Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#4 Issues 21 - 30 1991

What were we doing in 1991? Too much is the answer! We organised a five race triathlon series and put up the entry fees to an astounding twenty five pounds. For that competitors had food and drink, a good quality T-shirt, transition area security, motor bike draftbusting, speedy registration, accurate and fast tab timing system and anything else we could think of, plus the chance to win £3,000 in prize monies at each race.  We started at Swindon, helped John Lunt at Windsor, an Olympic distance at Ironbridge on Ironman day, Bath and then Bournemouth.

please add your own caption to this Sarah Coope pic.
Well, not exactly Bournemouth; we had so much antipathy from the local police force that rather than give up we talked to a French triathlon club in Ardes in northern France. They got us some sponsorship from SeaLink ferry company and entry into their triathlon.  Our Bournemouth competitors were told to turn up at Dover on Saturday with their toothbrushes and passports and we would take them to France and include some spartan accommodation for the price of their original £25 entry fee. We took our 220 transition racking and some English draftbusters to make them feel at home. We all joined together with the Ardes Tri Club event and had a très joli time.


Our most ambitious race to date, if not ever, was the Ironman distance race in Ironbridge. But I have to say it was like sweeping water uphill with a broom. The local traders were disinterested, the local council was only half interested, and only then because they had a triathlete on the payroll who was battling our corner, and the police just didn't want to know. However it was a spectacular venue and we had devised an interesting course.

I went to see the Acting Chief Constable of West Mercia Police and did a selling job on him and his committee. After an hour's interview he looked at me and said, in proper police speak, "In the light of new evidence, I feel we should allow this event to take place". Hurray! Off we went and continued organising. We lobbed out five grand to the WTC for some Hawaii Ironman Qualifying spots and 20 finishers ended up not in Ironbridge High Street, but running down Alii Drive in Kona some months later. Lucian Loijens won the men's race, Springers the woman's.

 John Lunt, Paul Enion, Fraser Kennedy.
Gordon Riley.
I was 220’s Police Liaison Officer on the day and spent it in an unmarked car which drove the course filming the event for a report to ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers). Triathlon was technically illegal at that time as the 1960 Cycle Racing on the Highway Act was in force. The Act limited massed start cycle racing to specific numbers (40 plus reserves) and specific course design (no smaller than a 10 mile lap). Time Trials were limited to 120 starters.

Several Chief Constables, including those from Cambridge, Hertfordshire, Bedford, Suffolk and Norfolk had banned the sport entirely and it was an uphill battle to convince them to let us race on public roads. We had cited a sub-section of the Act which allowed “Other” and this was how we managed to stage a cycle racing triathlon section with hundreds of competitors. We argued that it was not a massed start road race as we didn’t start at the same time. Nor was it a traditional time trial with each rider going off at minute intervals.

The feeling of the two traffic officers I was with was very positive indeed, they were only used to time trials so the idea of lots of cyclists sharing the road was a bit new to them but they soon got the hang of it. I guess their report worked as the ban was eventually lifted.

Cast iron medals made in the local iron works
Who? or better still, Why?

Between the triathlon series we did an ITU World Cup Duathlon at Keevil. Being an ITU race we had a good crop of foreign competitors, a couple of French clubs, Mexicans, Canadians, Americans and us Brits. It was a dreadful day, cold and wet and being on an airfield, windswept. One Californian duathlete commented that he had never gone training in the rain let alone raced in it! ITU President Les Macdonald came to our house and upset me by being condescending and impolite, but I understand I'm not the first to suffer his manners.

Very Big George Pierce
Mellisa Watson looks a bit forlorn (and wet and cold).
and in glorious technicolour Glenn Cook.

National Duathlon Championships

We went "up north" to put on the National Duathlon Championships in Durham. Mike Trees was first across the line and instead of going straight for the Gatorade he was calling out for Sarson's - he had been stung by a wasp and wanted some vinegar!

Mike Trees: Yes, but it must have been a bee and I think it got me on the neck.  I am allergic to wasp stings and would have ended up in hospital. Luckily, I didn't end up in hospital, because winning that 1st National Duathlon Championships set me up for a sponsorship deal in Japan, which allowed me to race professionally and save up to start in business :)

We then organised the European Duathlon Championships at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. In retrospect it was quite a feat with no sponsorship. The bike course was closed to traffic (very rare in those days) and we paid a television production company to film the race for SkySports. Sorry to say I have to admit this ETU race didn't come up to our usual 220 standard, we didn't have time or money to give it the love it needed.

Mike Trees
Mike Trees: As a 220 contributor and coming from a running background I was super keen to take out the first run fast  and put a minute's gap over the field. Unfortunately I made a basic schoolboy error and did not check the course beforehand. Just after this photo was taken I went flying on a tight bend which was still icy from an over night frost and got bad road rash on my hip. It might not have been so bad if I had worn  a proper pair of shorts instead of those outrageous Speedos!

In 1991 we paid out £29,000 in prize monies and £5,500 in sanction fees to the BTA.

We put on an Olympic distance race at Ironbridge the day before the Ironman.
Well, we didn't want our volunteers to get bored, did we? seen here winner Ricardo.



