>
Classic Lightweights UK
        Lightweight Extras
 

Cycling at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in the Classic Era 1934-70 

Author Geoff Waters


In July-August 2014, the 20th Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held in Glasgow, Scotland. The track cycling events will be staged on the new indoor Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in the city and the road events and mountain bike title races on courses centred on the city.

The original Games were held in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada, when they were called the ‘British Empire Games’. Subsequently, with the exception of the World War II period, they have been held at four yearly intervals in a number of different Commonwealth countries. In 1954 they were retitled the ‘British Empire and Commonwealth Games’. In 1970 they officially became the ‘British Commonwealth Games’ and in 1978 the ‘Commonwealth Games’.

Cycling events were first included in these Games in 1934 and have featured ever since, although the events schedule has been modified and extended over the years.

This article focuses on the cycling competitions included in the eight editions of the Games held during the ‘classic era’ spanning 36 years from 1934 through to 1970. After first identifying the location of each of the Games, the cycling events held at these in different periods from 1934 to 1970 are explored in greater detail.

Table 1: Empire & Commonwealth Games: 1934-1970

Year

City

Country

1934

London

England

1938

Sydney

Australia

1950

Auckland

New Zealand

1954

Vancouver

Canada

1958

Cardiff

Wales

1962

Perth

Australia

1966

Kingston

Jamaica

1970

Edinburgh

Scotland




THE GAMES OF THE PRE-WORLD WAR II PERIOD

The second edition of the Games in 1934 was originally scheduled to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa. However, the venue was hastily changed to London when the organisers realised that participants of colour would be subject to racial discrimination in South Africa.

Cycling events at the 1934 London Games

The 1934 Games included three cycling events. All were on the track and were reserved exclusively for amateur male competitors who were citizens of countries within the Commonwealth. These rules were to remain in place throughout the classic period. The events, all held at the Fallowfield stadium in Manchester, were:
•    1,000 yards Sprint
•    1,000 metres individual Time Trial
•    10 mile Scratch race
The competitors represented Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Rhodesia and South Africa.

commonwealth-games-waters-extras-3

E W Higgins (England) - winner of the 1000 yards sprint


Table 2 contains details of the results of all the finals.

Table 2: 1934 London Empire Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000 yards Sprint

1

E.W. Higgins

England

-

2

H. Pethybridge

Australia

-

3

E. Clayton

South Africa

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

E.L. Gray

Australia

1:16.4

2

R. McLeod

Canada

1:18.0

3

E. Clayton

South Africa

1:18.7

10 Mile Scratch

1

R. McLeod

Canada

-

2

E. Clayton

South Africa

-

3

W. Harvell

England

-

Total Medal Count: 9

Australia: 1 gold, 1 silver.

Canada: 1 gold, 1 silver.

England: 1 gold, 1 bronze.

South Africa: 1 silver, 2 bronze.



Ernie Higgins and Bill Harvell were two of the top English trackmen of the period. However, a notable absentee from these Games was Dennis Horn. He had been selected to represent Britain in the match sprint event at the 1934 UCI World Championships in Leipzig, Germany, which coincided with the Empire Games. Peter Underwood notes:
But at the World Championships … Dennis (Horn) was eliminated in the 1/8th finals … The World Champion final was between Van Vliet and the Italian Benedetto Pola, who won the title … The following Wednesday Dennis returned to his second home at Herne Hill … winning every race and heat in which he rode. He beat the Empire Games Champion (Higgins) easily…’
Peter Underwood (2013) Dennis Horn-Racing for an English Rose (p.38)
The Australian, E.L. ‘Dunc’ Gray, won the 1,000 metres individual time trial at these Games. He was the reigning Olympic champion in this event, having won the title at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics in a world record time of 1:13.0. He thus became Australia’s first Olympic cycling gold medallist after placing third at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

Eric Clayton of South Africa was placed in all three of the 1934 cycling events while R. McLeod of Canada won both gold and silver medals.

Cycling events at the 1938 Sydney, Australia, Games

In 1938 a mass-start road race was included in the Games along with three track events. This was a highly innovative step as mass-start road racing was then non-existent in Britain and remained a rare event in the colonies. However, its introduction brought the Empire Games into line with the Olympics and UCI world championships.

