivotal day of the Tour today with the Mamuku ranges dominating the end section of the stage, anyone not in the first bunch over the 600 meter climb would have trouble making good over the remaining days.
The job of the peloton in holding back yesterdays breakaways, Geraghty and Moore, was boosted, when these two collided on the first leg of the stage to Otorohunga. Geraghty suffered cuts,scrapes and bent handle bars, while Moore's front wheel was heavily buckled. He had to complete the the stage to Otorohunga, where there was a compulsory stop, on a fixed wheel track bike.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of the crash, South Island rider Trevor Coburn breaks away to gain an impressive lead, but blows up just out of Otorohunga.
On the return run to Rotorua via Te Awamutu, McRea made another aggressive break, bringing with him Bishop, Trealor and Spencer. McRea wins the first prime through Kihikihi, but Spencer sprints him to take the next at Cambridge. 
 The peloton move through a small road side town

The leading bunch split just before Taupiri, leaving the young McRea and Trealor. Soon the pace becomes to much for Trealor, and McRea is left alone, again he draws on him time trialling ability to increase his lead over the main bunch, until he has taken eight minutes out of them by the base of the Mamuku's.
Although McRea is a known hill climber, the long solo ride begins to take it's toll. Struggling to keep up his pace on the long winding ascent, all the while knowing that the ten point bonus at the top would put him in the lead in the King of the Mountain race.
Less than a mile from the top, defeat comes in the form of Graham Moore, who is riding with fire, Moore himself knows that a hilltop victory will bring him into striking distance of Garaghty and the Yellow jersey, he also knows Geraghty is not far behind, and pedals with a grim determination.
Geraghty, watching Moore closely, attacks,gently increasing his cadence, the gaps between  himself and his quarry slowly narrows. With just two hundred meters to the summit, Moore hears Geraghty on his wheel,he musters his final reserves of power for a final lunge. 
Geraghty has the gift of the classic hill climbers, the fluid motion of a breeze moving up a mountain,
with hart breaking ease, he glides past  Moore just before the summit to cement his place in the G.C and K.O.M.
On the decent, Geraghty keeps up his attack, and descends with frightening speed, passing the lead motorbike which is traveling at 80kph, some have said that the four leading riders were at times descending at well over 100kph.
Three riders, Moore, Scurr and Davis, work together to chase Geraghty, but can't make up the fourty second deficit which Geraghty holds on to all the way to Rotorua, and secures his his second stage.

N. Geraghty 5h 41 m 55s (avg 35 kph)
C. Scurr 5h 42m 21s
G.Moore 5h 46m 9s

Wednesday 14th October 1953 
Rotorua - Tauranga 186 km

If some of the peloton were still under the impression that Geraghty's position as race leader and leader in the King of the Mountains points, was largely due to his lack of punchers or mechanical mishaps (which had plagued the rest of the field mercilessly). they would be thinking differently by the end of this days racing.
Only minutes before the race was due to get underway, Geraghty, who was warming up on his Mercian bike, found he had serious troubles with his rear gear cluster.Quickly changing to his older spare bike, the trusty Christchurch built Jones Special, he headed out with the peloton on the first part of the stage, 88kms to Whakatane.
The bunch settled into an easy pace, taking thing a little easier, after yesterdays arduous stage.
The Auckland rider Bob Harvey, won the climb up the Rotoma hills and opened a large break that was finally caught, just one mile from Whakatane by Moore.
The roads which had been rough thus far, now turned to nearly all metal, and with this, the weather also turned against the riders. Heavy rain, thunder and hail pounded incessantly, while the muddy, metal roads tore the lightweight tubular tyres to shreds, the fragile derailleur systems also suffered many failures.
The 100 km to Tauranga would turn into a "battle of courage". As rider after rider suffered multiple punchers and gear troubles, the peloton held grimly together.
Not until a few miles from the finish did the first real break come. The popular "Happy" Howlett from Auckland opens a gap and stays up the road from the bunch for a time, until Peter Baird moves after him, Baird is the current Auckland road champion, and with his long smooth riding style, is a wheel-man to be reckoned with. Geraghty watching Baird easily pass Howlett and open a further 55 meter gap, sees the danger brewing and gives chase, Ted Lambert, another Auckland star rider, goes with him. Howlett joins the pair as they pour on the pace to catch the escapee. Lambert's ride here is all the more impressive when it is recalled, that he had three punchers, and a serious crash that bent the forks of his bike. After remounting an old machine (given to him by Sid Mildon)with only three gears, he had a long solo chase to regain the leading bunch in appalling conditions.
With the finish line just ahead, the four riders spread across the road, Baird hits the front again, but Geraghty times his sprint well. the four flash across the line, geraghty the winner, followed by Baird, Lambert and Howlett.
Geraghty had four punchers and had changed bikes four times.
The Director Sportif was quoted on the race conditions that day "I have been interested in cycling since I was 15 and have never seen (race) conditions like these".
 Brian Lambert hold his Auckland built frame
More about Leader/Clarke Cycles here

General Classification
N. Geraghty 14h 51 m 34s
G.Moore14h 59m 21s
P. Baird 15h 6m 26s
L. Davis 15h 9m 50s

Thursday 15th October 1953
61 km Time Trail
Tauranga-Mount Manganui- Tauranga

 The uncompromising nature of cycle racing was about to become very apparent to anyone who witnessed this days 61 km Time Trial.
In these earlier years, ones physical ability was sometimes not matched by the new equipment being developed at the time. The plunger type derailleur. used by most riders, was especially prone to damage in a crash, often leaving the competitor in the same gear he crashed in. The light weight tubular tyres, which where and still are, extremely expensive, were at this stage notoriously  susceptible to punchers, and little wonder, when the races where often run over roads that were of metal and gravel.


Cyclo Benelux derailleur, with plunger type mechanism, which was so prone to damage in  a crash.


Neil Geraghty, whose lead at the opening of the days TT, was at over eight minutes up on his closest rival, graham Moore and nearly fifteen up on Peter Baird in third position, was about to experience this first hand, with a series of punchers that were to cost him the Maillot Jaune.
The start of the time trail was agreed to be postponed until 2pm that afternoon, because of the ordeal metered out on the previous days stage to both man and machine. It was felt that a little extra time was needed to get both back into good working order.
Moore who was known as a very good point to point man, was picked out by several newspapers as a favourite for the day.
The riders were sent off in one minute intervals, which the organizers soon realized  was too short, as the faster rider would catch the slower man on front rather quickly. Many of the top riders felt that this would be their chance to eat into Geraghty's lead, and made it known that they would give this 61 km everything they had.
Pushing their machines so hard on the rough roads, yes even the time trial went through a bit of untar-sealed gravel roads, lead to a series of accidents .Mate Matich crashed heavily, sustaining a deep gash to his arm. Clive Herbert was left with several injuries and in shock after his handle bar stem snapped, sending him sprawling onto the road, this combined with his puncher in yesterday's stage, only a hundred yards from the finish, must have been a morale destroying experience.
Moore set up a good solid time to chase, covering the course in 1h 28m 30s at an average of over 41kph.
Geraghty set off with the feeling he could stay within sight of Moore's time, however just before the half way mark he was stopped with a puncher, repairing it quickly, he remounted, determined to make up the precious lost time. Another puncher, another lightning fast tyre change. Riding out of himself, trying desperately to make good the mounting time deficit. He turns around at Mt Manganui for the return leg of 30 km's, soon he hears a sound that sinks his hart, the terrible hiss of another tubular that has let go. His last spare goes on, he races off again, how many minutes have been lost, he has lost count, he pours on the power, trying vainly to shore up  his losses, then disaster.... another puncher.
With no more spares and with nearly all the other riders already passed by, so no one left to borrow a spare from, the writing had becoming plainly written on the wall.
When he eventually returned to the finish, he had lost sixteen minutes.
Moore's determined and consistent riding, had gained him a seven minute lead in the general classification  and the yellow jersey.
'Happy' Howlett rode an inspired TT, coming in 2m 25s ahead of Moore, with an average speed of 42.6 kph.
Now less than two minutes separated Geraghty and Baird in second and third respectively.
The race had been turned on it's head in just over sixty kms of racing.

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