Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Randy Allsopp – 25 and 50 Mile TT Champion in the ’60s and ’70s


HomeInterviewsRandy Allsopp - 25 and 50 Mile TT Champion in the '60s...

Our man is on one of his epic runs, he punctures late in the day as the twilight begins to fall. He straps on his little emergency lights and hopes the police won’t see him.

However, policemen are trained not to be there when you most need them and to be right there when you least need them. 

As they say in Glasgow, our man ‘gets a pull.’

Those aren’t effective lights on that bicycle, sir.’

Our man is suitably polite and humble, explaining his predicament to the gentleman in blue.

Are you in a cycling club? Which one?’ the constable enquires.

Cleveleys Road Club,’ our man replies.

Do you know Randy Allsopp?’ enquiries the bobby.

Well, yes, that’s me!

The law man shakes his head; ‘When I was a lad my dad used to take me out to see you racing on the local time trial course, you were my idol!

The lack of illumination ceases to be a problem and Randy heads off to a local bike shop to borrow proper lights.

25 and 50 mile champion, stage racer of renown with multiple victories, top 10 finisher in the world’s fastest amateur stage race, The Olympia Tour in the Netherlands, and – along with Ferdi Bracke – one of the very few people ever to catch Hugh Porter in a Pursuit race.

And, he was wearing his trademark ‘shades’ before the designers at Oakley were born…

Legend’ is a term which is over-used but in the case of Mr. Randy Allsopp, it’s wholly appropriate.

It was my mentor and VeloVeritas soothsayer, Vik who suggested we should catch up with Blackpool’s finest – I’m glad he did so.

Randy Allsopp. Photo©supplied

How did you first get into the sport, Randy?

“It was through the CTC, the Fylde Section, I loved touring; when I was a lad I used to look up at the Trough of Bowland from our house and wonder what it was like up there and beyond. 

“I made so many new friends in those days, we’d go on long runs, even taking the train down to Chester then go riding in the Welsh mountains.”

Your first race win?

“The younger lads in the CTC decided we wanted to race and joined the West Lancs Road Club

“At 17 I rode a ‘25’ as part of the ‘Fylde Combine’ group of 10 clubs – there’s only one of those 10 clubs left now – and I won it with a 59 minute ride; so first race, first win!”

RTTC 50 mile champion in 1963?

“I’d been racing in France at the start of that year – where I won three events – and wanted to ride the ’25’ Champs when I came home but didn’t have a qualifying time so couldn’t ride.

“The day before that ‘50’ Champs was the finals of National Pursuit Championships at Fallowfield Track, Manchester, the qualifying had been on the Friday night, but I was working on Saturday morning and just made the start line, they were calling me to start line as I parked the van; I got up with no warm-up and just lost out in the semi to Harry Jackson.

“The ‘50’ was way down in Norfolk and it was late when we got there, we didn’t have an evening meal and we had to knock the landlady up to get into the digs.

“We were up at 04:45, so no breakfast either. 

“I was flying to start with and on a 1:55 ride – 55:51 at 25 miles – but in the last part of the ride I got the ‘knock’ so bad that I barely made the finish.

“I was so done in that my club mates had to catch me off the bike at the finish.

“I was off at number 10 and was convinced that I had failed but in the end I ran out winner by two seconds from Ken Craven.”

Randy Allsopp

Tell us about France.

“I went to race in Troyes where Alan Ramsbottom and Vin Denson were based, they were good lads and we had a lot of laughs.

“Alan was riding for Pelforth and was such a classy rider but his problem was that because he wore glasses he was at a big disadvantage if it rained – he couldn’t see.

“He was a rider who I think never reached his full potential.

“I won three races over there, one was a criterium where I lapped the field; but it was the heat which did for me, the locals were used to it but I struggled.”

You rode with many of the star riders of the era?

“Yes, one episode I remember in particular was when I was at the 1962 BCF training camp at the Lilleshall National Sports Centre.

“We were doing track work and I was riding a double harness pursuit with the late Graham Webb, he was so busy hanging on to my wheel that he hadn’t noticed we’d passed the finish line, he rode into the back of me when I eased up and went flying past me, head first!

“He was such a strong rider, he went on to be World Amateur Road race Champion but his pro career never really got off the ground due to misfortunes – such a shame, he would have been a great Classics rider, for a big man he could get over the hills.”  

