Sunday, July 28, 2013

The 1973 Sun Tour and Mount Skene

Mount Skene is between Jamieson and Licola. We had a holiday house about 2 kms out of town on the road to Licola and Heyfield. That was back in the 60s to the mid 70s. In latter years, Phil Anderson had a property there when he met Simon Gerrans.
In those years we lived in the northern suburbs of Preston and later Keon Park. I may be wrong but possibly Easter 1965 my friend and competitor, John Rush and I rode from Melbourne to Jamieson - and yes, we rode back home again. I must have been 15 at the time because I was on a straight gear from memory.

A few times when we had the house at Jamieson, we tackled the dirt road leading to Mount Skene. It was nothing more than a graded track with the greatest views of the Victorian Alpine country. In 1973, the League of Victorian Wheelmen ran a stage of the Sun Tour from Jamieson to the top of Mount Skene, a mere 20 miles in the old currency. Now that seems like a rather short stage but the conditions were horrendous. Remember that the roads were rough and graded gravel. The rains came and as the riders climbed to an altitude of 1517 metres temperatures would have dropped below freezing. Although only 20 miles in distance, the rain, fog and snow would have made it one of the hardest stages in the history of the multi-stage race.

Paul Ciuro climbs to the top of Mount Skene in the snow and slush.
Paul's gear ratios for the technically minded were;
The race winner was Graham McVilly - Graham came from Hobart, Tasmania. I can actually remember him having his first ride on a steeply banked velodrome. It was the Melbourne Olympic board track and Graham fell off at the first bend. After getting back on he fell at the next bend. No wonder he became a great road rider.
He finished up with 3 Sun Tour wins; 1971, 1973 and 1974. The National road championship came his way in 1970 and 1971. I did some research to see where Graham McVilly is these days and discovered that he'd  taken up cross country horse riding. In 2002 he had a fatal accident while riding his horse, BWS Felix at Huntingfield Tasmania. He was only 53.

Paul Ciuro remembers some of the riders that year - although he did tell me his brain and body were so numb, he could not remember much of the day.
Graham McVilly, winner
Hilton Clarke
Jan Bylsma
Mick Hollingworth
Brian Carlson
Frank Atkins
Ken Evans - 1972 Winner
G Rowley
Keith Oliver
Both Bylsma and Clarke suffered the torment of Mount Skene - Here they are in the 12 Hour Tarax  Madison  Brunswick Velodrome. 
Keith Oliver could possibly be the longest competitive cyclist in Australia.
Starting as a teenage his competitive racing career concluded recently with  World Masters Track Titles to his credit.
His palmares are too long to list here.
Hilton Clarke also remembers it as on of the most gruelling experiences of his cycling career.
Maybe we'll ask some of the riders of their experiences of the stage for a future post.

 The Stages of the 1973 Sun Tour
Stage 1 ITT Melbourne CBD washed out
Stage 2 Penhurst to Casterton 70 miles
Stage 3 Casterton to Edenhope 50 miles
Stage 4 Edenhope to Horsham 74 miles
Stage 5 Horsham to Nhil 58 miles
Stage 6 Nhil to Charlton 64 miles
Stage 7 Charlton to Bendigo 75 miles
Stage 8 Bendigo to Cohuna 85 miles
Stage 9 ITT Cohuna to Leitchville 9 miles
Stage 10 Leitchville to Echuca 34 miles
Stage 11 Echuca to Yarrawonga 62 miles
Stage 12 Yarrawonga to Lavington 70 miles
Stage 13 77 laps of Lavington bike track
Stage 14 Lavington to Bright 81 miles
Stage 15 Bright to Beechworth 59 miles
Stage 16 Beechworth to Bonnie Doon 106 miles
Stage 17 Bonnie Doon to Eildon 47 miles
Stage 18 Jamieson to Mt Skene (20 miles)
Stage 19 Glenmaggie to Sale (record of distance)
Stage 20 Sale to Yallourn
Stage 21 Yallourn to Warragul showgrounds.

Just as a side issue, I remembered somewhere amongst my archives, I had an original copy of an account of the very first Sun Tour of 1952. It was written and compiled by Laurie Jones who was considered to one of the founders of the event. Within the pages is much more fodder for future posts for "the CYCLING SCRAPBOOK".
An original copy of the founding of the Sun Tour and the first event in 1952 won by  Keith Rowley which finished at the Brenock Park cycle track in Ferntree Gully.
If you have any info to add on this post, please add a comment. Great to get some feedback even if it is to say I have it wrong.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Dad - the Bike Rider

Jack's passion is and has always been his passion since he first joined the Northcote Amateur Cycling Club in May 1938. Cycling as a rider and a spectator started as 15 year old and he continued riding his bike up until early this year. Even today he rides his stationary bike five days a week for 30 minutes plus.

