1970 to 1979 - The Likely Lads of the Seventies
In most years of the Club’s history there have been numerous young men and women with a potential as competitive cyclists. The period of the seventies brought such a wealth of talent it is virtually impossible to record all of them and the success they brought to the Club. They were unique in two ways, one that they were very, young - most of them less than 15 when they first showed up. Secondly, they mainly lived and went to school in Hemel Hempstead. The impact they made on the Club and the scene of competitive cycling was quite dramatic.
Of the considerable number of boys and lesser number of girls just a few remain competing. Their dedication and determination was typified by Nigel Alexander a diminutive 13 year old who emigrated to New Zealand with his family in 1975. He never won a race but he equally never ceased trying and always finished quite exhausted.
The giants of the period were Ian, Derek and John.
Ian won numerous schoolboy races, the G.H.S. Time Trial Competition and several Track National Championships before riding both the Junior and Senior World Championships in the same year. He went on to win a bronze medal in the Montreal Olympics before turning professional in the Holdsworth colours.
Derek Hunt in 1970 was the smallest member of the Club. He won the Schoolboys Time Trial Championship before Ian came along and again after Ian became a Junior. Derek won the National Junior Pursuit Championship at Leicester following in Ian’s footsteps. Thereafter, the paths divided and Derek took himself to Holland, settled for a time, won a professional contract and then rode in the Skol six day race at Wembley before recently setting off for Australia.
John Dowling preferred to concentrate on road racing and time trials - an English Schools Cycling Association National Title - selection for the World Junior Championships and a place in the Milk Race were milestones in his progress at home. Invitations to ride in Europe and in the French Islands of the Pacific Ocean marked his developing ability.
The three riders were the tip of a substantial number of boys and girls who, together with their mums and dads, made this a memorable period. These included Simon Hook, Jeremy Patterson, Norbert Houston, Paul Watson, the Atkins brothers, Alan Cheeseman, Martin Dowling, Chris Shore and Laurence Boulter, to whom our Schoolboys Road Pace Trophy is a memorial. Laurence appeared to have a brilliant future ahead of him before his tragic death in a road traffic accident. This tragedy acted as a catalyst to his friends to do what he had been expected to do. Probably the outstanding moments for the group were the winning, two years in succession, of the National Junior 25 mile Time Trial Team award and, having three Hemel riders occupying the first three places two weeks in succession at Hertford and Bradford.
This flurry of competitive activity was matched by a greater input by the Club and its members into the promotion of events, directed at the young and bringing the sport home to the town. The Kodak races, subsequently the Atlas Copco series, back to Kodaks and perhaps the best advertising the Club has ever had - the August Bank Holiday Monday Town Centre Paces.
An annual club tour for the younger riders with a supporting vehicle to carry gear, food and a brewing kit was a feature for a number of years. This and intermittent hostel trips buffered the competitive drive and created a social base. A changing pattern of club activity, the expression of a healthy membership from a wide cross section of occupations and age groups while continuing many of the traditional activities has made a firm foundation for the Club to meet the challenges of the Eighties and beyond.