Southport’s unsung hero

Mention the Southport Road Cycling Club to any older cyclist and Bill Bradley’s name immediately comes up. This is hardly surprising as Bill was, without doubt, the best amateur roadman in the country.  But the Southport club had another star in Jack Lowe who although in Bill’s shadow was also a great rider.

Jack, who I never knew to ride against the watch, had his first big win in 1953 in the Army Southern Command Time Trial championship over fifty miles. By 1955 he had been demobbed and had three good wins plus a fifth place in the Tour of the Lakes. in 1956 he won the Giro Della Vista which perhaps surprisingly wasn’t held in Lombardy but in Cheshire!  He also won the BLRC Merseyside championship which was held over three races Jack getting second in all three.

In 1957 Jack didn’t have any wins in bunched races but he did win the BLRC Merseyside and North Wales time trial championship over sixty six miles round Delamere forest. For his efforts he was suspended Sine Die by the RTTC for riding an “unauthorised” time trial. The suspension didn’t bother Jack but I recall him being most indignant that the letter advising him of the outcome was signed “Yours in Sport”

In 1958 Jack had lots of podium finishes in good class races and one win in the Liverpool Olympic event. In 1959 Jack rode the Milk Race for the Merseyside team and finished 28th. He was able to help his club mate Bill Bradley win despite Bill’s own England “team mates” working against him.

In 1960 Jack had possibly his best win when he triumphed in the Tour of the Lakes two day. And yes, having ridden a later version, I can tell you that race is just as hard as it sounds! One hundred mile stages over numerous Lakeland passes made it a severe test of climbing ability and stamina.

And that was it really, Jack started courting! Club members had never seen too much of Jack as he worked at Wigan twenty miles from his Southport home and always went by bike and with an extended ride home  he was getting in at least fifty miles a day so he wasn’t a regular on our evening chain gang. Oh and Jack’s girlfriend lived at Lancaster so that was an eighty mile round trip every week-end. Jack did come to our club nights for a natter but on marrying he moved nearer to his work at Wigan.

Jack continued to ride for pleasure and the club would sometimes meet him in a distant cafe when on the ride home he would remind us how good he was. As he approaches his ninetieth birthday in July he is still riding albeit now with electrical assistance. Being the mile eater he always was Jack has rigged up a second battery so he can continue rack up the miles. Finally I should say that Jack is a really nice guy always ready to provide helpful advice.



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Twenty four hours behind a big motor

Searching in my old copies of Sporting Cyclist for an article about my late club mate Bill Bradley’s win in the 1965 Tour of the SouthWest I came across an interesting piece about Hubert Opperman’s assaults on Road Record Association place to place records in 1935/36. Oppy, as the Australian was universally known, had finished the Tour de France and he won Paris-Brest-Paris in 1931 when it was a pro race. Later in his career he was sponsored by BSA to chase UK records including the End to End.

In the RRA article there is a photo of Oppy wearing a big motor pace style crash hat and he is holding a bike with a small front wheel, pacing style. And here is the interesting bit, the photo is captioned “Opperman in 1925 as a pace follower. He still holds the world motor-paced 24 hour record with 860 miles 367 yards” This was written in 1965 but I will be amazed if that record has been broken.

Think about it, that is almost 36mph for a day and night! And that isn’t allowing for toilet stops and, I would imagine, sit-down feeds. I can find nothing about this amazing ride on the internet. I suspect the ride was done in Australia before Oppy came to Europe but who knows? What a shame that Oppy’s amazing performance seems to have disappeared in to the mists of time.

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Bath Road 100 mile time trial 1952

Bath Road 100 1952


Ken Beck,the archivist and club secretary of the Southport RCC, has sent me this result sheet from the Bath Road 100 mile time trial in 1952. It was among the papers of the late Bob Bird who finished in tenth place. Not many names I recognise although I know Vic Gibbons was a big hitter back then.
In fifteenth place is Billy McAteer from the famous Birkenhead boxing family. That same year Billy teamed up with Bob Bird to take the Liverpool to London tandem record, that had stood for eighteen years, by just one minute! It is a surprise to see top roadman Fred Krebs one place behind Billy as I have never before seen Krebs in a time trial result.

click on result sheet to enlarge.

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