Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jack Hoobin - the Forgotten World Road Champion

We all rejoiced when Cadel Evans won the World Road Championship and why shouldn't we. It was an amazing effort by a true Champion. Newspapers across Australia announced  that we now had a World Road Champion, most proclaiming him as the first. Sure, we've had many World Track Champions but never a World Road Champion. But that's not the case - those knowledgeable in the sport know that our first World Road Title holder was Jack Hoobin, albeit during the time when there was a title for both Amateur and Professional cyclists.
As a racing cyclist back in the late 1960s, I was actually aware that Jack Hoobin was our very first World Road Title holder but was never aware of the circumstances leading up to his victory. These Australian Cyclist magazines on loan to me from Jae Omara of Omara Cycles has opened up new knowledge for me - hope this post does the same for you.

The cover of the magazine that segments have been reprinted below.
From the pages of Australian Cyclist December 1950.
"Those of our readers who have followed the cycling career of Jack Hoobin through these columns since he first flashed into prominence in 1946 would not have been terribly surprised at his world title because since that first open road race win in 1946, Jack has showed an aptitude for overcoming adversity and an  unconquerable spirit which has carried him into victory on more than one occasion.
In case some of you may have forgotten some of those incidents, let us skip briefly back through them - in fact let us go right back to the time when Jack first learnt to ride a cycle which was when he was four years of age on a small cycle with 12 inch wheels and solid tires (it's still in the proud possession of the Hoobin family).
Perhaps elder brother Ted Hoobin can be thanked for first attracting Jack's interest to cycle racing. Ted became champion of the Cheltenham club when 16, and Jack, accompanied by their father used to be a regular barracker for Ted.
Not yet into his teens young Jack decided to have a go in a juvenile 3 mile race and going flat out for the first 3 miles collapsed over the line exhausted but an easy victor. Jack still lays claim that the three-miler was the hardest race of his career.

Then followed a few more wins with Ormond juveniles, then a win on the board track when 17, and his enlistment in the army at 18 towards the end of World War II when stationed at Balcombe Camp, a distance of some 35 miles from his home, Jack use to ride home at night and back to the camp again at 6 am. Not only that, but he used to go AWL in order to race on Saturdays. 
1947 saw him make his debut on the mark of honour, and it was during this year that we saw the first glimpse of the real Hoobin.

Following fastest time honours in the VACU 50 mile and 75 mile Opens, Jack started in a 100 mile scratch race with a selected field.  Just after the halfway mark he rode away from the field but punctured 20 miles from the finish. Undaunted Jack continued to ride on the flat tyre and many followers still talk about how Hoobin rode up the notorious Wheelers Hill on the flat tyre whilst, a prominant rider in Jack Berry of Carnegie club in hot pursuit of Hoobin had to walk up.  Of course, Jack Hoobin won not only this event, but the following week, the "Sun" classic of 125 miles and one week later the Victorian 125 mile Championship with a brilliant sprint. In the Australian Championships that year he fell and sustained a broken wrist.
The following year immediately prior to his departure for the Olympic Games, he won first and fastest, fastest time, and fastest time again respectively in the first three open races of the season.
His sixth placing in the Games road race in face of terrific odds, mainly due to inexperience against the tough Continental cyclists; his 10th placing in the 1949 world championship race in Denmark in spite of illness, strange conditions in a strange country and a severe crop of boils; and his wins in many of the English road classics during his preparation for the 1950 title, in spite of falls and punctures and the teaming of the English riders against him; are all typical of that Hoobin determination to win at all costs. But to quote Jack again, "In Europe that is the only slogan the cyclists know to win at all costs".

Jack Hoobin gave a lot of credit to Alf Strom as a mentor and wrote the following in Australian Cyclist;

“Alf Strom apparently took a fancy to me and, in his blunt manner told me that if I did as he instructed me, the world title was mine. He packed me off to England in January to get 15,000 training miles into my legs by the end of May, have a couple of races, then return to Belgium. It was during this period when in London that Charlie McCaffrey and his wife gave me a second home and nothing was too much trouble for them.