The bike pictured below was his Panther Racer, note that it has a single gear. At the time he lived at Studley Park, Kew and trained within the Boulevard that stretched through the vast parklands within sight of Melbourne CBD. Even today it is a training mecca for cyclists. Jack Sims was not a champion cyclist but he is a champion of the sport giving many years of service to his other club, the Preston Cycling Club. He was not only a great support to me but all members of the Club where he could. A life membership came his way for service to the Club. He would collect the beer and bring out to Yan Yean where we would finish the road races or to the Preston bike track in summer. He had many adopted sons over the years. Even when I retrired, he still kept looking after the bar.

Jack's membership form to Northcote Amateur Cycling Club - 1938
Did you note that they spelt Amateur incorrectly - now that's a collector's piece.

Dad rides his Panther racer. Nice knicks Jack and love the black socks.
He was a foundation member of the Preston Golden Oldies and rode most weekdays.
Never rode on Saturday or Sunday so he knew when it was a weekend.
Still going and loving it - Jack does stationary work out.
Maybe this is a little bit of family self indulgence but Jack Sims deserves it at 92 years young.

Keep riding Jack

Just been doing some research on a 1973 stage of the Sun Tour that was the longest and most gruelling 20 mile stage ever endured - pop in on Monday.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Its been a week since my last post on "The Cycling Scrapbook". Work, home and the Tour de France have got in the way. And what an interesting week its been over this last week of the Tour. Among my 1930s cycling magazines, there's a report of when Hubert Opperman, Ossie Nicholson, Fatty Lamb and Frank Thomas went to France to ride Le Tour. Its not mentioned in modern times but Oppy actually finished as high 12th. one year. We hear of Phil Anderson being our Australian crusader of the event but Oppy was up there as well. We might do a post in the future on his achievement.

Bicycle companies used successful cyclists to promote their brand - I remember seeing a bike ad on TV, maybe in the 70s possibly Malvern Star, I'm not sure but they used a top cricketer (Thomo?)  for the ad. At the time we had both Gordon Johnson and John Nicholson as past World Track Champions.

Back in the 30s, our cyclists were household names. Hubert Opperman ranked with Don Bradman. Almost everyone rode a bike, especially the man in the street during those tough times. People bought their bikes on lay-by or on credit with the bike shop proprietor. I've seen small payment books that the purchaser would be given by the bike shop owner.

The Barb Bike was sold by the Finlay Brothers with Bob Finlay being the supreme Motor Pacer to the stars of the day at the Motordrome. His Star rider was R.W. (Fatty) Lamb and a real opponent to Oppy at the Drome, and yet he was Oppy's main Pacer.

All the top cyclists just had to have a pair of Sweeney Cycling Shoes and what better way to have the general public want a pair by having a champion wear them - nothing has changed today.
It was a big statement to offer a 25 year guarantee on a bike - it wouldn't happen today when people change their bike almost every season.
Ernie Milliken and Tiny Nichols rode the Preston Star brand. During the late 60s I had a Preston Star track tandem.
I wonder where it might be today. Being a pre-war model its probably land fill today.

During the 30s there were a few local manufacturers of singles. I remember before I started racing, stored up in the rafters of our garage were my father's old wood rim track wheels. The singles, still shellacked to the rims were Freebairn, made in NSW.
I know there's a few of you retired riders out there that probably rode the Tassie carnivals during the 60/70/80s.
Hope your prize money was as good as in the 30s. Good money back then when 235 pound wouldn't be to far off a years wages - if you actually had a job!
In 1932 there was no shortage of a track carnival to enter. On this one page, Talbot just out of Maryborough, Echuca and Longwarry all ran their Carnivals on December 26. These combined cycling, footraces, wood chopping and even a quoits event at Talbot. The Echuca carnival was one that was a favourite of mine from the the time I had a car to get there to the time I retired in the mid 80s
I particularly like the advertisement for the Ferntree Gully 2nd Annual Sports Meeting held on January 2, 1933. They even had mixed tandem races.
The Club later had their own track at Brenock Park. I was too young to ever ride there but I did get to see it - admittedly in a sad state in the late 60s. The Sun Tour finished there certainly on one occasion. That would have been in the 50s with a hard fought race between Russell Mockridge and George Goodwin.
There maybe inconsistencies, untruths and downright mistakes that come from this blog, but lets treat it as a Forum. I'm happy to be proven wrong and welcome comments - that way we document true cycling history.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Perko, Gordie and Patto

Three blokes that excited us kids in the 60s were Patto, Gordie and Perko. There were more but these were the ones that adorned my inside cover of my old cycling scrapbook.

