International Cycle Sport | January 1973 | Issue No 56 | Page 14
by David Saunders
IT really does get monotonous! Over the tough course at Shirley Hills, Croydon, the TI Carlton professional John Atkins romped away with yet another victory and the manner of his win showed quite clearly that he was the master of the situation right from the start.
Excuses about lacking early season fitness have surely been discarded by mid-November and the few favoured ones behind the British champion were once more given a lesson in what this winter sport is all about. Atkins made the twisting, tricky 1 mile course with its many short climbs and descents look easy, After the first few hundred yards he took the lead and gradually drew away from the rest.
There was bad luck a'plenty for quite a number of men not least the Southern Champion, Keith Mernickle (Chris Barber/Geoffrey Butler) who crashed heavily while holding second place with only four of the nine laps remaining, The former amateur champion, Daryl Brassington (Coventry-Eagle-Tighe) had tumbled, too, and later on had the misfortune to collect a rear wheel puncture.
The St John Ambulance Brigade in attendance were kept pretty busy with various cuts and bruises, the worst casuality being Manchester's Ray Barker (Cowan Cycles) whose handlebar stem snapped off as he was careering down the steepest, gravel-strewn descent on the course. Poor Barker left the event with his right arm in a sling to protect a badly bruised arm and shoulder.
The Great Britain amateur squad and the Youth team did not really show well against the class of opposition provided by the professionals and the trio of Swiss riders that turned up to brave the elements and the course. They were not the only brave ones for a sizeable crowd ignored the bitterly cold wind and drenching rain to cheer the competitors. Among them was BBC's John Dunn who was taking a look at Cyclo-Cross for the first time.
He liked what he saw and was most impressed with the skill of the top riders. His enthusiasm for the race spilled out in his mid-afternoon programme a few days later when he spent nearly ten minutes talking about the sport and gave a good 'plug' for the world championships next February. While Atkins had things much his own way there was enough spirited battles going on behind to keep interest alive. The Swiss. Carlo La Franchi. Fritz Scharer and Ueli Muller, all got off to a good start and stayed up with Eric Stone (RBM), amateur champion Chris Dodd (Otley CC) and were reinforced by Mernickle, who had had his usual slow start, on the second circuit. Brassington had been fairly close but was soon to lose contact for ever.
In the earlier schoolboys' event the fastest lap was eight minutes but Atkins, once he reached the front, sped over the route in 6:42 and then settled into a steady seven minutes or so for every lap. Behind him Mernickle took over second place with Stone close to the Londoner with the gaps opening up all the time between the first half dozen.
After Mernickle had crashed Stone and Dodd then provided the speculation as to who would come second. There were no doubts by now as to who would win and as the Swiss lost contact with Stone and Dodd, the Northern title holder put the pressure on with 2 laps to go and Dodd went backwards. All this time the new Veteran Champion, Roger Page (Everwarm Homes), was gradually closing the gap and he had passed the three Swiss by the start of the bell lap.
Holdsworth Cyclo-Cross Result
1 John ATKINS TI Carlton 13m in 1-2-55
2 Eric Stone RBM Bob Jackson at 1-37
3 Roger Page Everwarm Homes at 2-16
4 Chris Dodd Otley CC
5 Ueli Muller Switzerland at 2-56
6 Keith Mernickle Barber/Butler at 3-24
7 Carlo Lafranchi Switzerland at 4-06
8 Fritz Scharer Switzerland at 4-42
9 G. Collyer GS Barossa at 4-47
10 W. Radford Elizabethan CC at 6-39
11 V. Bennett Weiland Valley at 7-04
12 D. Brassington Coventry Eagle/Tighe at 7-36
13 I. Jewell Croydon Premo at 7-48
14 R. Porter Hounslow & Dist at 1 lap
15 G. Bufton RBM/Bob Jackson
16 A. Lyne Solihull CC
17 J. Metcalf Halesown CC
18 K. Hanson Festival RC
19 A. Bartlett Redmon CC
20 J. Moore Falcon/Tighe
Atkins cruised in with arms aloft, Stone taking a good second place nearly two minutes down after one of his well-known last ditch efforts when he managed to pull a little time back from Atkins - the only time it was done in the whole race, incidentally.
Suddenly a great roar from the crowd signalled the approach of two men, Dodd and Page, the latter having overhauled the British amateur champion and was now sprinting it out with him. Page, showing none of his 35 years of age in the final dash for the line, took young Dodd by about half a wheel.
This was a wonderful display by 'Big Roger' but it only served to underline just how bad Dodd is at the moment. I fear he has lost heart somewhere and is just a shadow of the rider who took such a tremendous sixth place in the world title at Apeldoorn in Holland in 1971. Certainly he must pull his socks up and get in some extra training.
Muller struggled in for fifth place with Mernickle, still shaken, a brave sixth while the other two Swiss were just behind him and the rest nowhere. So Atkins notched up his one hundredth and whatever it is professional victory and now sits comfortably at the top of the overall placings for the International Cycle Sport Magazine Trophy.