John Lunt's Windsor triathlon


Draft Busting

Dave Handley
In 1991 drafting was not permitted so to try and prevent or at least manage the bunches on the bike course we put out a call for volunteer motor cyclists to carry race referees. We took this on board because the BTA couldn't or wouldn't or . . . . . I don't know why. We put some ad's in motor cycle magazines and eventually a couple of dozen hairy bikers arrived at my house for a briefing.

One of them turned out to be Dave Handley. Dave was an ex track cyclist. He had been Empire Games Sprint champion (before it changed its name to the Commonwealth Games). I bagged Dave to be my moto pilot when I was dodging about trying to be a photographer. He was brilliant,  the number of times we wizzed through the field to get the next pic that then made the front cover was all down to Dave. He had a really big Kawasaki, on the back number plate was a plaque that said "300 Sans Blague" - "I can do 180 mph, no joke". And he could go pretty fast! At one of our airfield races he said "Come on John, hold tight" He then ramped it up to top speed. My face was sucked into even weirder shapes by the wind as I clung on, and I really had to hang on. Whether or not we reached the magic 300kph I don't know, but it was fast enough for me. Top man.

Our 220 race organisation policy was, Military Precision with some Artistic Licence. Left brain, right brain balance. I liked to be an accountant and have everything balanced and orderly and delegate responsibility but, just as important to me, was the "look and feel" of the event.

Having cycle raced in France at village criteriums when the local fair was in town with cheesy French accordion music, and to the Hawaii Ironman where the razzamatazz was spelled in capital letters, I tried to pick a bit of each to dress up our 220 races.

You can see from this plan of the Ironbridge family tree that we tried to cover everything. Not so! At one point we couldn't get the hired generator working because we couldn't find the keys. Ian Sweet marched over and said "Who's Icey Keys?" - "Icey Keyes?" ahh I see, you mean IC Keys - In Charge of Keys (very military). From that day on we made sure to have a Commander of the Keys, ICKeys. :-)

St Croix USVI

It was not all windswept airfields in Wiltshire, sometimes we went and reported
on races further afield, like this one in St Croix USVI.

Ian Sweet goes Around the World

Perhaps my most exciting journey for 220 Magazine took place when Bernie Shrosbree and I flew to Kathmandu in Nepal for the Annapurna Triathlon. After we landed, our plan was to stay overnight in Kathmandu and fly the next day to Pokora for the race. Our taxi driver told us we would not be going anywhere the next day as there was going to be a revolution! After a morning of sight seeing at the Monkey Temple, Bernie said he needed some exercise so we went to the only hotel that had a pool.

We heard a lot of noise outside so we went to the roof to see what was happening. Thousands were marching towards the King's Palace, evidently the people weren't too happy that the King had used US aid money to buy a Caribbean island. Shots were fired and a Dutch camera man, no more that twenty feet away, was killed.  Bernie and I made our way back to our own hotel and I phoned the London Times. I ended up being their foreign correspondent for 48 hours. Both Bernie and I were active military and so we ventured to the British Embassy to tell them we were there. They thought at first that Bernie, who was a Special Boat Squadron Marine, was there on official duty! After a couple of days the King lied to his people and said he would give back the money and the revolution ended.

Next day we flew up to Pokhara. During the race Bernie was stoned for stealing water, he thought a shop on the run course was a feed station. Then we were stopped by the Chinese for trying to use their new road. The mountain bike course actually went through some houses.  I took the whole British crew of sixteen people out for dinner which cost ten quid. On the flight back to Kathmandu our aircraft lost an engine but still managed to land safely. Finally, the customs people wanted Bernie to pay an export tax on his Trek mountain bike. In typical Bernie style he just gave them the bike. What a trip!

By now we are getting subscribers from abroad. I think the furthest one at the time was a reader in Brazil. However potential Eastern European subscribers couldn't get Pounds Sterling very easily, so we made an offer that for a year's subscription they could send us a few jars of pickled red cabbage. We might have received some pickled red beetroot from Poland, but no cabbage, shame.


 Ironman Hawaii

going up, a bit of Welch, Tinley, Kiens, Mackle, Allen, Kiuru (possibly).
Mark Allen and Paula Newby Fraser were the winners.
GB's Sarah Coope was third in 9:33:20

Paula Newby Fraser

Next Year Click Here


  1. I well remember sitting around the table in your house in Swindon discussing where the Ironman race should be held. I came up with Ironbridge as my family had roots there and thought it rather appropriate - Ian Sweet thought it was a pretty good idea too ... the rest is history :-)

  2. Nice (black and white)rear view of me, standing with the bike, having punctured at a wet and windswept Evil Keevil. OK, so it perfectly depicts a bad day at the office with the crap weather and road surface- several others punctured besides me. But come on, 220, give me a break! Between 1990 and'95 I won 3 National titles (and was never outside the top 2 in 7 Nationals); 3 European bronze medals; 6th, 9th and 11th in World Duathlon champs; won the '94 ITU World duathlon series and was 2nd to Maddy T. in the '94-'95 Powerman series. Could you not have found one of me ON a bike, or running, or finishing a race, or at least looking happy?
    Whinge over. Your compilation is a great trip down memory lane and a very entertaining read, as are all my old copies of 220 which I have saved and still read from time to time, as a memento of probably the best 5 years of my life. Melissa Watson.


Comments Welcome: