Doncaster’s cycling revolution is nothing new as town cyclists’ wheels have always been in motion

Ian Blair a former member of Askern Cycling Club is trying to arrange a reunion and has dug out some of the club�"s archives
Ian Blair a former member of Askern Cycling Club is trying to arrange a reunion and has dug out some of the club�"s archives

There is no doubt Doncaster is in the midst of a cycling revolution.

Thousands of spectators lined the streets to watch the world’s cycling supremos sweep through the region during last summer’s Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France, while hundreds of enthusiastic amateurs saddled up to take part in the hugely successful Doncaster Cycle Festival.

With membership to cycling clubs on the rise, there is no doubt taking to two wheels has become the sport of choice for many people across the borough.

But one former rider has told the Free Press how the town has always been in a spin for cycling and the sport has been popular in the town for decades.

Ian Blair, who used to ride in Askern Cycling Club in the 1950s and 60s, explains how Doncaster has produced a long line of top cyclists.

Whereas riders such as Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy are in the national spotlight in the modern era, champion riders such as Tommy Simpson, who lived in Harworth, were the nation’s favourite back in the Swinging Sixties.

Ian, 70, of Hall Villa Lane, Toll Bar, says: “Cycling has been popular in Doncaster for as long as I can remember.

“There is huge interest in it now, but the cycling clubs have always had a high membership.

“There were some top cyclists about in them days from our area, which inspired people to get out on their bikes.

“We used to have a great time and enjoyed some amazing days out and trips away.”

Simpson became Britain’s first world road race champion in 1965 and was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

But his racing career would end in tragedy and mired in controversy. He collapsed and died aged just 29 while competing in the Tour de France in 1967.

A post-mortem examination found that he had a mixture of amphetamines and alcohol in his system.

Following the tragedy, a new cycling hero emerged from Doncaster - and one who was close mates with Ian.

Peter Hill twice won the British Best All-Rounder (BBAR) competition and raced for Team Peugeot in the Tour de France in the late 1960s.

Ian, a father-of-two, adds: “Peter was a great cyclist and it was brilliant to know that people like that were part of your local club.

“But we had people of all ages and abilities, it was a really good mix. That’s what cycling is all about, encouraging people to join in.”

He told how he joined the club as a junior in 1958, but had to leave a decade later when he moved to London for work commitments.

The club was a regular fixture in the town from the 1940s up to the 1970s, and enjoyed a brief revival in the early 90s.

The club used to organise rides in the UK and abroad. They even hit the headlines in Norway’s national newspapers during one trip.

Ian recalls: “We were staying in a youth hostel and a Norwegian newspaper reporter was also staying there.

“We got talking and before you know it our picture was put in the national newspaper in Norway. They were so surprised that a group of cyclists from England would come over to cycle around their country.”

He adds the group also enjoyed a trip cycling around the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man and made regular round trips to seaside towns on the east coast.

Closer to home the club used to take part in an annual cycle race in Askern, while they also used to regularly attend the since closed Askern Cycling Stadium in Askern Road.

Ian says: “We used to have great night at the stadium watching the other riders and taking part ourselves. It stirred up real excitement.”

He is now calling on former club members to get in touch as he hopes to arrange a reunion dinner.

He adds: “We held a previous reunion ten years ago in Barnsley and we got quite a few club members to attend. Everyone is spread far and wide now but it would be great to see everyone again.”

Former club members can contact Mr Blair on 01302 820119