You were an excellent stage race rider, I remember riding against you at the Journal Two Day in 1974.

“I loved stage racing, I won a few, some more than once – the Mitchells & Butlers in Brum, the Eccleston Four Day, the Lakes Two Day, the Journal Two Day at Newcastle, the Levy Moores in Lancs, and the Greenall Whitley at Warrington when it was a Star Trophy race.”

The ‘25’ Championship in 1970; ‘Cycling Weekly’ tipped Tooby, Ward, Cottington, Whitehouse, Moore and Johnson as the top six; but you won. 

“It was nice to win that from Malc Johnson and Pete Watson but the ride I did in the ’72 championship where I was only fourth was a much better achievement.

“In 1971 I had the season off, I hitchhiked overland to Australia and when I started back on the bike on club runs I felt odd.

“I started to have chills and took fits, it got worse and worse with me ending up in hospital.

“Eventually a specialist diagnosed me as having advanced malaria which I must have picked up on my travels – I was in hospital for three weeks.

“I had a full month off the bike then went out on the club runs began training and rode some crits before getting back to full training.

“Eventually my legs began to feel like mine and not a stranger’s; I began riding well, setting course records.

“In that 1972, ‘25’ title race I got the shout that I was 30 seconds up on Alf Engers – who won on the day – and then I punctured, I changed wheels but at the top of a long drag I unshipped my chain.

“Despite all that I was fourth, only three seconds behind Tim Dobson who took bronze and seven seconds behind Ray Ward who took silver – that was a huge disappointment.”

Randy Allsopp

And you were’ ‘nearly an Olympian’ three times?

“Yes, I was non-travelling reserve in 1964 – thanks’ very much, team selectors!

“Then in 1968 I got stitched up by the Clifton CC boys – three of whom went to Mexico for the TTT – in the trial event I rode with three of them, they weren’t giving their all so that they could claim I was the weak link…

“In 1972 I got there but three days before it we were riding a crit when the late Phil Edwards switched around a post, the German rider behind him hit it, came down and I went over the top of him, breaking my ribs.”

Such a shame, you had all the qualities necessary for a top TTT rider…

“Yes but our national mentality wasn’t right for that event at international level, we were happy riding at 27/28 mph but 30 mph was the pace you needed; that’s the speed you had to ride at to be successful on the international stage.” 

Randy Allsopp

You didn’t ride the Olympics but you were part of the British triumph at the prestigious GP Tell stage race in Switzerland prior to the Olympics?

“Yes, Dave Lloyd won that, he was on brilliant form, flying and the GB team rode a great race to support him.

“If he could have maintained the form he had in the GP Tell through to Munich he’d have been Olympic Champion.

“In final preparation for the Munich road race our soigneur, the late Eddie Soens asked me to take Dave out behind the motor bike – I could see he was struggling, his peak had been in Switzerland.”

You were top 10 in the super-fast Olympia Tour in The Netherlands.

That race was so fast, I loved it!

“I rode it in ’72 when Frits Schur won it, he won it twice and won Peace Race stages too.

“We had Ian Hallam a final fifth on GC and me 10th – Gerrie Knetemann, who went on the be World Professional Road Race Champion was fourth and Cees Priem, who’d won the Olympia Tour the year prior and went on to be a Tour de France and Vuelta stage winner, was sixth.  

“I’d say to Ian, ‘come on, I’ll move you up.’

“Ian would reply; ‘it’s too fast!

“And I just say, ‘get on me wheel!’”

You caught the Maestro Hugh Porter in a pursuit?

“Yes, that was on the Isle of Man, the Onchan track, it was a multi station, ‘Australian’ pursuit, he was off in front of me and I went off like a rocket; he wasn’t pleased – when I see him now he’ll say; ‘come here you, I want a word !

“But of course, Hugh went on to win National, Commonwealth and Worlds titles.”

What about the ‘trademark’ Randy Allsopp ‘shades?’ 

“I used to get so much dust in my eyes, especially if it was windy, so I started to wear them – it became a habit.

“They were good in the winter too, keeping the water coming up off the bike wheels on club runs out of your eyes.

“I used to insist that everyone had a rear mud flap on our club runs, I used to make them up and bring spares to the runs for those that didn’t have them!”