On my return to Belgium, Alf instructed me on which races to ride in, where I could study the riders who would be my strongest opposition. He gave me strict instructions not to show my best form and on one occasion when I showed signs of rebelling against this latter order, for I was rearing to make a name for myself with a few wins, he threw a bucket of water at me, bucket and all. undoubtedly Strom is a tough man.
He packed me off to England again to compete in some track events to liven up my sprinting. Then back to Belgium for more roadwork and it was here that our plans were almost wrecked. Three days before the title race when competing in an event over the same course as the big race, I crashed into a car and wrecked my machine. I lost a lot of skin, and seemed to be one big bruise from head to toe.

But here again experience of Strom and Arnold came to the fore, and they patched me up, and on the big day I was free from stiffness.
Incidentally my weight when racing in Australia was 10.4 but Strom had me fined down to 9.6 and I definitely felt better for it. (Jack is about 5'8" tall)
Strangely Alf was a nervous wreck on the day and stayed home while Roger and I journeyed to the start in Moorslede in his car. The rest you know."

From the October 1950 issue of Australian Cyclist - an excerpt from the article describing the last lap.

"These tactics broke up the field and on the final tour there were only 10 riders left with a chance - three Italians, Ferrari, Moresco and Piazza; one Frenchman Varnjo; Australian Hoobin; two Belgians Bastie and Desmet; one Hollander Roks; one Swiss Hutmacher; and the Luxembourg Blintz.

These riders kept close formation right up to the last and were making very fast time as the total time for the distance proved, for they rode the 174 miles (obviously a misprint as the race was actually 164 kms) in four hours 29 minutes and 24 seconds.
In the final sprint the Italians led out and the pace was a demon. When the barriers were reached near the finish, the two favourites Varnajo and Ferrari, were elbow to elbow with less than a furlong to go and they looked easy winners.
Then from the back came Hoobin, and like a jet plane he flashed past the leaders as if they were glued to the ground and the world championship was his!

What a scream from a few who knew who he was. The supporters of the French and Italian pair were going mad with joy then came this unknown to snatch victory in the last few yards. The roar of the crowd subsided as if a bomb had been dropped then came cheers from those who recognised Hoobin’s masterly performance.

Hoobin showed good sense in coming over to Belgium to stay with his friend Strom, the great six day rider, three weeks before the big race. He became acquainted with the circuit, and settled down in readiness for the big day. Strom no doubt had him well tutored on the dangers and the possibilities of the race.
Great homage was paid to the new champion of the world by the French people and the small band of Australians, Strom, Arnold, Reynolds and Patterson who witnessed the event. It was a great hour for the latter as the country’s cycling predominance was again established. Within a week two world championships have been taken by the irresistible Australians."

The other World Championship was taken by Sid Patterson in the Amateur Pursuit after being knocked out of the Sprint. He was the reining World Amateur Sprint title holder from the previous year. 

I was reading in Cycling Tips an excerpt of the 1956 Olympic Games road race where our Aussie riders were decimated by the opposition. John O'Sullivan said that the Aussies were totally outclassed. They had no idea of how Europeans raced, they had no experience.
So how astute was Jack Hoobin to enlist the help of such an experienced Aussie of Alf Strom. Surely this was the key factor in Hoobin's success.
How I wish I'd met the man when I had the opportunity when I was a young bloke.

Jack Hoobin - Cycling - Sport Australia hall of fame
Born in Victoria, Hoobin made Australia's 1948 London Olympic team after wins in the 125 mile Sun Classic (Victorian) and the Victorian championship. He was also placed second over ten miles in the 1948 Australian Amateur Track Championships and third in the five mile event. Despite a series of punctures, he finished sixth (the first Australian) in the 124 mile Olympic event at London's Great Windsor Park.

Hoobin returned to Europe in 1949 and 1950 to contest the world amateur road title but was plagued with illness and injuries. He did well to finish seventh in 1949.

In 1950 he tried again, under the coaching of Alf Strom, and performed the near impossible when he took out the title and beat the best amateurs in the grueling 175km race at Moorslede near Ypres, becoming the first Australian to win the world amateur road cycling championship. Hoobin overcame the blatant blocking tactics of the strong European teams to out sprint French champion Robert Varnajo and the 1947 world champion Ferrari of Italy in the upset of the decade.


