Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Stuart Hallam – Still Nuts about Cycling after 50 Years!

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HomeInterviewsStuart Hallam - Still Nuts about Cycling after 50 Years!

Big Brother is Watching You,’ so said George Orwell in the first chapter of his famous book, ‘1984.’ In that context it referred to a totalitarian state where everyone was under constant surveillance by the Authorities.

But in the case of 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s star of road and track Ian Hallam, big brother was indeed watching. 

Stuart Hallam, Ian’s elder brother was there, road and track side for virtually all of his younger brother’s successes and is also a man who has made major contributions to the sport of cycling over the years.

Stuart Hallam
Ian Hallam during the Cleveland GP in the late70s. Photo©Stan Hilton

We thought we should catch up with, ‘Big Bruv.’

Were you interested in cycling before Ian began to demonstrate his potential on the bike? 

“Very much so, we spent all of our youth on bikes – I’m two years Ian’s senior and we’d go on 70 or 80 mile round trips on train spotting adventures, riding my Raleigh Trent Tourist.

“Then one night we discovered that the ‘youth club,’ literally at the bottom of the garden was actually a cycling club – Beeston Road Club.

“We’d go on those classic 100 mile club runs, stopping for lunch and tea – I remember having to push Ian back from them.”

Stuart Hallam
Ian Hallam’s first National Championship, the Amateur 4000 m Pursuit. With clubmate Howard Broughton (l), who went on to win several events as a pacer, and Stuart Hallam helping as usual. Presenting Ian is the great Norman Sheil, who was so much part of Ian’s career.

Did you race?

“I’m heavier built than Ian and wasn’t a bad sprinter, I won the East Midlands Junior Sprint Championship.

“But one day my sports master approached me and said; ‘Hallam, tomorrow you’re playing rugby!

“I moved up through the levels to playing for my County side and continued to play first class rugby until I was 35 years-old.

“But I’d race in the rugby off-season, May until August and held a first category licence for 10 years.”

I believe you travelled to the 1972 Munich Olympics at your own expense to support Ian in the individual and team pursuit where GB took bronze.

“Yes, there was simply no money available in the sport back then, riders had to hand back their jerseys after each competition.

“I was there for all the training they did at Leicester and up in Edinburgh on Meadowbank Velodrome; I drove everywhere, including down to Münich.

“The team was very well drilled, their changes were perfect and they were the ‘shortest’ team there, riding tight on the wheels.

“The thing that would have made the biggest difference to their performances back then if they’d had a sports psychologist with them to give them more self-belief.”

Stuart Hallam
Stuart Hallam is still enjoying his cycling today. Photo©supplied

You were present at all but two of Ian’s many championship wins across all the different disciplines?

“I didn’t really think about it, if the race was at Nottingham I just borrowed my dad’s motor bike and head off to the track.”

Were you there in San Sebastian 1973 when the GB team handed back the rainbow jerseys?

“Yes, I drove down and was present at the road championships which were held at Barcelona and which Ian rode too. 

“In a team pursuit the times are taken on the third man to finish, the Germans crashed and didn’t finish, only GB finished – but you have to remember that their coaches, Eddie Soens and Norman Sheil had immense belief in the team and felt that they would want the squad to come back and win the Worlds fair and square.

“Ian questions even now if they did the right thing in handing back the rainbow jerseys – but they were wonderfully amateur and naïve sportsmen.

“The incident did mean that a wonderful friendship was forged between the GB and German teams – Ian as a dentist actually treated Gunther Schumacher after the crash, the German having lost teeth.

“But then you look ahead to Montreal a year later when Ian punctured and crashed out in the semi-final against the Czechs who were riding round with their arms in the air after they won…”

Ian Hallam
Ian Hallam representing KP Crisps, at the Manchester GP in 1981. Photo©John Coverly

Ian turned pro with KP crisps, were you involved in that deal?

“I assisted in the presentation which Ian prepared – it was done very professionally.

“Ian had offers from Holdsworth and Viking but the salaries offered weren’t going to compensate for his loss of earnings as a dentist – the KP contract was a serious one.” 

Stuart Hallam
Stuart Hallam ran a crack junior team post-Brite (sponsored by his management company, Dataphonics) with Mark Cavendish, who he’s picking up here following an horrendous track crash. Also in the team were Ian Stannard and Ben Swift. Photo©supplied

You were the man behind the very well presented and professional Brite Voice team in 1998.

“The team was never intended to be known as that, Brite Voice was a partner of a large, well known media and communications organisation, the man behind the company was keen to get involved with cycling – it had the right image, colourful, ‘green,’ healthy.

“Then came the Festina scandal on the Tour de France and the company did a complete ‘U’ turn moving into Super Bike sponsorship the following year.

“But yes, we created a great image, nice team cars and we had road, track, sprint and development squads.

“We gained a lot of publicity with things we did, take the RTTC 10 mile championships where we took the first four places with Rob Hayles, Johnny Clay, Matt Illingworth and Colin Sturgess.

“The Lincoln Grand Prix was the same day so we hired a helicopter to fly Matt and Johnny to Lincoln, right after the ‘10’ Champs – Chris Newton got second place for us at Lincoln.” 

And you were a director with British Cycling?

“Yes, Brian Cookson asked if I’d be interested, I was an unpaid non-executive director involved in Project China – preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

Stuart Hallam
Stuart Hallam was CEP with Cycling Ireland. Photo©supplied

Then CEO with Cycling Ireland?

“My father had just passed away and I was reappraising my life; I was spending so much time in aeroplanes, my travel schedule was ridiculous albeit that I’m fortunate in that I don’t need a lot of sleep.

“The day after my father’s funeral Cycling Ireland contacted me and I agreed a fixed term, two year contract.

“I love the country, loved the people and am proud of what we achieved – we doubled the membership, halved our costs and succeeded in unifying the two rival Irish governing bodies into one universally recognised federation.” 

A long and very varied career in telecommunications – what would you cite as the highlights?

“Over 30 years, all of the companies I worked with enjoyed increased revenues during my tenures.

“I was always a believer in concentrating not on the tech itself but what the tech actually DID for the customer.”

With hindsight?

“In 1981 I was asked to do a tech press conference in Geneva and I speculated that in my lifetime everything would come down the phone line – voice, image, information.

“Folks scoffed but I wish I’d saddled myself with debt and developed the internet back then.”

With thanks to Stuart for his time and recollections.