Friday, June 21, 2013

Sydney to Melbourne multi stage road race of 1930.

Oppy after he won the single stage
700 mile Paris - Brest road race.
The man to his right has an uncanny
 resemblance to Josef Mauclair.
Hubert Opperman was born in 1904 in the back blocks of Victoria. He grew up in Rochester. There's a statue to commemorate his birthplace. His early years of cycling started I believe when he was eight years old running errands in his home town. But more about that in a future post. This post is about the Sydney to Melbourne multi stage road race of 1930.

Prior to this race, Oppy was riding for Malvern Star, a brand of bike started by past 1898 Austral Wheel race winner Tom Finnegan. When he retired, Tom sold the business to 24 year old Bruce Small in 1920.
Oppy went to Europe in 1928 to race and it may have been at this time - and it is pure conjecture on my part that connections may have been made to excite two Frenchmen to come to Australia.
Why would two Frenchmen come to Australia? I'm sure Bruce Small may have played a part in the venture as Small was the ultimate marketing man of his era. In latter years he was involved in the development of the Gold Coast and also Mayor in his time.

But back to the story of the Sydney to Melbourne epic stage race. Josef Mauclair and Jean Bidot, two Frenchmen took the journey down under.
Both of a similar age to Oppy, born in 1906 and 1905 came to race Australia's best over the 5 stage race of 706 miles.
Mauclair had previously won the 17th stage of the 1928 Tour de France to Clichy. Bidot had won many classics and competed in several Tours de France. Neither were slouches.
It was in 1928 when Oppy rode in Le Tour that the two may have met. Mauclair not only came to ride the Sydney to Melbourne and the Tour of Tasmania but also competed in the many track carnivals around Australia and no doubt, Bruce Small, marketing man extraordinaire played a big part in his promotion. Mauclair and Bidot were under contract to Bruce Small.

The field not only included the two classy Frenchmen, but also many of the top Australian cyclists of the time. Among the Australian riders leaving Sydney on the first stage were Fatty Lamb, Ossie Nicholson, Frankie Thomas and Roy Johnson. I met Roy Johnson in his latter years when he owned a bike shop in Elsternwick from memory. He loaned me his scrapbook and it was full of newspaper clippings of his motor pace racing at the Motordrome against the other greats behind the big motors.
The first stage took the riders from Sydney to Goulburn with the win going to Oppy from Lamb and Bidot.
R.(Richard) W Lamb came from the Coburg club and had a brilliant career, something we may touch on in a future post.

It was on the second stage starting from Goulburn to Wagga that Josef Mauclair gained enough time on a breakaway to take the lead which he was able to defend to Melbourne. That break rewarded him nine and 1/2 minutes on the field. The bunch sprint was won by Jean Bidot followed by Oppy.

The third stage left Wagga to the border town of Albury and Frankie Thomas was able to snatch victory from Fatty Lamb who was known as man with a good sprint. Frenchman Jean Bidot was third. As the riders entered into Victoria, the town sprints were hotly contested. Primes were awarded as the route zig-zagged its way from Albury to Shepparton via Rutherglen and Barnawartha. The run into Shepparton was won by Ossie Nicholson from Frankie Thomas and Fatty Lamb.

From Shepparton, the fifth and final stage took the riders via Bendigo, Castlemaine, Kyneton, Woodend and Gisborne. Although the Bendigo sprint was won by the leader Mauclair, there was a prize for the 1st Bendigo rider. That was won by J. Flood. Was it incidental that the Bendigo Velodrome was named after Tom Flood - was this a relative or did T. Flood go by the name Tom because he didn't like his first name. Pure conjecture on my part.
Fatty Lamb - Many of the roads ridden in the Sydney to Melbourne would have been unsealed.
There were reports of the competitors getting off there bike prior to the climbs to change their gear. Some rode a freewheel that had two lots of cogs. 

As the riders headed to Melbourne it seems that the stars of the race allowed some of the lesser known pick up some prize money at the town sprints. Josef Mauclair had success sewn up with the lead he gained in the second stage but both Oppy and Jean Bidot were on the same time and that final stage at the Melbourne Showgrounds would decide who would take the second place on the podium.
As it was - Oppy beat Frankie Thomas with Bidot third. It wouldn't surprise me that Thomas helped his team mate secure the win from the Frenchman.

The overall standings were:
1st. Josef Mauclair
2nd. Hubert Opperman
3rd. Jean Bidot
4th. R.W. (Fatty) Lamb
5th. Frankie Thomas
6th. Roy Johnson

Josef Mauclair was born in Clichy, France in 1906. He won stage 17 of the Tour de France in 1928. He competed until 1938 and live to a ripe old age of 83.
His fellow Frenchman, Jean Bidot was born a year earlier at Saint Germain, France. He finished 22nd in the 1928 Tour de France. Bidot also had a full life and lived 81 years.
Hubert Opperman went back to France to compete in the 1931 Tour de France with Ossie Nicholson, Fatty Lamb and Frankie Thomas. Only Oppy and Lamb finished the Tour with Oppy finishing in 12th place in GC. He was in 6th until mechanical failure and stomach problems cause him to drop to 12th.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sydney to Melbourne 1930

In 1930, two Frenchmen came to Australia to ride a five stage race from Sydney to Melbourne - It was up until then Australia's longest stage race. The Frenchmen, Josef Mauclair and Jean Bidot finished 1st and 3rd with Hubert Opperman separating them in 2nd place.
I've been researching the event and expect to do a few posts in the coming weeks of this epic road race, the riders and the course. Hope you can join me.

