Monday, February 26, 2024

Willi Moore – “Winning Olympic bronze was the best day of my cycling career”

"Winning Olympic bronze was a highlight - but it could have been so much better, and the Worlds silver medal - but we should have taken the rainbow jerseys..."

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Well, we’re back in business.

We were victims of a ‘cyber-attack’ last week, out of China? Russia? via Panama?

Wherever, they hit us hard and were it not for the dedication and diligence of our editor, Martin Williamson the site was a goner, the backups for some reason rendered unusable.

However, he spent hours, days ‘on the case,’ working with the web hosting company, saved the day and it’s with great pleasure we bring you our first interview since we ‘rose from the malware ashes.’ 

But before we hear from 70’s Legend, Willi Moore, I’d just like to say, ‘CHAPEAU! Monsieur Williamson!

I’m not much of a man for jigsaw puzzles but I can understand the satisfaction there must be in dropping that last piece into place and seeing the site working correctly once again.

My own puzzle was the now legendary GB Team Pursuit quartet which won bronze in the 1972 Munich Olympics – Ron Keeble, Mick Bennett and Ian Hallam have all appeared on our pages but the missing piece was Willi Moore.

However, thanks to the good offices of the aforementioned Mr. Keeble I caught up with the man who could do it all – time trials, road and, of course, the track – British, Commonwealth, World and Olympic medallist, Mr. W. Moore, at his home in North Wales.

Willi Moore
Willi Moore. Photo©supplied

Your first win, Willi?

“That would be a 1:02:00 limit 25 mile time trial in 1966 which I won with, believe it or not, 1:02:00.

“The organiser quipped that I’d be able to come back and ride next year, I replied that I didn’t think so as I planned to go a lot faster!”

Cutting to the chase, Olympic bronze in 1972 – memories?

“The best day of my cycling career, I remember we were all concentrating so hard we blocked out the noise the big crowd was making.

“We had to come back from the huge disappointment of my puncturing in the semi-finals when we were in with a real shout of beating the West Germans, they’d made a substitution in their team, the rest of the team weren’t happy and looked like they were cracking when my tyre exploded.

“That bronze owed a lot to our manager, Norman Sheil whose motivational skills lifted us the night before the ride off for bronze, telling us that we were still there to win Olympic medals. 

“Our 4:23:78 to take bronze was faster than the East German’s 4:25:25 silver medal ride in the final.”

Willi Moore
Willi Moore was the cover star of Cycling Weekly in 1972. Photo©Ed Hood

That year, 1972 also saw you set the 10 mile competition record with 20:36, memories of that day?

“It was a really good day on a good course.

“And what I do remember is that after the 20:36 I was hoping to go under 20 minutes, the day I believed I could to do it I punctured just before the start and had to go back to my car to get a wheel, then I had to ride a short distance down a dual carriageway the wrong way to get to the start – I was disqualified.

“A junior rode a short 21 minute ‘10’ that day…”

Willi Moore

The ’73 Worlds Team Pursuit final, the West Germans were DNF in that race, you were Champions of the World, but…

“We were silver medallists; the West Germans crashed out but lodged an appeal which we didn’t protest.

“However, I can say with certainty that we all regretted that decision.

“When I look back, you wonder about the semis where the Poles tapped round against the Germans 27 seconds slower than we had to ride to beat the Dutch; we posted a 4:25 to the Dutch 4:26 whilst the Germans only had to ride 4:46 to beat the Poles 4:52.

“I remember after the final the Dutch rider, the late Roy Schuiten said to me; ‘You’re crazy, take the title!’”   

Track, Road, Time Trials, you did it all.

“Merseyside Wheelers was traditionally a time trial club but friend, Tom Mustard rode the track, Fallowfield in Manchester so I started to ride it too and enjoyed some success.

“I was selected to ride for GB v. Netherlands in 1969, I can always remember the date because at the airport, on the TV, Neil Armstrong had just made the first moon landing.

“It was a while before I got into road racing, perhaps if I’d joined Liverpool Mercury or Kirkby CC – who were the bitter, daggers-drawn road race rivals on Merseyside – then I may have got into road racing earlier?

