Woodings is still going strong half a century on

DERRICK Woodings is one of the most committed and dedicated sportsmen the area has ever seen, here, in his own words, is part one of his remarkable cycling story.

“After a week training for the track, in Manchester on the Tuesday, and at home on the turbo trainer the rest of the week I was looking forward to getting out on the road again but once again it was wet and windy Sunday that greeted me in the afternoon in early October this year.

“I had been invited again to contest the Warrington CC ‘Grand Prix de Gentlemen’. It is an event for former stars of the cycling world who are contracted to ride behind a pacing rider for three laps of an eight-mile circuit near Macclesfield.”

“Why was I doing this again? It is total suffering for the whole distance. The main reason was that I was down to ride for the first time, the World Masters Track Championships later that week so had to keep my form.

“Andy who is a great friend of mine had again volunteered to pace me. Fortunately for me, he is a great roadman and knows how to ride smoothly in order to give maximum help to an old man, it still hurts though.

“I do it because it puts back something into a sport that has given me so much for over 50 years and the beneficiaries of this event are the charities nominated by the successful teams.

“My cycling career can be divided into four distinct sections.

“I started racing in the mid-1950’s as a club rider competing in ten and 25-mile time trials, working my way up until I entered my first open event in 1958 coming up against established stars such as national champions Ray Booty and Gordon Ian.

“In those days, depending on which club you were in, you were either a roadman or a time triallist. It was the unique way cycling had developed in this country and why it has taken so long for a British rider to be in contention for the Tour de France.

During this early period I also rode the local track leagues at the now defunct municipal track on Osmaston Park Road Derby and later the Harvey Haddon track at Nottingham, where I looked up to established stars Eric Thompson of Derby (winner of the Commonwealth games road race 1954) and multi-national sprint champion Lloyd Binch.

“On the road I gradually became established as a fast local 25-mile time trial rider winning over 100 races. This culminated in my finishing sixth in the national 25-mile championship in 1963.

“A month after this rather disappointing ride I did my fastest 25-mile time which was just 38 seconds short of the British competition record.

“From this performance and my win in the 100-mile TT championship, I was shortlisted by the British Cycling Federation for specific training to try and qualify for the new Olympic discipline of the 100km. team time trial.

“A very specialised event for teams of four riders with the Tokyo Olympics as the target. This gave me further confidence in my ability to last longer distances at high speeds.

“As the national 100-mile time trial championship was being promoted by the Newark Castle Club on local Notts roads later the same year, I decided to go for this longer distance event.

I had only ridden four of these longer races before and was a relative novice. I was riding against established 100-mile riders, the 1961 and ’62 winners to list a few. I drew up a modest schedule for the ride based on my previous best performance from last year, but aiming to improve on that ride by five minutes. I ended up by beating my personal best by 15 minutes and easily winning the event by two minutes from the 1961 champion Jon Baylis from Southampton. My first national championship!

“I was also riding road races against top international riders at this time and my best performance was a win in the Tour of Belvoir on a hilly circuit in east Notts. However, I still persisted in my time trial riding as it was difficult to give up on a winning formula for the more uncertain road races where there is a certain amount of luck involved in winning when riding solo against teams and more experienced riders.

“I defended my 100-mile title in 1964 and was beaten into second place by a young upcoming Yorkshire rider Peter Hill, one consolation though was our team, Derby Wheelers, took the team prize, the other counters for the team were third-placed Mick Brown and 12th-placed Mick Potts.

1965 saw me retake the 100-mile title again. I was by this time becoming more disillusioned with riding time trial week after week preferring the cut and thrust of road racing even if the wins were more difficult to achieve.

“By the end of the year I had decided that I wanted to really branch out and made the decision to join the pro ranks the next year.

“The next phase was a big gamble I was again a novice at this level up against good former internationals. The only thing going for me was my strength in the longer events. I started out well finishing fourth in my first stage race, and getting well placed in other races.

“MY first big test in the pro ranks was the eight-day Tour of the west in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

“I finished second in the first stage a 15-mile time trial. I made a tactical error in the later stages and dropped to tenth overall, but redeemed myself by just missing out on winning the last marathon stage from Plymouth to Weston-Super-Mare, a 150-mile stage where I was beaten by a whisker by Dutchman Rein de Jong.

“So 1966 was a relative success given my novice status. I looked forward to the next year. I continued through this year and 1968 getting many places and the occasional win and moreover

“I was enjoying the racing which was far more challenging. In the tour of the west 1968 I won one of the early stages and actually became race leader by a small margin although only able to hold this for one day due to lack of team support.

In 1969 I was recruited by a major sponsor Bantel to ride as a team man for sprinter Londoner John Clarey also recruited was ex continental star Vin Denson who had ridden with major French and Italian teams on the continent.

“The squad was an eight-man team and we had many successes, although being a team support rider my wins were minimal that year.

“In 1970 I was not retained by Bantel and joined a minor team to continue the season. Not having a good season and unable to train properly due to domestic duties I decided to retire and stopped in July.

“At this stage my options were to continue to just carry on riding but not racing and I was able to sit out 1971 and assisted a local coach with some junior riders.

“I was then eligible to re-apply for an amateur license. This was granted in 1972. I rode two more seasons with a great deal of success.

“However, in 1974 I changed jobs, I was only a part time pro, and decided to put all my energies into making this a success and so stopped racing altogether. This I did until 1980 when I found that without regular riding I was becoming unfit and was not enjoying this state of health.