From the inside of my very tattered scrap book.
Perko, Gordie and Patto.
If you were a young cyclist in the early sixties, you would have seen Sid Patterson towards the end of his career at the old Melbourne board track which was promoted by Bill Long. At the time, I guess I was probably 14 or 15 years old, I was coached by Northcote High sports master, Alec Weston. Now there's another character for a future blog. He was a masseur to the greats at the time - Patto, Mocka, Tress and many other riders of that era. Alec would pass on his knowledge to us kids but one thing that sticks in my memory is the time Alec took us to Patto's home and to the Carnegie track for a day to be coached by the great Sid Patterson. Thinking back, I guess it was a privilege to be in the company of a four times world champion, but as a coach, Patto was totally useless. We spent part of the time weeding his garden and pushing his kid up and down the driveway on his trike. That kid by the way was Rick Patterson whom I later rode against at the Coburg Velodrome. I remember him sucking me into second place in a motor pace event many years later.

Patto eventually took us down to the track and watched us ride the velodrome and later Alec took us back home. The memory has lingered, not for what we learnt which was nothing, but because we had the opportunity to meet the great man.

As a year or two went by, I was selected in what was to be the first under 16 year old Australian Championships being held in 1966 at the Kilkenny track in Adelaide. In the team was Gordon Johnson,  Daryl Perkins, John Bylsma, John Hine, Hilton Clarke and Jeff Linden in the seniors.
The juniors had a future world sprint champion in the Victorian team by the name of John Nicholson, with John Van Beek and a fellow club member of mine, John Rush.
Lindsay Love from Leongatha and myself were the Juvenile or Sub-Junior team members.
To be part of the team was the opening of the doors to some
friendships that exist almost 50 years on.

In those early years, these names proved to be mentors and an inspiration on the State Teams that I competed in. (1966/1968/1970) Both Hilton Clarke and Daryl Perkins have been influential during my Masters years.

But back to Patto - how good was he? Four World Titles, three in pursuit and one in the sprint, totally different disciplines and unheard of in today's specialisation in the sport. Patto was the supreme all rounder. He could sprint, pursuit, ride scratch races and was a fantastic scratch maker in handicaps. He would have the crowd out of their seats in those last two laps of the big handicap races.

Dazza still involves himself in the sport helping our new talent.
Later I remember watching Daryl Perkins who I thought looked the most European style riders I'd seen. He seemed to me to be a great Kilo rider at the time and in 1970 took both the State and National titles against the best Aussie riders. As for Gordon Johnson, he was our top sprinter, later to become a world Pro Sprint Title holder. Gordie was sponsored by Raleigh at the time and when he returned to Australia, won almost every end of the night scratch race at the Brunswick Velodrome for the season. I remember seeing him riding from the back of the field as they rang the bell and Gordie would wind up his gear and pass half the pack down the back straight and the rest on the last bend and the home straight to cross the line with both hands held high. I think that Gordie may have won 13 straight scratch races that season - I could be wrong but I'm sure someone out there could correct me.

Those years at the Brunswick velodrome were magical.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Only late last year I paid a visit to the shop where I bought my stayer frame - although its now an architects office, they've retained the original facade and signage. Hanging on the wall inside can be seen one of the Morton Cycle bikes.
I actually don't remember how long ago it was now that I stumbled into Morton Cycles in Park Street, South Melbourne. I do remember however that hanging up out the back was this old pre-war motor pace frame or Stayer bike with a wooden small diameter front wheel.

Since watching the motor pace bike racing at the old Olympic board track opposite the Hisense indoor velodrome, I'd been enthralled by the speed the riders held behind the big motor bikes with rollers on the back. With the small front wheel, the riders were able to slipstream in close behind the motorbike at very high speeds.

During the pre-war years, riders such as Hubert Opperman, Fatty Lamb, Ossie Nicholson and Roy Johnson raced each other behind these huge motorbikes at speeds of 60 mph (100 kph).

You'll see the motor pace match race between Roy Johnson and Hubert Opperman on the cutting.
During the either late 60s or maybe the very early 70s, I stumbled into Roy Johnson's bike shop, I think in Glen Iris.
We chatted away on my visits to the area and on one visit, he loaned me his scrap book.
It was full of the great riders during the period between the two wars. I wonder where that scrap book is today.
Maybe after Roy passed away it was thrown away with what was thought to be just junk.
The Motodrome was this huge banked saucer. Not only did dare devil motorpace bike riders chase the big motorbikes around the three to the mile track but it was used by speedcars and motor bikes as well.

This picture gives an indication of its steepness.
Many of my old 1930s magazines report on the races at the "Drome" so I guess there might be a few to come on "The Cycling Scrapbook". We'll see.
In the meantime - I welcome input, comment or photos for the Blog.

I can be contacted on email -

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Richie Port needs to Move on.

Richie Porte - a real talent - A REAL FUTURE CHAMPION.

