My old dad used to say to me that you knew you were getting old when it seemed like every other week you had to attend a friend’s funeral.
I scoffed; but now I understand what he meant – it’s not funerals with me but rather writing cyclists’ obituaries; men from the international stage like Michele Scarponi, Harm Ottenbros, Dean Woods, Norman Hill and Bernard Tapie.
Sadly, I must another to the list, my old GS Modena, Brummie team mate, Steve Beech.
I first became aware of Steve’s name back in the 70’s when I used to consume Cycling Weekly magazine from cover to cover.
I recognised Steve’s name from his appearances in the results of races like the Birmingham Division Championship, which he won in 1970.
His name was ever-present in the top 10 of those great 70’s amateur classics like the Tour of the Cotswolds, Archer Grand Prix and Lincoln Grand Prix which attracted strong international fields in those days – sadly, only ‘The Lincoln’ survives.
As well as a strong single day rider he was also no mean stage race rider, winning the Tour of the Hopfields, the Ronde Anglia and Hereford Times Two Day – with stage wins in races like the Ras de Cymru and Tour of Worcestershire.
There were also good placings in higher level stage races like the Tour of the Grampians where he finished 10th, the Tour of the North in Ireland where he also finished 10th, and the Tour of Scotland.
In addition he rode and finished two of what were the premier amateur stage races in the world at the time – the Tour of Britain Milk Race and the super-fast Olympias Tour in The Netherlands, sadly only the latter survives.
Before the 1972 Milk Race the 22 years-old Beech, who would ride for the Great Britain ‘B’ team and who got Wednesdays off from his six month university-industry course for the Central Electricity Board to go training, told ‘Cycling Weekly,’ – virtually our only insight into top level bike racing in those days;
“I hope to finish no lower than 20th overall providing I don’t puncture or have any other bad luck.”
His wish was granted with 18th overall in a race won by future Munich Olympic Road Race Champion, Hennie Kuiper with 70’s big hitters like the late Phil Edwards, Sven Ake Nilsson and Cees Priem in the top 10 overall.
He had a spell racing in France with wins to his credit but sadly the details of those successes are lost in a period when there were dozens of amateur races each week in France.
He was posting solid road race results up into the early 80’s in the colours of Concorde RCC before he moved to Scotland in the late 80’s with his career in a senior management position at Grangemouth petro-chemicals plant.
We were team mates in the GS Modena-CR Smith team before the team morphed into Albany Wheelers-CR Smith.
In 1989 I remember watching him on the tough Freuchie-based finishing circuit knock out 259.70 miles on the then, ‘new-fangled’ tri-bars to break the course record, beat Scottish ‘testing’ king, Dave Hannah by seven miles and take the Scottish 12 hour title.
After the race he revealed that the longest training ride he’d done in preparation was two hours but reckoned that if he could get though two Milk Races then he could get through anything.
He took the ’12’ title again in 1991 with a record 275.278 miles, beating team mate Sandy Wallace by some 18 miles.
Joe Wilson would beat that record in 2005 with 279 miles in 2005 but Steve’s record stands as Scottish veteran’s record – which will probably stand forever given that there hasn’t been a 12 hour in Scotland for years.
He raced with great success as a veteran in Scotland on road and in time trials across all distances.
The last time we spoke to Steve about racing was 2008 when he took the bronze medal in the Scottish 12 hour championship.
We asked him why he was still riding 12’s – and winning bronze medals with 246 miles – at 58 years-of-age?
“Because I’m mad!
“I had a spell away from racing, 2001 to 2005 and when I came back, I joined Sandy Wallace’s team.
“Joe Wilson and Ian Black were both riding the 12, so I rode too, for the team.
“This year, Joe didn’t ride, nor did Ian – he’s had bad saddle sores all year – but I felt good in the 100 and decided to ride, to support the 12 hour, I wouldn’t like to see it disappear.”
That was Steve, not just caring about the result, caring about his sport.
Latterly he was a founder member of the RT23 team who posted this tribute on social media:
“We are still in complete shock at the sad news of the passing of our great friend and team mate Steve Beech.
“Steve was one of our founding members of RT23 his wealth of knowledge and experience was invaluable to us all on the team.
“Steve had an incredible history of road racing along with being a very accomplished Time Triallist; he rode everything from 10 miles up to 12 hour events and still holds Scottish records to this day.
“In recent years Steve hasn’t raced quite so much as he would have liked to but still had a huge passion for the sport and RT23 where he has been treasurer since the team was formed.
“He still loved getting out to races to lend support and loved nothing more than seeing our younger riders’ progress and try to be the best they could be.
“Everyone at the team sends Steve’s family their love and support at this difficult time.”
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Rest in peace, Steve Beech – one of the Good Guys.