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THE Top 5 Testers then (IMO):

There's no doubt that everyone's going to have their own personal views as to who should rank as Britain’s top time triallist and I suspect my listing might raise a few eyebrows…especially since time trialling’s most prolific and current National Championship winner hasn't even made the top ten. Bear in mind though that I've been racing for nearly forty years and there have been an awful lot of big hitters out there during that time…some, not always as dominant as others, but with reputations, characters and palmares enough to make them, in my eyes at least, real legends. Furthermore…there was a day when sheer hard drive, determination and personal pride came before anything a doting sponsor (or earning a living from testing come to that) had to offer and I think that’s heavily influenced my choices. So bear with me ok? Cammish's top five testers then…which, remember, aren't necessarily based on results alone! (…but feel free to have a pop at me or my choices all the same!)….. 5th - Phil Griffiths….the man who guided and helped me beat his record of 5 BBAR wins. He was always someone I looked up to and I was absolutely made up when he actually asked if I wanted to join his club, the G S Strada (it was just a shame that, as soon as I joined, the likes of Bob Downs, Joe Waugh, Jeff Williams etc all left!). I'd already won one BBAR in 1980 (with the Edgware RC) and had enjoyed the rivalry that had gone on that year so couldn't wait to change teams and learn from the maestro himself. What was it about the man? Well to begin with, he always seemed so lucky with the events he picked for his attack on the BBAR. Although he was an excellent road man he managed to find a few weekends spare at the end of the season and always seemed to land on his feet with regard to picking the right days (well that’s what it looked like at the time…on hindsight I suppose he went so fast because he was so bloody good!). I remember receiving start sheets with his name on thinking…"well its worth getting psyched up because its bound to be a good day - Griffiths has entered!" Having said that, he still pulled out incredible rides on some pretty foul days. One I remember in particular was the last time he broke the 100 mile competition record. I'd started in the same event but packed because conditions were so bad. Of course I hung around to see what Griffo would do…and I'm pleased I did! 3-41-43….without tribars, no disc wheel or aero hat...in a bloody gale ... I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself! Classy? Yes. Controversial? Without a doubt. Never lost for words and I think it would be fair to say he's ruffled a few feathers along the way but there's no questioning his enthusiasm for the sport and no-one can ever take away what he achieved. His record of 5 BBARs was something I always had my eyes set on and he knew it too - but it didn't stop him helping me realize my ambition! Top 5 without a doubt. 4th - Graeme Obree - yes, of course, (I hear you say). There aren't many people I've gone to watch race but he's been one of them (my number 3's the other!). If you haven't already read the book get off your ar5e you tight sod and do so! It's bloody brilliant and will give you an even broader insight into the man and his remarkable achievements. Some of us think we train hard or that we're motivated…forget it…this is the real stuff. Ace. 3rd - Alf! If only we had riders like that around these days eh? Ok so he too may have been (a little) controversial at times but I think that's why the great British time triallist warmed to him so much. I really do feel for those not fortunate enough to have been around when the "King" reigned - they've certainly missed one of the great chapters of British time trialling history. Here we had someone whose single aim in cycling was to be first man to break 30 mph for a “25" - he was "driven" to say the least. Some might say he was hounded by officialdom - others that his manner of riding was asking for trouble from the moment he cocked his leg over a bike…but what a character. His bikes were works of art. He oozed class. If anyone was going to break the record....it was him. When he eventually did, word spread like wildfire. I was returning from a week at the Harrogate Cycling Festival and stopped off at the White House at Blyth (all you newcomers to the sport won't have a clue what I'm talking about…..you've missed the best times you know ;-) ) for a cuppa the day he did it. Posters, photos and "Congratulations to Alf" banners were plastered all over the place - even the Comic awarded him with a Gold Medal to commemorate the occasion (you wouldn't get that these days would you?). What a fantastic era…long live the King eh? 2nd - Mr Andy Wilkinson! Yep…Wilko! Ok…before you start "yeah butting…" this guy is soooo good - period! He doesn't need to keep plugging away at testing because whenever he does …. he does it so brilliantly. It must be a real bummer when there's no challenge in life and I bet that’s what it’s like for Wilko! It seems that whenever he dabbles, he does something remarkable. 1996…BBAR record average speed + god knows how many National records and National Championships. End to End records on every conceivable wheeled combination known to man….even a 1-41 "50" on a mountain bike fgs! He's a ruddy phenomenon! Runner up in MY top 10……. But only one person was ever going to be the winner….. Beryl! Must be! No doubt! Britain’s greatest time triallist ever - no-one else gets a look in. 25 years at the very top…not “just” in women's racing but also setting the pace in men's events too (yes she was that good!). How many sports are there where the women's record is faster than the men's? Well that's what happened when she broke the 12 hour record in 1967 ..she actually caught and dropped Mike McNamara (who was in the process of breaking the men's record) during the event! Honest….she even offered him a Jelly Baby as she passed….honest! Just flick through the RTTC handbook and see for yourself how many championships she won and how many records she broke during her career. Mind boggling! But there’s more!!!! World Championships too! Read her book (if you can get hold of a copy) and see what made Beryl tick! Sadly she’s no longer with us but I have a lasting memory of a conversation I had with her towards the end of her career when she told me how sad it was that people wouldn't let her enjoy her racing even though, she acknowledged, she was well passed her best. She said she still enjoyed riding her bike so much she didn't see why she should pack racing in just because she was being beaten. What upset her though, was that the youngsters were still made up to "get one over on her" … you know the "I've always wanted to beat Beryl Burton" type of thing when all she wanted to do was get on and enjoy her riding…which she did…right to the very end! She achieved everything on true Yorkshire grit without any of today’s Lottery funding, without a professional contract, without anything other than the hope of being the best! No question about it! If there’s anyone that exemplifies the word “Legend”…..Beryl’s the one! Number 1! Beryl Burton.
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7 November 2008

Comments

  • ke henderson

    What about the great Ray Booty first to do under four hours for 100 miles?. No super eqipment or help by passing lorries ect. See the photo of him at the finish what a Champion

  • Stuart Kirkham

    Another star rider who could have conquered all before him in the Time Trialling world - Dave Bonner. He broke 25 Comp record in 1962 with a 54.28, won the 1963 Champs 25, 1964 he turned pro and had a great career in road racing. Their gain is our loss. Now lives in Southern Spain. Yet another top rider of that era who could have gone on to greater things in Time Trialling. A Giant of the Sport - Graham Webb.