Josef Mauclair
This is the magazine that brought the epic 1930 Sydney to Melbourne stage race to my attention.
Both the Frenchmen, Mauclair and Bidot had ridden the Tour de France and other French Classics of the era.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The 1919 Bob Finlay Pace Excelsior Motorcycle.

I'm currently restoring a pre-war motor pace bicycle. These particular bicycles were used to pace behind huge specialist motor bikes at speeds exceeding 60 mph (100 kph) on great big saucer banked tracks.

Somehow out there in cyberspace, my restoration came to the attention of David Kimber who was restoring a pace motorbike that quite possibly (or not) may have paced my bike. My bike is from the pre-war period - the motor bike was in action up until 1955. It is a 1919 Excelsior Big X and has an illustrious history of motor pacing over many decades of Australian cycling between the two world wars and a little after.

The frame is now repainted as it was when it was built. It is of a pre-war  period and most likely raced at the Melbourne Motordrome and later at the North Essendon board track after World War II.
The Bob Finlay 1919 Excelsior Big X pace bike that led great Australian cyclists such as Hubert Opperman, Fatty Lamb and many others to victory at speeds in excess of 60 mpg.
The Excelsior has been meticulously restored for the second time in the hands of the owner David Kimber.
David bought it many years ago from the original owner Bob Finlay who he says was like a Grandfather to him. They were neighbours.
The very long handlebars enabled the rider to sit well back. The rider, wearing overalls would leave them open so that the wind would be caught and balloon out the overalls. This gave the rider behind greater wind protection.
A fully restored motor pace bicycle was on show behind the Excelsior to illustrate how the combination of bike and motorbike interacted on the big saucer tracks. This bike was owned by a friend, Eric Bishop. What is so special about this example is that it belonged to Eric's father.
Pictures from the Past

Oppy - the Prince of motorpace
And this where Bob Finlay paced Hubert Opperman to his many victories and records.
The Melbourne Motordome. 
It was a great afternoon being invited to David Kimber's special moment of the relaunch of the Bob Finlay Excelsior big X motor pace motorcycle. Maybe I can one day ride my pace bicycle behind his motorcycle pace bike.

These 1930's hold a treasure of articles from the era of the Finlay pace motorcycle and the riders that rode the Motordrome - maybe we'll revisit the period in future posts on this blog.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Beginning of a Lifetime Cycling Passion

As an introduction to Cycling Scrap Book, I thought it might be relevant to offer a bit of personal background. It only came to my attention with 2012 morphing into 2013, my first cycling race was 1963.
That's 50 years ago. The race was what was then known as "The Schoolboys Cycling Championships".

Its how many of us started bike racing - before that, I would join my mates in the streets of Preston behind Bell Street for time trials around a suburban block. We used an old wind up alarm clock with a second hand that clunked its way around a huge clock face.

We had straight skid bars, probably a fixed wheel from memory and a rear brake so we could do great rear wheel skids in the school yard on weekends. The bikes were made up from old frames and wheels, other parts found or swapped. We even painted the frames ourselves, the final touch were those streamers that were fitted to the handle bar ends.

I made friends with another kid who was a real racing cyclist at secondary school in my first year, I even remember his name - Kevin Woodhouse. No skid bars for Kevin. He had a real racing bike and belonged to the Preston Amateur Cycling Club.
My father's old bike and my first real racing bike. We had it repainted with chrome tips to the front forks and rear stays.
I thought it looked pretty cool. Note the old Brooks saddle. Jack my father was an old mate of Henry Hill who organised the paint job. The rollers belonged to the person who introduced me to the sport - Kevin Woodhouse.
During that year the school that I attended was asking if there were any students interested in trying out for the Schoolboys Cycling Championships. Kevin suggested we should both enter in the school heats. I don't remember how many of us rocked up for the heats but I expected that Kevin was the man to represent us at the Zone Finals open section as he was a year older than me. As it happened, I represented the school in the Junior section with another Preston rider, Michael Kent. The bike I rode was one I found up in the rafters of our old garage. It was my father's old track bike - a Healing Special.

From that day with a success in the School Heats, I was captivated with bike racing. The Zone Finals were held on the Burnley Boulevard and the starting point was opposite the Richmond Cycling Club Velodrome. It no longer exists as it was in the path of the South Eastern Freeway project during the mid-60s.

I do know I finished in the leading riders as I was given a second chance along with others (2nd to 5th placings) to then compete in the Repercharge event but alas, I missed out on riding the Grand Final in 1963. I wonder who won?

The Junior Section entries.
Click on the photos for a larger view.
The Open Section entries.

So that was the beginning of my passion for the sport that has take up 50 years of my life (I'm currently 63).
This blog will take you over that 50 years (with a few gaps along the way) of cycling, not just about me but the people I met along the way. I expect some comments from readers and they don't all need to be positive. If I get it wrong, I expect you to let me know.
If you want to share your CYCLING SCRAPBOOK with the readers, then let's get together and write about it here.

We are lucky to be still enjoying the bike - many of our mates haven't been so fortunate.

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