I remember Chris Froome saying after he showed Wiggo that he had the form, "I expect I can win a few TdF in the future".

So where does that leave Richie - Super Domestique for his next few years. I don't think so!!!!
Richie may need to move on in a year or two if Froome expects to be the Captain. 

Cadel has shown our Aussie riders that nothing is impossible - World Champion and TdF winner. He's our most decorated Australian cyclist.
Cadel had many hurdles in his way and unfortunately achieved his goals later in his career. 
Richie is still young and has an opportunity to make decisions that can effect his future in a more positive way if he learns by Cadel's misfortunes.

What stands in Richie's way is Chris Froome. That is unless Sky see their future successes in Froome but without Richie, does Chris have a future? I don't think Froome can achieve as well if Ritchie is not in the team and I would love to see a head to head battle between the two. Would you?
Remember that little power struggle between Froome and Wiggo last year - history may repeat itself next year or even this year. I hope so for Ritchie's future.

The TdF still has two more weeks to go and things can change. Richie may exhaust all his energies in being the loyal super domestic - Froome may have an incident that allows Sky to support their second string.
Its going to be an interesting two weeks ahead.
I would love to hear your opinions - please feel free to comment.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Who was Doreen Middleton

Doreen Middleton and Navy Cycles

I look at so many women cycling on Beach Road and think of it as a modern phenomenon. When I started racing in 1963 (Gosh-50 years ago) I could not say I remember any women racing. I'm sure they were out there but we didn't take them seriously - it was a bloke's sport. I do remember racing in California in 79 and being in a Crit with Beth Heiden, sister to Eric Heiden. Both were speed skaters and later cyclists. Then there was Connie Carpenter but here in Australia, the movement of competitive female cyclists were still evolving in the 80s.

Back in the 30s there was one woman cyclist that gets a regular mention in my old and yellowing "Australian Cycling" magazines from that period.
"Er name's Doreen" (stolen from the Sentimental Bloke) Doreen Middleton. She was even a little bit controversial. The article below comes from an old Argus newspaper where her sponsor, Alby Sykes of Navy Cycles took exception to her not returning the machine that she used for a City to City record attempt. Compare that to today where our elite women cyclists are offered every opportunity to excel in their chosen sport.

Court Orders Return.
The record breaking bicycle ride from Melbourne to Adelaide and back by Miss Doreen Middleton, Nicholson street Essendon, in June was mentioned in the Fitzroy Court on Thursday when Albert Charles Sykes cycle manufacturer of Gertrude, Street, Fitzroy claimed from Doreen Middleton the return of a racing bicycle and two spare wheels valued at £19.10 which it was alleged had been detained or converted to their own use.  Albert Charles Middleton acted for the purposes of the court proceedings as guardian for his daughter, who being aged only 19 years is an infant in law.
Albert Charles Sykes said that in March, 1931 he met Doreen Middleton and lent her a cycle,  which she used until June when she said that she was about to attack the record to Adelaide in company with Dot Hodgson. Spare wheels a sweater, raincape and shoes were supplied but the attempt on the record failed. Later Doreen Middleton rode to Adelaide and back. He accompanied her in his motor car and records were broken on both journeys. The bicycle had not been returned.
To Mr W. D. Sykes (for Doreen Middleton) witness said that often bicycles were lent to    racing cyclists for advertisement. He had contributed to the expenses of the record rides which had cost him £50.
Mr. Sykes.—But you had a good holiday?  
Witness (sarcastically) — Wonderful I was  up every morning at 2 o'clock, and was working  hard driving until 8 o'clock at night.  
In answer to further questions Sykes admitted that his claim coincided with the fact that        Doreen Middleton had changed the make of bicycle she was riding.
Doreen Middleton said that on the day on which she returned from Adelaide Sykes, said that she "had well earned the machine." He also said that he was not able to give her anything  but the bicycle and subsequently he repeated that she had earned the machine." Later the bicycle was delivered to a friend who bought it to her home. On it was, printed Doreen's Record-breaking vest-pocket Model."  
Mrs. Mary Amelia Middleton, mother of Doreen Middleton, said that she heard Sykes give her daughter the bicycle and promise to have it  put into good repair.    

Mr. Clarke P.M. said that while he would not say that the witness for the defence had perjured themselves he thought that a mistake had been made about what Sykes had said regarding  the bicycle. He ordered that the bicycle, or its value, £19/10/, be returned to Sykes, and that Doreen Middleton pay £5/7/6/costs.

I remember as a young bloke in my mid teenage years at the Preston track, I met an older cyclist who looked good on the bike but maybe a little overweight on a fine track bike. I asked his name - he said he was Clive Middleton. I remembered his name from some of my earlier cycling magazines as a good Madison rider during the 60s. I wonder if he and Doreen were related. I bet they were!