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Cycling: ‘The threat to the moral wellbeing of the nation was not high’ - it’s 50 years since men and women were first allowed to compete in the same time trials

PUBLISHED: 14:31 26 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:31 26 March 2020

Mary Horsnell (Chelmer CC) racing in 2002, was one of the first women locally to compete against men in time trials Picture: FERGUS MUIR

Mary Horsnell (Chelmer CC) racing in 2002, was one of the first women locally to compete against men in time trials Picture: FERGUS MUIR

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Looking for a subject now that all cycle racing is suspended, I discovered that it was exactly 50 years ago, in March 1970, that men and women were first allowed to compete together in the same open cycling time trial, writes Fergus Muir.

Before that men’s and women’s events were always separate – although one event sometimes followed the other on the same course and with the same marshals.

I have Ivan Jeckell’s newspaper report on the Thetford CC 25 held on the Thetford-Mundford-Whittington road on 15th March 1970. He reports that that Barbara Grasmeder of Lowestoft Wheelers was the “pioneer” competitor and that she finished in 1:16:30 and collected the women’s prize of ten shillings. Barbara seems to have been the only woman entrant.

At about the same time Mary Horsnell of the Chelmer CC remembers riding on the Ugley-based 25 mile course in the first “unisex” time trial in the Essex area. Again she was the only woman to ride. Mary tells me that women’s racing was dying at the time, women having been more prominent, though still a minority, in the 1950’s

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Considering that the fundamental principle of time trialling was and remains, an effort “alone and unassisted”, the threat of unisex racing to the moral wellbeing of the nation was not high.

Men’s winner of the Thetford CC 25 was Sudbury resident Hugh Smith riding for West Suffolk Wheelers, who finished in 1:00:18. Ninth out of the 75 finishers was Dave Fenn (1:05:38) also of West Suffolk Wheelers. That’s the same Dave Fenn whom I was writing about last month as having ridden 22 events in 2019 on the way to winning of the SPOCO East 70-plus age category.

Ivan Jeckell’s report actually focuses on the handicap awards - the bike winner being Geoff Mayne (Godric CC,1:06:03) – now happily exploring mid-Scotland by bike, while the tricycle award went to a chap called Fergus Muir (1:14:07).

My diary records that it was very windy, I went out to the turn in 41 minutes and flew back in 33.

“Bit cold ……but feet warm with two ( pairs of ) socks”, the diary says.


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