First stage, Tour of Britain 1952

This is the report of Bracky’s big win from the Daily Express. Clearly I was wrong to think that my old mate was only a sprinter.

At first the pace was leisurely, for the field had four miles of neutralised road to cover before the start of the race proper. Strictly observing the no-racing rule for all built-up areas, the riders held themselves in check until the de-neutralisation flag was waved – and then 78 pairs of pedals were stamped down simultaneously. Speed quickly shot up to 35 m.p.h. as rider after rider tried to break away on his own – only to be foiled by the tactics of the field.
After 14 miles hard slogging, however, a slight slowing-down of the field gave London amateur Johnny Brackstone the signal to forge ahead. Even so, his brilliant and sustained effort was not a lone breakaway – he was chased hard by eight other riders. This group of nine joined forces and, making the most of their lead, began to work as a unit, building up a useful vantage. Mile after mile the nine men kept together, maintaining a truly killing pace – so killing in fact that eventually T. Smith of Romford R.C. had to drop back.
Meanwhile, behind this leading group, other attempts at breakaways were being made. Some succeeded, some failed, and after an hour’s jockeying, during which the leaders had covered 25 miles, there were four groups spread out in front of the main field.
At the summit of long, gruelling Patcham Hill, near Brighton – a prime point – Bob Maitland, leader of the B.S.A. team, sprinted away to score a magnificent win. Following him were Norman Yeaman of the Pennine team and Johnny Brackstone. The remaining four amongst the leaders followed close behind.
It was two minutes before the next riders appeared at the top of the hill. Then Frenchman Pierre led across a group of eight men. They were chasing really hard in an attempt to catch the advance party. Another two minutes passed before the main bunch breasted the hill.
Gradually the eight ‘hounds’ drew closer to the ‘hares’ Leslie Drinkwater (Wearwell) dropped from the chasers. With 3o miles still to go, the two septets joined up. These 14 men stayed clear of the field and fought out the finish.
And what a finish this proved to be! In one solid group they flew into Southsea’s Serpentine Road. It was the young London amateur Brackstone who flung his machine over the line first, with barely the width of a tyre separating him from second man Ken Russell (Ellis-Briggs).
An ex-clubmate of Russell’s, Ken Jowett, riding for the R.A.F., was placed third. The remaining eleven riders in the group were all placed equal fourth. Included amongst them were three of the B.S.A. team, Bob Maitland, Peter Procter and Gordon ‘Tiny’ Thomas. They became leaders in the team race.

1st J. BRACKSTONE, London, 99 miles in 4.12.27 (av. 23.5mph)
2nd K. RUSSELL (Ellis-Briggs) at inches
3rd K. JOWETT (Royal Air Force) at inches

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