Behind the Iron Curtain
Rouleur, Issue 30 delves into the past for a special edition focusing on the Peace Race. Discovering cycling behind the iron curtain. Condor founder, Monty Young recalls his time on the Peace Race working for Team GB.
"I went to the Peace Race in 1971; British Cycling called me up and asked me to go as the mechanic with Frank Westell as the team manager. Phil Liggett took me to the airport and I flew to Warsaw. The race went from Warsaw to Berlin and finished in Prague."
The team was Tom ‘Ticker' Mullins, Ricky Garcia "he was the comic," Alan Mellor, John Sutcliffe "and a few others I can't remember" explains Monty, "but, I do remember they all finished that year."
Although the conditions were tough for Monty, working mostly outside on the bikes in the pouring rain, he explained that the organisation was impeccable: "The food was very good although they did like to give us steak, an egg and a pint of beer for breakfast."
After one stage they put up a tent that was at the bottom of the hill outside a hotel. That night the rain came in and it didn't stop "while I was working, the water was up to my knees, gushing around my legs. Then I lost the pump connector and couldn't find it. I was in a panic because I couldn't pump the tyres up; I didn't know what to do. I was up half the night trying to find this connector and in the end I had to give up and go to bed because my feet didn't feel right. I came down in the morning and I found the Army chaps scrabbling around on the floor looking for my connector. They'd been guarding the tent and the bikes on the race. One came over to me and handed me the connector. They were delighted they'd found it and delighted that I was delighted."
Monty spent most of the days on the race inside a 2-stroke German car with an interpreter, who had a full time job as a school teacher.
The roads were closed and huge trains loomed at junctions waiting for the race to cross their path. Big crowds greeted them throughout, "The roads were bad, there were cobbles everywhere and they shook everything to pieces. One of the boys' bikes broke in half; I dashed out, got a bike off the roof and gave him another, I think I let the kids who came to watch keep the bike."
He continues; "when you finished at night you couldn't see the riders for the mud on their faces. There were lots of school boys at the end of each stage. Their job was to wrap the riders in a blanket, give the boys a hot sausage rolls and hot chocolate."
Prizes didn't include money but, instead, beautifully crafted glassware. At the end of the race Monty was presented with a glass, wrapped in gold leaf with his initials. He still has the cup. One of the riders gave him a large bohemian crystal bottle.
When Monty arrived back in England he was greeted by a sheet hung outside the house. Grant and his brother had painted a huge sheet that read ‘Welcome Home Dad'. "They were about 12 and 13, I'd been away for a few weeks but it was like I had been to war!"
Memories of the Peace Race are happy ones for Monty; he would love to go back. He described it as exciting, hair raising and a great experience -he loved it. "It helped me learn a lot, especially when I took the role of Head of Neutral Service on the Milk Race."
Issue 30 of Rouleur (out Friday) begins with Herbie Sykes' travels in Germany and a fascinating insight into racing behind the Iron Curtain in the pre-unification years.
Peace race legend Täve Schur, a hugely popular sportsman in the GDR, remains the figure binding the testimonies of former racers in a communist state.
Herbie's travels unearthed a remarkable collection of poster art advertising the Peace Race, including the beautiful cover image.
Four unique Peace race prints have been reproduced by Rouleur and are exclusively available at Condor.