The 1938 Games included cyclists representing the following countries: Australia, Canada, England, India, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales.

Table 3: 1938 Sydney Empire Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000m Match Sprint

1

E.L. Gray

Australia

-

2

R. Porter

Australia

-

3

G.R. Giles

New Zealand

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

R. Porter

Australia

1:15.2

2

T. Johnson

Australia

1:15.7

3

E.V. Mills

England

1:15.9

10 Mile Scratch

1

W. Maxfield

England

24:44.0

2

R. Hicks

England

s.t.

3

S. Rose

South Africa

s.t.

Road Race

1

H. Binneman

South Africa

2:53:29.6

2

J. Brown

New Zealand

s.t.

3

R. Jones

England

s.t.

Total Medal Count: 12

Australia: 2 gold, 2 silver.

England: 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze.

New Zealand : 1 silver, 1 bronze.

South Africa: 1 gold, 1 bronze.



Australia’s Dunc Gray, who was 32 by this time, won the sprint gold. However, a new generation of Commonwealth cyclists took the remaining honours. Bill Maxfield, who won the 10 mile title, was then one of Britain’s top trackmen. A ‘maker’s amateur’ associated with Claud Butler (as were both Dennis Horn and Toni Merkens), Maxfield was to be beaten by a youthful Reg Harris in a major 1939 sprint event in Britain after having first loftily told Harris, ‘It’s too bad they’ve put you in my heat’.

The mass-start road race was held over 100km. and consisted of 15 laps of a circuit in a Sydney park. The finish was fought out in a sprint between four riders with the South African, Hendrick Binneman, winning the gold medal.

During World War II all international sporting events like the Games ceased. As a result, the cycling careers of many pre-war cyclists were either cut short or terminated.

THE POST-WAR GAMES OF THE 1950s

The Aukland Games

Rhodesian cyclists participated in these Games but there were no South African entrants. Table 4 gives details of the results, including those for a newly-introduced event: the 4,000 metres Individual Pursuit.

This proved to be the ‘Australian Games’ in cycling with the team winning a total of 10 out of the 15 medals contested. Russell Mockridge and Sid Patterson dominated the Sprint and 1,000 metres TT events, with Mockridge also finishing second in the 4,000 metres Individual Pursuit.

Patterson had won the UCI World Amateur Sprint title in 1949 and took the World Amateur Pursuit title in 1950. He then went on to win the World Professional Pursuit title in both 1952 and 1953. At the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Mockridge won the 1,000 metres Individual TT and the Tandem match sprint with Lionel Cox. As a professional, he later rode in six-day events and completed the 1955 Tour de France. He was killed in 1958 in a collision with a bus during a road race in Australia.

Tommy Godwin (Image below), representing England, closely challenged the two Australian stars in the 1,000 metres individual TT at the Auckland Games. Godwin had won bronze in the same event at the 1948 London Olympics. Cyril Cartwright of England comfortably beat Mockridge in the 4,000 metres Individual Pursuit at the Games.

commonwealth-games-waters-extras-1


Table 4: 1950 Auckland Empire Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000m Match Sprint

1

E.R. Mockridge

Australia

-

2

S.P. Patterson

Australia

-

3

R. Avery

Australia

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

E.R. Mockridge

Australia

1:13.4

2

S.P. Patterson

Australia

1:13.5

3

T.C. Godwin

England

1:13.6

10 Mile Scratch

1

W.D. Heseltine

Australia

23:23.4

2

L.P. Lock

New Zealand

 

3

K.J. Caves

Australia

 

4,000 m Indiv. Pursuit

1

C. Cartwright

England

5:16.3

2

E.R. Mockridge

Australia

5:27.0

3

L.P. Lock

New Zealand

5:26.7

Road Race

1

H. Sutherland

Australia

3:13:06.4

2

T.R. Carter

New Zealand

 

3

J.H. Fowler

Australia

 

Total Medal Count: 15

Australia: 4 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze.

England: 1 gold, 1 bronze.

New Zealand : 2 silver, 1 bronze.



The 1954 Vancouver Games

At these the new title of the ‘British Empire and Commonwealth Games’ was introduced. The cycling events included competitors from Pakistan, Rhodesia and South Africa. Table 5 gives the final results.

