Friday, August 2, 2013

MELBOURNE MIDGETS 1965

I wondered what I'd write about this weekend for "the Cycling Scrapbook" so I pulled out the old tattered scrapbook and found a page I tore from an old Olympic Velodrome program many years ago.

Mum and Dad took me to the Olympic Velodrome before I even thought about bike racing. I think I spent more time playing under the grandstand than watching the racing. While I write this, I can almost hear the rattling of the weather worn timber boards. Little did I realise that a few years later I would race this same track where I saw many of the imports from Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Britain.

The Promoter of the day was Bill Long and judging by the way my Dad and he got along, they probably knew each other well. Bill came up with the idea of giving us kids an opportunity to "ride the boards" on the Saturday night program. But first we had to prove ourselves by attending a few training days under his watchful eye. Anyway, I was chosen amongst another twenty four under 16 year olds.

Come the night of our Board Track debut, we were on the track during the warm-up session on our restricted 81" gear ratio. No roll-outs then - in fact we would fit large bag tyres to increase the gear.
So here we are warming up and there are the greats of the era. Sid Patterson, Barry Waddell, John Perry, John Green, Joe Ciavola, Bill Lawrie, Leandro Faggin and Ferdinand Terruzzi from Italy, Oscar Plattner from Switzerland and Piet Van Der Touw who may have been from Holland.

It was a great period of track racing at the Board Track.

The Melbourne Olympic Velodrome initially (1956) was a 333m track with a concrete skin over the boards. Later it was shortened to 250m with the boards laid in an opposing direction so that as the riders raced around the track, the boards would rattled with a roar that created a great atmosphere.

Do you know any of these young fellas???


As I look down through the names, I see many of my competitors have kept the pedals turning now that we are well and truly in our sixth decade. Having gone through those early years together, there's a sort of special fraternity amongst us. Some of us just made up the field and a few reached the pinnacle in the sport but whenever we meet, there's always time for a chin-wag about those early days.

One such rider was John Nicholson - he won silver at the 1972 Munich Olympics after gaining some experience at Mexico in 1968. I remember him putting me into fourth place in the 1964 under 16 State Sprint Title at Carnegie Velodrome. On that day he won bronze but that didn't keep him from becoming one of out Nation's top World acclaimed sprinters.
John went on to win two World Pro Sprint Titles in 1975 and 1976.

Alan Goodrope was another on that program who went on to some success as a Roadie and represented Australia at the 1976 Montreal Games.

I often give a wave to Chris (Snake) Salisbury on Beach Road these days and often catch up at the most inopportune times with Tony Branchflower. I often hear, "Simsey, not you again"......from behind.
Tony had his fair share of racing in Europe and was a hard man on the road. John Hunt (a World Masters 500 metre TT Champion in 2009) from Blackburn is also amongst those Melbourne Midgets and later became a very tough competitor in my Masters age group during 2007 to 2010 and still turns the pedals as well.

Nico had some tough competition in his day from the French. The two top sprinters and Kilo riders were Morelon and Trentin. These two were also a handy Tandem team.

Nico was sponsored by Shimano and I suspect that he was ahead of his time with clipless pedals.
John's shoes were actually attached to the pedals permanently. He'd walk to the bike in his socks, hop on the bike, slide into his shoes and then lace-up. He should get royalties from all of today's pedal makers.
One thing that does stand out though is that some clubs have fallen by the wayside. Alphington, Noble Park, Mordialloc and Fitzroy no longer exist. I remember my first under 16 Victorian Scratch Race Championship, (3rd place) at the now defunct Mordialloc track on Nepean Highway. Geoff Cunningham and David Kelso with the Whiting brothers were members and I know David still enjoys the bike.
Although Noble Park club is defunct, the track still remains.

Many of us on that page of entrants above started racing around 1963, that's 50 years ago. I wonder where the others are - maybe you can tell me.

Good Times - Good Memories in a Great Sport

5 comments:

Rhodesia said...

Interesting stuff and amazing how many keep up their cycling. I wish I could get back into it but this year has been difficult. Firstly it was too cold, and winter just kept going. I went on one ride and then and came home dripping in temperatures over 30C. Seems I cannot win. N has had a problem with his knee so he is doing no better!! I am beginning to wonder if age is not catching up with me but you Dad kept going so that is not an excuse. 70 this month so maybe.....
Have a great weekend Diane

leon sims said...

Hi Diane - Have you caught up with our Son in India blog yet?

phil stevens said...

Hi Leon
Yep I was one of the Melbourne Midgets, I'm in the program you show.
I still remember the excitement of riding on the boards, and the noise!
I have one of my old track bikes and sneak into Blackburn track for the odd 30 laps.
It's sad to see my old club Noble Park no longer exists, my late Father was heavily involved in the running of track and road events.
The track at NP is still there as you say, but in a sad state.
Keep up the good work with the blog
Cheers,
Phil Stevens

phil stevens said...

Hi Leon
Yep I was one of the Melbourne Midgets, I'm in the program you show.
I still remember the excitement of riding on the boards, and the noise!
I have one of my old track bikes and sneak into Blackburn track for the odd 30 laps.
It's sad to see my old club Noble Park no longer exists, my late Father was heavily involved in the running of track and road events.
The track at NP is still there as you say, but in a sad state.
Keep up the good work with the blog
Cheers,
Phil Stevens

leon sims said...

Phil - good to hear from you.
I see that the track does still exist and I remember John Dixon from the club many years back.