“Road races, particularly short stage races, were actually extremely beneficial to Team Pursuit preparation.”

I have to ask, what about that salmon pink Harry Quinn bike you used to race on.

“I just like pink, I’m a big fan of the maglia rosa in the Giro – the late Harry Quinn was a great guy, very helpful.”

Willi Moore, Ian Hallam, Rik Evans and Mick Bennett, Gold Medal winners in the Team Pursuit, 1974 Commonwealth Games. Photo©unknown

The Commonwealth Games, Christchurch, New Zealand, January 1974 – you won silver and gold medals.

“We went into the Games very confident, the Team Pursuit team had based ourselves in the Netherlands and we trained outside the European season on the Kuipke track in Gent to prepare.

“The Games in New Zealand were very friendly and the track events were on a big 400 metres outdoor track.

“Ian Hallam had beaten me in the final of the British 4,000 metre Pursuit championships so I couldn’t really expect to beat him in the Individual Pursuit final in the Games, he rode a 5:05 to my 5:11.

“In the Team Pursuit we played a wee bit of a mind game with the Australians before the final – which we won, 4:40 to 4:49  – marching into the velodrome in formation, all with red white and blue trims on our handlebar tape.” 

That year, 1974 you were third in National Pursuit and Kilometre Championships and second in the National Road Race Championships.

“I guess it shows that I was versatile but I never did get the Kilometre right.

“That National Road Race sticks in my craw though, the break was up the road and Ian Hallam and I got across to it.

“There was Bill Nickson, Tony Gornall, Ian and me – Bill attacked, Ian broke a spoke just as the sprint started and Gornall boxed me in, I should have gone earlier…”

The finish of the 1974 National Road Championship, Bill Nickson wins from Willi Moore, left, Tony Gornall and Ian Hallam. Photo©unknown

Were you a full time bike rider?

“I worked full time in the winter and part time in the summer, I used to go out with the big Liverpool Mercury chain gang on a Tuesday and Thursday – 50 miles, hard.”

You never turned pro?

“In 1971 I had a bad crash and broke my back, missing the Worlds.

“I convalesced and got back into hard training; along with Ron Keeble, Mick Bennett and Ian Hallam I then committed to the 1972 Olympic Team Pursuit – that was our full focus.

“I think that perhaps if I hadn’t had the crash and stayed in The Netherlands then I may have turned professional over there; I won a couple of criteriums and had people offering me rides.”

Did you have a coach?

“I was coached for a few months by Brian Ward but it didn’t work out, subsequent to that I took advice from Tommy Godwin and Norman Sheil but they didn’t coach me as such.”

Your last win?

“That would be the British Veteran Championships when I was 52 years-old; I beat Les West who I’d been sparring with for a while!” 

I remember you venturing into frame building?

“I had no knowledge of frame building but got involved with a good production engineer, however he was slow at organising the frame building jigs, the frames were good but we weren’t keeping up with orders.

“The frames weren’t arriving on time and that was contrary to the ethos we’d started with; ‘we deliver on time.’” 

Photo©Rumble Restorations

You were New Zealand coach for a spell?

“At the 1974 Commonwealth Games I met a girl, fell in love and after the Worlds disaster I moved there and became Canterbury Coach before moving up to National Coach.

“It didn’t work out, I wanted to work with the elite riders, preparing them for races like the Tour of Britain Milk Race but half the committee of New Zealand Amateur Cycling Association wanted me to spend time at the grass roots.

“It became acrimonious and I quit.”

Your finest hour?

“There are a few but they might also come under the ‘regrets’ question I’ve seen you ask riders.

“Winning Olympic bronze but it could have been so much better; the Worlds silver medal – but we should have taken the rainbow jerseys; second in the British Road Race Championships; second in the season long Star Trophy road race competition; not getting that 19 minute ’10;’ but winning the Classic – it was first held in 1899 – Muratti Cup 10 mile track race, beating the likes of Hugh Porter, that’s a nice memory.”