Table 5: 1954 Vancouver Empire & Commonwealth Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000m Match Sprint

1

C.F. Peacock

England

-

2

Not awarded*

 

-

3

T. Shardelow

South Africa

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

R.F. Ploog

Australia

1:12.5 (result tied)

J.A. Swift

South Africa

3

K.J. Harrison

England

1:12.7

10 Mile Scratch

1

L.W. Cocks

Australia

21:59.5

2

K.J.Harrison

England

 

3

D.J.C. Skene

Wales

 

4,000 m Indiv. Pursuit

1

N.L. Sheil

England

5:03.5

2

P.F. Brotherton

England

5:09.1

3

R. Fowler

South Africa

5:06.9

Road Race

1

E.G. Thompson

England

2:44:08.1

2

J.K. Baird

New Zealand

 

3

B. Pusey

England

 

Total Medal Count: 14

Australia: 2 gold.

England: 3 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze.

New Zealand : 1 silver.

South Africa: 1 gold, 2 bronze.

Wales: 1 bronze.

*L.R. Cox (Aus) was disqualified in the final while R.F. Ploog (Aus) refused to start.



England’s cyclists were dominant at these Games, winning a total of seven medals. Cyril Peacock went on to win the 1954 UCI World Amateur Sprint title while Norman Sheil won the World Amateur Individual Pursuit title in both 1955 and 1958.

commonwealth-games-waters-extras-4

Norman Sheil - winner 4000-metres individual pursuit


According to South African Tommy Shardelow (placed third in the Match Sprint in Vancouver), the Australian sprinters Cox and Ploog were dissatisfied with official decisions and abandoned the Sprint event at the Games. Nevertheless, Dick Ploog tied with the South African Jimmy Swift for the gold medal in the 1,000 metres Individual time trial.

The 1958 Cardiff Games

Controversy surrounded South Africa sending an exclusively white team to compete in the Cardiff Games, with public protests being staged in the city at the time. Despite the protests the South African team was allowed to participate. However, South Africa left the Commonwealth in 1961. It was only in the 1990s, with apartheid having been scrapped, that South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth and recommenced participation in the Games.
With few exceptions, the medal winners in the cycling events at Cardiff came from a new generation of Commonwealth cyclists. Competitors included riders from Jersey, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Pakistan and Scotland.

commonwealth-games-waters-extras-2

Clyde Rimplerepresenting Trinidad & Tobago in 1958  rode both the sprint and road race. 

Although unplaced in both he was a sign of the flourishing of cycle sport in the Caribbean.


A youthful Tom Simpson finished second to Norman Sheil in the 4,000 metres Individual pursuit. The road race was won by Ray Booty, the great British road time triallist of the 1950s, best known for breaking the four-hour barrier in the 100 mile road TT.

Table 6: 1958 Cardiff Empire & Commonwealth Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000m Match Sprint

1

R.J. Ploog

Australia

-

2

K. Barton

England

-

3

L. Binch

England

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

N. Tong

England

1:12.1

2

W.J. Scarfe

Australia

1:12.4

3

W.D.H. Dalton

New Zealand

1:12.6

10 Mile Scratch

1

I.S. Browne

Australia

21:40.2

2

W.T. Johnston

New Zealand

 

3

D.J.C. Skene

Wales

 

4,000 m Indiv. Pursuit

1

N.L. Sheil

England

5:10.2

2

T. Simpson

England

5:10.5

3

W.D.H. Dalton

New Zealand

5:14.7

Road Race

1

R. Booty

England

5:16:33.7

2

F. Brazier

Australia

5:19:21.7

3

S.G. Slack

Isle of Man

5: 19:21.7

Total Medal Count: 15

Australia: 2 gold, 2 silver.

England: 3 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze.

Isle of Man: 1 bronze.

New Zealand: 1 silver, 2 bronze.