One race we watched  c1950 was won by an Australian, Jack Hoobin, he was riding a borrowed bike using a single free wheel !! The same, or following year he won the Amateur World title, again I believe on a single-speed machine.  Jack Hoobin apparently became a well known political figure in Australia and, so I was told by a Museum in Australia, was due to open the Olympic Games in Sydney but passed away shortly before the ceremony,  I have an idea his wife did the opening instead.   He must have been quite a character. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How many Cycling Magazines were there?

As a young bloke when I first started racing in 1963, the first cycling magazine I bought was Australian Cyclist. There were others after the magazine folded and many before it. They are a wealth of cycling history.
At the time when I purchased AC it was published by Promoter Bill Long. Bill had his finger in many pies over the years. I remember my first encounter with Bill as a 14 or 15 year old. He gave us the opportunity to race at the Melbourne Olympic board track under the lights with all the big stars. We were billed as Melbourne Midgets and naturally we were on the early part of the program but we could sit there in the middle of the track amongst our heroes, many being among the Internationals that Long brought to Australia.

Australian Cyclist magazines spanning from March 1947 to January 1957.
But I digress. Recently I happen to mention to Jae Omara (Omara Cycles Black Rock) that I had a great collection of Australian Cyclist magazines but over the years and many moves I finished up giving them to a friend who in turn passed them on to another cycling enthusiast. I know they are in good hands today.

Vol 1 - No 1, March 1947
The very first editorial
Click to enlarge.
Anyway Jae told me he also had a collection that belonged to his "Pop" Les Omara. My father Jack and Les knew each other and raced occasionally on the same programs. Jae brought out this wonderful collection of magazines entrusted to me for my research on this Blog. The magazines include the very first Volume 1 - Number 1, published in March 1947.
Australian Cyclist was published by Wheel Publications at 503 Elizabeth St, Melbourne. A.B. Dawson was the Managing Editor. It sold for sixpence. Within a year, Dawson upped the price to 1/-. That's one shilling to young folk.

In October 1951 Bill Long took ownership with Stan Mullany continuing as the Feature Writer. Mullany was a font of cycling journalism although with a sense of humour that you would consider to be "Dad Jokes" these days. His humour was full of puns. I have actually been on the end of his sense of humour in a 1965 edition which I won't repeat here……..

An example of Stan's humour:
Wider powers are sought for Officials at ladies' meetings - Powers to suspend-her?
From that very first issue.
Preston Velodrome 1947 with amazing crowds all around the track I'm told from people who attended these meetings.
 During those early editions, there wasn't much of political correctness amongst the cartoon content. I'm not sure that things have changed much. All fairly harmless I guess.

Stan Mullany did however write a great introduction piece titled "These Made Wheel History" which included some gems.
I'd always heard rumours that we had a board track inside the Exhibition Buildings - I knew we had one somewhere prior to the one outside the Exhibition, possibly located within the old Olympic Park and known as the saucer track.
Mullany confirms the indoor Exhibition Board Track in the below excerpt.

Victoria had indoor racing.
How many times have we heard wheel enthusiasts ask if Australia is ever likely to stage an indoor bicycle racing as it is in vogue in America? Present day enthusiasts will learn with interest that Australian history has made in this regard when our first indoor solo six day race was held inside the Melbourne Exhibition Building on an eight laps to the mile track from April 25, 1897 four years after the LVW was formed.

Oldests Clubs in Victoria
In every State the question of which are the oldest clubs never seems to have been answered with any authenticity. Of Melbourne clubs functioning today under the original names we know that Richmond and Carlton were prominent units of amateur bodies of two centuries (1800/1900s) but it will surprise even hardened critics to learn that Fitzroy is the oldest of all present-day Metropolitan and that Northcote can go back to the 1880s.
Note: Today only Northcote survives
Of Victorian country clubs, the most traditional ones are Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Warrnambool. Yet all of these country clubs have survived

Sid Patterson, then our National Sprint Champion shares  the Malvern Star add with Oppy - Australia's Greatest Cyclist.
Battle of the Bike Builders. Max Rowley rode for Hartley.
Healing were another supporting advertiser in Australian Cyclist.
With two decades of Australia Cyclist magazines, I have a lot of reading to do and a lot more fodder for  "The Cycling Scrapbook". Hope you can join me.