“So I picked up with my riding again regularly, the fitness started to return but I did not intend to race again.

“In 1984 I met an old friend, Pete Spencer from Ambergate out on a ride and he persuaded me to join the Belper Thorntons club.

This is where my latest phase started. I was persuaded to ride a unique time trial the Nottingham to Skegness race, a 75-mile event. Big mistake!

“I thought that I was fit I took the biggest battering in my life; I finished but was absolutely wasted.

“I decided there and then that it was necessary to train properly. This I did and started off by riding a few short (25-miles) time trials. Eventually by 1985 I managed to do a sub 1 hour 25. From here on I devoted myself to road racing once more.

“Now in the veteran ranks I was getting some good results again and this is the way it has gone since that time.

“Each year beginning with some hard training and then racing. It is a treadmill that I am reluctant to get off. If you race it is necessary to train hard but it does help with keeping fit, gives one a good feeling and there are no worries with weight gain.

“I am now 72 and although not so fast these days I still have the enthusiasm and whilst I am able to I intend to continue competing as it does keeps me extremely fit and whilst I am still able to hold onto a wheel I shall carry on.

“During the last decade I have also ridden several ‘Sportives’ these are long distance road events, strictly speaking not races but usually develop into one.

“I rode the 1993 ‘Etape du Tour’ in the Pyrenees between Pau and Bayonne which was extremely tough over 215 km. finishing with a Gold Standard for my age group.

Again in 2009 I rode the formidable ‘Marmotte’ over 170 km. and climbed 4 massive mountains made famous by the Tour de France, The cols Croix de Fer, Telegraphe, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez, again finishing with a gold standard. It proves that age is no problem if you do the groundwork.

Palmares:

1958: 2nd in my first time semi-open time trial for beginners(for riders slower than 1hour, 2mins, I had no qualifying time so was eligible)

1959: My first-milestone: I beat the hour for the first time recording 59:32 in the Kesteven Aces TT August 1959. From then on I did it another three times that year ending up with a 59:10 in my last event of 1959.

1960: 1st open 25-mile time trial win 1960(57:59) now finally sub 58 mins., West Bromwich CC June.

1961: 1st open road race win, Easter 1961, followed up by winning the Coventry CC 25TT next day

962: 1st the Bantel pursuit, for novice track riders at the Butts Coventry 1962.

2nd.East Midlands division road race championships over 90-miles of the tough Turnditch circuit behind John Aslin, a star roadman who had just finished the Tour of Britain ‘Milk Race’ and was on top form.

“ mention in passing that I had ridden and won the Long Eaton 25-mile TT earlier the same day. So my potential as a long distance rider was already showing up although I didn’t realise it at the time

1963: 1st major track meeting win, International 4000 metre pursuit at the Butts track Coventry (I got the invite for this from my performance the previous year); Also 3rd. in the famous Muratti Gold Cup ten-mile race at the Fallowfield track behind Dave Bonner(mentioned again below) and Kevin Baensch (Australia).

Jimmy Saville

“Incidentally meeting the late Jimmy Saville who turned up in the track centre to award a lap prize in the event I was riding (which I won).

A few years ago I met Jimmy again at a dinner held in Bradford for the Dave Rayner Fund, where he was a patron regularly donating large sums to the fund.

“He didn’t remember me of course, but he did remember attending track meetings at Fallowfield as he was running a dance hall in Manchester at the time.

1st open senior (Pro-Am) road race win 1963

National 100-mile Time trial Champion: 1963, 1965, 2nd in 1964

1964: Selected for Great Britain to ride a 100km team time trial in Belgium along with Les West, Graham Webb and Derek Harrison, an event where we finished 3rd. Also selected to ride for the GB

‘A’ team to ride a 100km. team TT at Crystal Palace which we won.

Member of winning team in 1964 national 100mile and 12 hour championship races.

1966: Rode and finished the pro Tour of Luxembourg stage race where former World road champions, Rik van Looy and Andre Darrigade were riding, 1966.

2nd. stage 8 and 10th overall Tour of the West, 1966.

1967: 2nd Kirby & West GP (Leicester) pro road race.

1st in the Abercynon (Wales) pro race 1967, which culminated in my being placed 5th in the season long Golden Wheel competition for Professional riders.

2nd in the professional madison track race championship, with Steve Taylor. 1st stage 1 and 2nd overall W.D. &H.O. Wills GP.

In 1967 and 68 I had been shortlisted for the Tour de France team which for those two years were being run off in national team format.

“I didn’t make the cut though, which was unfortunate, but after my Tour of Luxembourg experience the previous year was probably for the better.

“Being a part time pro I would probably have been shelled out early in the event, but who knows!

1968: First stage three and 8th overall Tour of the west 1968. Twice runner up in the Weston GP time trial over 42-miles between Weston and Bristol 1967 & 1968. To Dave Bonner (ex national 25mile TT champion 1963).

“As an amateur during the early sixties I had over 100 wins in various disciplines but mainly in time trials.

“Finally during my latter career from 1984 onwards I have had many more wins mostly in road races, culminating in the last three years as national champion in my three main disciplines on the track, 2000 metres pursuit, points and scratch races. 2008, 2010 and 2011 (I didn’t ride 2009 due to a bad crash putting me out for the back end of that year).

Also on the road this year, national circuit race champion and finally second in the World Masters Championship scratch race and third in the 2k pursuit at the same event.