Wales: 1 bronze.

commonwealth-games-waters-extras-5

Ray Booty - winner of the road race


At the Maindy stadium in Cardiff the Welsh trackman, Don Skene, repeated his bronze medal win in the 10 mile Scratch event in the previous Games. In the road race, S.G. Slack took bronze to give the Isle of Man its first cycling medal

THE GAMES IN THE PERIOD 1962-1970

The Perth Games of 1962

The Games returned to Australia in 1962 and in the cycling events Australia, England and New Zealand divided the medals between them. Australia won a total of seven medals (including four golds), England five medals and New Zealand three. They did so against fields which included competitors from Malaya, Trinidad & Tobago and Rhodesia.

The Australians did not win any medals in the road race. Wes Mason (England) won gold in this event and was followed home by New Zealanders Walsh and Beyers. Notable absentees at the Perth Games were South African cyclists, who were no longer eligible to participate.

Table 7: 1962 Perth Empire & Commonwealth Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000m Match Sprint

1

T. Harrison

Australia

-

2

K. Barton

England

-

3

I.S. Browne

Australia

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

P.T. Bartels

Australia

1:12.9

2

I.R. Chapman

Australia

1:13.2

3

R. Whitfield

England

1:13.5

10 Mile Scratch

1

D.J. Adams

Australia

22:40.8

2

W.T. Johnston

New Zealand

 

3

H. Clarey

England

 

4,000 m Indiv. Pursuit

1

M. Langshaw

Australia

5:08.8

2

R.J. Hine

Australia

5:13.2

3

H.K. Jackson

England

5:14.2

Road Race

1

W. Mason

England

5:20:26.2

2

A. Walsh

New Zealand

5:20:27.0

3

L. Beyers

New Zealand

5:20:27.2

Total Medal Count: 15

Australia: 4 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze.  

England:1 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze.  

New Zealand: 2 silver, 1 bronze.


The Kingston Games of 1966

This was the first time that the Games had been held in the Caribbean and it revealed a star trackman in Roger Gibbon of Trinidad & Tobago. He won gold in both the Match Sprint and the 1,000 metres Individual TT.

Table 8: 1966 Kingston Empire and Commonwealth Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000m Match Sprint

1

R. Gibbon

Trinidad & Tobago

-

2

J.F. Booker

England

-

3

D.W. Perkins

Australia

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

R. Gibbon

Trinidad & Tobago

1:09.6

2

P.W. Bristow-Stagg

Australia

1:10.9

3

R.J.Hine

Australia

1:11.0

10 Mile Scratch

1

I. Alsop

England

21:46.0

2

H.S. Clarke

Australia

 

3

T. Bull

England

 

4,000 m Indiv. Pursuit

1

H. Porter

England

4:56.6

2

J.C. Bylsma

Australia

4:59.0

3

R.J. Hine

Australia

5:03.7

Road Race

1

P. Buckley

Isle of Man

5:07:52.5

2

D. Thomson

New Zealand

5:12:11.2

3

L.J. Byers

New Zealand

5:12:19.8

Total Medal Count: 15

Australia: 3 silver, 3 bronze. 

England: 2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze. 

Isle of Man: 1 gold.  

New Zealand : 1 silver, 1 bronze. 

Trinidad & Tobago: 2 gold.


A youthful Hugh Porter won the Individual Pursuit. He went on to enjoy a professional career which included winning the UCI Professional World Pursuit title in 1968, 1970, 1972 and 1973 in a series of epic battles with the Belgian, Ferdi Bracke. Peter Buckley, representing the Isle of Man, won the Games road race. He was tragically killed in a training accident in 1969.

The Edinburgh Games of 1970

This was the final Games of the classic period. It included a large contingent of cyclists from the Caribbean countries: Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago. The Tandem Match Sprint event was introduced at these Games and was won by the Australian pair of Johnson and Jonker.

The Australian sprinters Nicholson and Johnson fought out the final, with Nicholson taking the title. Both went on to win UCI World titles. Gordie Johnson won the Pro Sprint world title in 1970 in Carlton colours. John Nicholson turned professional after defending his Commonwealth sprint title in 1974, winning the world Pro sprint title in 1975 and again in 1976. He was noted for having his shoes bolted to the pedals and using a Shimano drivetrain based on a 10mm. pitch chain. Neither of these innovations enjoyed subsequent popularity.