  • to55er

    I don't reckon Kevin's finished yet...do you? ;-)

  • Peter Whitfield

    Obviously you are too modest Ian to include yourself, so I must do it for you. Of course it depends how far back you want to go, but for me there are four true giants of the sport: Booty, Engers and Cammish, plus Beryl of course. Why ? First because they took times into a new realm, and the others had to struggle for years to catch up - look how long their records were on the shelf. Second because their domination lasted so long, they were not one-season miracle riders, but gave years of dedication. If you want to go even further back, Frank Southall belongs in this class too. I must add a plug for Ian's old friend Dave Lloyd. Over the hilly courses he took fields apart. For a 4-year spell he smashed course and event records wherever he rode. OK he couldn't match Ian on the big drag-strips, but imagine blasting round 50 miles of the Dales in well under 2 hours! Why not Kevin Dawson, with all his BAR trophies and National Championships? Well I think there is a reason, but I'll see if anyone else can suggest it first.

  • to55er

    Even if it was a liquorice allsort I won’t hold that against her…Beryl is still number one in my eye. I hope I’m not going to change the course of history by getting that wrong…you know “Chinese whispers” and all that. Next time I pick up a magazine recounting the event it’ll probably be a plate of profiteroles! When I rode the National 100 one year in the late 1980s I was passing a pub with less than 10 miles to go going eastwards along the A537 towards Chelford island when some chap jumped up off his chair and ran along the road offering me a slice of his Blackcurrant cheesecake. Can’t think what came over me…but I turned his kind offer down! Certainly wouldn’t have these days!

  • Old Git

    I thought it was a liquorice allsort Beryl offered Mike - at least that's what International Cycle Sport said it was! A lovely lady, had part of a season with her in Morley CC. Can't complain about your choices, it's very difficult selecting 10 out of so many. However, I thought Woodie might have been there. Over 50 years of competition etc. I've got some 1958 magazines with his name in!

  • to55er

    Of course I do! Bit too scientific / technical / number crunching IMO though....I love the mile eating, 100 miles on 76" fixed with nothing for breakfast, pedal till your stuffed then don't eat till its tea-time sort of stuff. Sod the HRMs, power meters, energy drinks (with the exception of the "rocket fuel" I'm about to try of course...but I'm 52 now and deserve an easy life...I reckon anyway!).

  • Playtex

    Don't rate Hutch then............ Michael : )

  • to55er

    Anyone know if Pinochio's is still up and running in Harrogate? We went there for a Pizza (or two) and a few jars there one Harrogate festival.....went back there the next year and the waiter (don't think he was a bikie) remembered us...where we sat.....and what we ate!!! We must have made good impression eating for England and all that .... or he was just a smart arse and had a VERY good memory! Couldn't believe it!

  • Stephen Nightingale

    I met Beryl once, at Mrs Jordan's cyclist's cafe in Gargrave, back in about 1969. She was so unassuming, and didn't bother anybody.

  • Stuart P

    It always fascinates me how we all use a different criteria to judge what we define as the best. The riders I`ve heard spoken about most in awe by other riders are Burton , Booty and Engers, all great riders but before my time I`m afraid. I was always in awe of the speed and determination of Webster and Lloyd whilst Boardman and Obree raised the bar to another level. But my favourites remain Woodburn and Cammish , great short distance riders and magnificent long distance men. But the reason I reckon these two are the best is they have never stopped racing at the highest level but continue to produce great rides year after year and in my book that makes them truely special.

  • FMSL

    Thats the problem with doing these lists, innit .... a deserving To55er gets left out in case we think he's got a big head. I reckon you should put yourself in at 5 and a half.

  • to55er

    ..."Griffo.... wait till he sees hes top 5 Assos gear heading your way Ian".... I don't think so Lee. Knowing Griffo he won't give a stuff what I think!

  • to55er

    Good question Stuart...I couldn't answer it straight away...had to mull over it overnight! I think it's maybe because I'm from the old school. We never had pulse monitors, power meters or the backing of coaches and support teams in "the olden times" and I think it's all become a bit too technical these days. Certainly, if all time trialling currently involves is sticking to specific numbers (on either your pulse monitor or power meter) then it's kind of taken the "skill" out of time trialling as far as I'm concerned. Having said that, there's no disputing how good Boardman was - World Champion and T d F prologue TT winner and Hour Record holder fgs....you can't get much better than that can you?

  • Dr Assos

    What a top 5 ! Andy Wilkinson now their is a true All-rounder class on the road too forgot about him Milk Race the lot , alot like Griffo too wait till he sees hes top 5 Assos gear heading your way Ian ! Alf still the man for me surprised your not top 5 though

  • Stuart P

    Ian , Beryl I agree , Wilkinson fantastic but I`m suprised no Boardman , how come ?

  • Playtex

    Fook me ! Look at those thigh muscles !