“Cycling has given me a wonderful life,” says Belper’s road race champion

Dave at his Belper home with one of his many trophies.
Dave at his Belper home with one of his many trophies.

For the last 30 years, a tiny stone cottage on Chesterfield Road in Belper has been home to a man who played a significant role in the development of road cycling in the UK.

Dave Orford, now 85-years-old, helped set up the sport in the 1950s, competed as a semi-professional for a decade and then became the first British world champion veteran at the age of 56 in 1986.

Daves walls are festooned with memorabilia from his long and distinguished career.

Daves walls are festooned with memorabilia from his long and distinguished career.

His astonishing front room is decked out like a museum, with the walls covered in trophies and pictures from his long and distinguished cycling career.

“I say that I should charge people 50p and throw a cup of tea in as well,” he jokes.

Born in Southend in Essex, Dave first came to Derbyshire during the Second World War after he and his school were evacuated to the relative safety of the Midlands.

“I’ve stayed up here ever since,” he says.

A younger Dave after one of his wins.

A younger Dave after one of his wins.

“My grandad parcelled my bike up in Southend and sent it to me - I picked it up from Ripley train station.

“When I started cycling up here I was taken in by the beauty of the county and that’s what drove this lifelong love of the sport in me.

“I used to cycle 12 miles to work from Ambergate to Derby and then 40 miles back around the low peak district - that’s how I got so fit.”

Dave soon joined an amateur team, Derby Mercury, winning the East Midlands Junior Championships in 1948 at 17 but was called up to the RAF for two years national service shortly afterwards.

Dave jokes he should charge people 50p to see his museum.

Dave jokes he should charge people 50p to see his museum.

It was there that he formed his first cycling club, and his team began winning medals immediately.

“The group captain came knocking on my door and said these medals have come for you lot.

“He said the RAF national rowing team had ‘won nowt’ so far so he was really pleased with us.

“We used to get money for the train to go to events and then ride there and pocket the money - it was good training as well though!”

Every inch of wall space is covered with artefacts from his illustrious past.

Every inch of wall space is covered with artefacts from his illustrious past.

When he got out of the RAF the first thing he did was to set up his own cycling club.

They wanted to copy the continentals who were ‘way ahead’ of the UK at the time and the thing ‘grew like a forest fire’.

Such was his success that he became semi-professional in 1955, competing in the prestigious Tour de L’Ouest, a four-day race in Northern France.

The rapid growth of the sport led to the creation of the Tour of Britain, which, in 1958, attracted sponsorship from the milk marketing board - becoming the famous ‘Milk Race’ - and lasting for over 30 years.

After retiring at the age of 35, Dave got back into cycling five years later, setting up the Peak District Veterans’ Association in 1970.

“The British Cycling Federation didn’t want to know and said the role of veterans should just be to help the young,” he explains.

Just three of Daves hundreds of trophies.

Just three of Daves hundreds of trophies.

The veterans races went from strength to strength and Dave eventually began attending international events in St Johan in Austria.

It was there that he became the first British winner of a veterans world championship in 1986, triumphing after staging an ambitious lone breakaway, overtaking another group and coming home in first place.

“The second place rider didn’t even know I had stayed in front and came across the line with his arms in the air thinking he had won.”

Dave continued to compete in the veterans’ races until the age of 67, even riding with his son, Dave Junior, during some and going back for one last ride at St Johan nine years ago at the age of 77.

He finally hung up his hat for the last time two years ago after he got ‘too wobbly’ on the bike, but says his love of cycling has given him a ‘wonderful life’.

Looking at the massive popularity the sport has now achieved, he modestly admits to being proud of his role in it.

And the current success of British riders in the sport’s biggest event, the Tour de France, is for him ‘a dream come true’.

One of Daves world champion time trial cycling jerseys.

One of Daves world champion time trial cycling jerseys.