Table 9: 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games Cycling Results

Event

Position

Name

Country

Time

1,000m Match Sprint

1

J. Nicholson

Australia

-

2

G. Johnson

Australia

-

3

L. King

Trinidad & Tobago

-

1,000 metres Indiv. TT

1

H. Kent

New Zealand

1:08.69

2

L. King

Trinidad & Tobago

1:10.40

3

J.B. Lovell

Canada

1:10.53

10 Mile Scratch

1

J.B. Lovell

Canada

20:46.72

2

B. Temple

Scotland

20:47.56

3

V. Stauble

Trinidad & Tobago

20:47.56

4,000 m Indiv. Pursuit

1

I. Hallam

England

5:04.1

2

D. Clarke

Australia

5:04.9

3

B.G. Stockwell

New Zealand

 

2,000 m Tandem Sprint

1

G. Johnson & R. Jonker

Australia

-

2

B. Harvey & J.B. Lovell

Canada

-

3

J. Beswick & J. Hatfield

Wales

-

Road Race

1

B.W. Biddle

New Zealand

4:38:58.0

2

R.V. Bilney

Australia

4:38:58.0

3

J.K. Trevorrow

Australia

4:40.26.0

Total Medal Count: 18

Australia: 2 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze.  

Canada: 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze.   

England: 1 gold.  

New Zealand: 2 gold, 1 bronze.  

Scotland: 1 silver. 

Trinidad & Tobago: 1 silver, 2 bronze.

Wales: 1 bronze.



In these Games the performance of England’s cyclists was very disappointing. Ian Hallam won England’s sole medal: gold in the Individual Pursuit.

REVIEW: CYCLING AT THE BRITISH EMPIRE & COMMONWEALTH GAMES IN THE CLASSIC ERA

In the course of the eight Games spanning the 36-year classic period between 1934 and 1970, a total of 113 cycling medals were awarded to Commonwealth cyclists: 39 gold, 36 silver and 38 bronze. Australian cyclists were dominant overall, winning a total of 41 (36 per cent) of all medals and 17 (44 per cent) of all the gold medals. They were followed by England with New Zealand third in the medal stakes.

Table 10: Commonwealth Games Medals by Country: 1934-1970

Country

Gold Medals

Silver Medals

Bronze Medals

Total

Australia

17

16

8

41

Canada

2

2

1

5

England

13

7

11

31

Isle of Man

1

 

1

2

New Zealand

2

8

7

17

Scotland

 

1

 

1

South Africa

2

1

5

8

Trinidad & Tobago

2

1

2

5

Wales

 

 

3

3

Total

39

36

38

113



A striking feature of the Games in the classic period is the significant number of Commonwealth riders who subsequently enjoyed successful international careers. They went on to win Olympic titles and UCI World Championships as well as to pursue professional cycling careers. This suggests that these Games played a major role in stimulating the international sporting success of cyclists from the Anglophone world.

Throughout this classic period the cycling competitions at the Games remained strictly amateur and were confined exclusively to male competitors from Commonwealth countries. The officials were invariably ‘honorary’ and the timing of events was done using handheld stop watches.

Altogether, the cycling of the classic Games era was a world away from the cycling scene scheduled for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

REFERENCES

Books
Harris, R. (1976) Two Wheels to the Top. London: W.H. Allen.
Henderson, N.G. (1973) Cycling Classics, 1970-1972. London: Pelham.
Underwood, P. (2013) Dennis Horn: Racing for an English Rose. Norwich: Mousehold .

Websites
http://www.bikecult.com/bikecultbook/sport_trackWorld.html
http//www.thecgf.com/sports/intro.asp

Interview
South African cyclist Tommy Shardelow, interviewed on 1/02/2014.
His honours include:
•    1952 Olympics – silver medal in Tandem Sprint (with Ray Robinson)
•    1952 Olympics – silver medal in 4,000m Team Pursuit
•    1954 Empire & Commonwealth Games – bronze in Match Sprint
In the interview, Tommy spoke of his experiences at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, the 1954 Vancouver Games and of his competing in Europe during the 1950s.This included racing on the Vigorelli velodrome in Milan, Italy, in its heyday. He also told of meeting Gino Bartali and other stars of the era. Today Tommy, who is in his 80s, is retired and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.