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.


Rhodesia said...

Its about time we had a Frenchman win le Tour again! D

Leon and Sue Sims said...

Possibly but the great thing about Le Tour is that it has now spread its wings world wide. Tomorrow I ride with my son on the cobblestone laneways of Melbourne. Its like a Monty Python of the Pais Roubaix classic.
Tell you more on Monday on Melbourne our Home....

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