Thursday, April 18, 2024

Mick Ives – On Racing Non-stop, Summer and Winter, for 62 years!

An amazing career, Mick is the only British Rider to win National Championships at Road, Time Trial, Cyclo Cross, Mountain Bike, Tandem, and Hill Climb...

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HomeInterviewsMick Ives - On Racing Non-stop, Summer and Winter, for 62 years!

Some interviews can be like pulling teeth, others start cautiously then your subject loosens up once they realise you’ve done your homework and know what you’re talking about. There were no such hesitancy with Mick Ives – he was ‘off and running’ from the gun.

Mick Ives
Mick Ives won the UCI World Masters Cyclo Cross in Belgium. Photo©supplied

But in case Mr. Ives name isn’t one you’re familiar with; he’s won 81 British Cycling Championships in all disciplines and 19 World Championship medals, he’s the only male cyclist to represent Britain in all disciplines: road, track, cyclo-cross and mountain biking; and he held a racing license continuously from 1957 to 2019.

But where to start?

How about 1956 and his first race? 

I only got into cycling as a means to get back and forward to work and technical college but I began to enjoy it, joined the Warwick Cycling Club in July 1956 and started going on Sunday runs – where I got hammered.

“But I stuck with it and gradually improved.

“Come October my club mates told me there was going to be a hill climb race up Edge Hill, I didn’t know what that was but entered it anyway.

“I went over early and rode up it three times before the race just to get the hang of it – then I went and won it!”

Mick Ives
Mick Ives at the Milk Race, for the Britannia Team (GB) in 1965. Photo©supplied

And what about his first cyclo-cross, off road being the facet of the sport which he’s perhaps best known for? 

That would be January of 1957, the club used to ride a lot of what we call ‘bridleways’ in England, off road paths and tracks – I liked to ride them so racing ‘cross was an extension of that.

“It was starting to really take off in the English Midlands at that time – a lot of guys used to ride their fixed wheel ‘hack’ bikes and I built a bike up from parts I found in a scrapyard, it had 26” wheels, weighed a ton and only had a back brake because I couldn’t scavenge a front one.

“In my first race, which was the Midland Championship the brake cable broke so I had to run the descents but still finished in 10th place.

“Within two years I was on the Worlds and Empire Games road squads.”

Mick Ives in Mottram-Simplex colours, 1966. Photo©supplied

And fast-forward to his last race?

That would be the September 2017 but I only stopped because I’d suffered a heart attack and had to get stents fitted.

“I held a race licence for 62 years and raced summer on the road, track and latterly mountain bike, then ‘cross every winter.”

Mick Ives
Mick Ives leading the “Smirnoff Scramble” International in his Pro Champs Jersey, 1968. Photo©supplied

How many wins in those six decades?

“If you include track races then somewhere around 1500, I was actually on the national squad for the team pursuit but I don’t think my face fitted and I didn’t get to the track Worlds. 

“I rode my first Worlds in ’65 – that was in ‘cross with the winner the great Italian rider, Renato Longo

“That 1500 total includes 62 National Championships across the disciplines and 136 mountain bike race wins – I was in at the start of the MTB craze.

“You must remember that back in those early days I was racing five times each week – road races, track leagues, mid-week time trials…”

Mick Ives climbing l’Alp d’Huez a few years ago. Photo©supplied

But the pro ranks beckoned?

I rode the 1965 Hill Climb Championship on Dovers Hill and signed the forms to go ‘Independent’ with Mottram Cycles; I won practically every ‘cross race I rode for them over that winter then carried on into the ’66 road season.

“‘Independent’ was a kind of ‘half way house’ where you could ride against the amateurs and the pros but revert to amateur if you wished.

“That ’66 road season we rode the Tour of Luxembourg against the likes of Rik Van Looy – we got hammered but it was a great experience.”

Mick Ives
Mick Ives leading a Pro race with team mate Vin Denson, in 1969. Photo©supplied

After Mottram’s came the team Mick was perhaps best known for, those ‘Black Cat’ Bantel boys who World Professional Pursuit Champion, Hugh Porter also rode for. 

The Bantel team ran for eight years, I got to know the main man at the company, Barry Brandon having won the track pursuit meeting they sponsored and the next thing I was sponsored by them.

“Mercian was the bike sponsor then; that would be the autumn of 1966, I rode for them for three seasons from ’67 until ’69 when Vin Denson came back from the continent and joined us.”

But there was disappointment after Bantel? 

“A big disappointment, I fished around for a sponsor and had attracted the French, Bic pen company as a main sponsor and prolific winner, Albert Hitchen was going to join me.

“But then the British Cycling Federation came to me quoting a UCI rule stating that if a company sponsored a team in one country then they couldn’t sponsor a team in another country. 

“Of course, Bic had the French team with the likes of Charly Grosskost, Leif Mortensen and Luis Ocana – so that was that.”

Mick Ives running up that hill during the Harlow International Cross in 1968. Photo©supplied

Going back to ‘cross – there was a good GB showing in the ’65 X Worlds?

I was 24th behind Renato Longo from Rolf Wolfshohl, two of the greatest ‘crossers ever.

Keith Mernickle was 14th that year with Harry Bond and Mick Stallard both top 30 finishers.”  

Mick Ives
Mick Ives was twice winner of the Masters World Cup Time Trial Championship. Photo©supplied

And you were National Champion in ‘cross in ’68?

Yes, I beat ‘Goz’Goodman and Keith Mernickle to win that one.

“It was televised and I remember standing about in the cold, freezing and waiting to be interviewed.”

Mick Ives racing in the USA in 1976. Photo©supplied

With the Bic project defunct in 1970 you rode for Fred Baker Cycles but were back amateur in 1971?

It was a bit of a tough time for the GB pro class and quite a few of us reverted albeit they made me wait six months on the grounds that I’d; ‘win too many cyclo-crosses.’

“The only caveat was that you couldn’t compete in the Worlds or Olympics.

“I always worked in the bike trade and was working with the Viscount company as senior project engineer; I was at an exhibition, got talking to management and we agreed to set up a racing team, ‘Coventry Olympic-Viscount.’

“That was June ’74, we started with four riders, went to 12 in ’75 and in ’76 had riders of the quality of the British Road race Champion, the late Grant Thomas and Olympic medallist,