Haverhill Wheelers ride out for the last time

Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride
Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride
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A cycling club that produced the winner of a stage of an international competition has brought to an end nearly 80 years of history when members rode out for the last time recently.

Due to a rapid fall in membership Haverhill Wheelers Cycling Club has collapsed, with members past and present going out for a final ride on February 3.

Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride

Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride

The club was founded on October 8, 1935, at a meeting in the Toc H Hut, and membership was five shillings (25p).

It later disbanded on January 9, 1940, for the duration of Word War II, and three members – John Knopp, Bill Jacobs, and Charlie Dawson – were killed in the fighting.

The Wheelers reformed on March 25, 1946, and continued until is collapse, albeit with a drop in membership in the early 1970s.

When Taylor’s foundry was established in Hollands Road, Haverhill, Ed Taylor and son Gerry joined in 1972, bringing knowledge and experience that helped to revive the Wheelers and encouraging new membership from the younger generation.

Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride

Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride

Gerry would go on to win Stage 1B on the 1979 Milk Race, a 46 mile town centre race held in Basingstoke in May when the event was for amateurs – not the professional Tour of Britain it is today.

Gerry, then 21, beat the year’s overall race winner, Russian Iouri Kachirine, into second, and Pole Stefan Ciekanski into third in an enthralling sprint finish.

His cash prize was split between the GB B team he was selected for, and also grabbed bicycle equipment and clothing and still has the stage jersey today.

He also competed in the 1980 and 1982 Milk Races, in the latter coming third in a mid-sprint race in Haverhill during the Norwich-to-Welwyn Garden City stage.

Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride

Haverhill Wheelers Final Ride

Gerry retired from competitive racing in 1987.

The Wheelers grew with the involvement of the English Schools’ Cycling Association (ESCA) and Ed Taylor’s coaching of youngsters, with parents also helping to run the club.

Professional road racing was introduced to Haverhill with track events and cyclo cross, and Brian Grainge and Tom Bray were recruited as time trial organisers and timekeepers, with Gerry Land as secretary and Taylor providing clubroom facilities at Copse Hall.

Over the last few years membership and interest in the Wheelers has rapidly declined, so officials and remaining members made the hard decision to disband the club at its annual general meeting in November – 77 years since the first meeting at the Toc H Hut.

The remaining Wheelers went out for a farewell 20 mile reunion ride that finished in Stoke by Clare.

For all the latest sport see Thursday’s (February 28) Echo.