The first SCCU 50 miles road time trial on 29 May 1910 attracted 118 entries. After heavy overnight rain the first rider was sent off at 3.30 am on a course between Crawley, Woodhatch and Godstone. Over half the field failed to finish the event mainly due to the state of the unsealed roads causing so many punctures. At that time most time trials were run as Handicaps although the fastest rider in open events usually received an award. Most trophies could be won outright with three wins. On this occasion fastest man was Geoffrey Cumine, Southern CC, who became the first recipient of the Newman Godward trophy. The event continued to receive over one hundred entries each year until the 1914-18 war stopped virtually all competitive cycling.
Unfortunately the Newman Godward trophy was stolen while in the possession of Maurice Selbach, a leading speedman who had won it in 1919. A less ornate replacement obtained under insurance was eventually won outright by the great Frank Southall and is now the BAR trophy of the Norwood Paragon CC. James Blair, SCCU President, donated the next trophy. This had a very short life being won outright in 1931 with three consecutive wins by George Jenkins, Hastings & St Leonards CC. To provide a new trophy, the Vice-Presidents (14 in number at that time) were persuaded to contribute to the handsome silver tankard that is now a perpetual award for the fastest time in the SCCU 50.
During the 1920’s the Counties had about 90 affiliated clubs and entries increased to between 200 and 300. To relieve the strain on timekeepers and marshals a ‘second class’ 50 was introduced in 1930 for those riders with times slower than 2.30.00. Towards the end of the 1930’s there were so many wanting to ride a third 50 was introduced with clubs arranged alphabetically into three groups, each event receiving 80-120 riders. The award, the Tacagni Cup, for the fastest ‘second class rider’ was maintained, the qualifying speed being adjusted from time to time. This is the oldest trophy held by the Association and deserves a mention.
A racing cyclist in the days of high bicycles and solid tyred safeties, J. P. C. Tacagni was a well known official on the London tracks when he became a Vice-President of the SCCU. Following his death in 1936 one of his cherished cycling mementos, the very first award he had won, a silver-plated cup for second place in an 1878 road race, was passed to the SCCU and became the annual award for the fastest ‘second class rider’.
The award, illustrated above, is now made in the 50 to the fastest rider not having previously beaten 1:03:00, 2:10:00 and 4:30:00.
As interest in cycling began to decline in the 1960’s entries for all SCCU events tailed off and by 1975 only one 50 was required each season. Although support from affiliated clubs recovered from the low in the 1970‘s it was felt in 2008 that London South District would benefit from another Open 50 being promoted. The SCCU therefore decided to make their event open to all riders in future.
Reverting back to the early years, the Southern Roads Riding Association formed in 1893 ‘to bring order and regulation to the uncontrolled road racing south of London’. On 23rd September of that year they organised a Handicap race to find ‘the 50 miles Champion of the South’ and their President, T. H. Roberts, donated an imposing shield for the winner. Fifteen riders entered and the illustration below, taken from the Southern Counties Gazette of August 1910, shows them assembled at the start on the Balcombe road between Horley and Crawley, within a mile from where the Counties 50 started in 1910. With pacing permitted this type of racing was soon banned by the National Cyclists’ Union.
The SRRA, after trying out their event three times on Herne Hill track, lost interest now road racing was forbidden and they disbanded. The newly formed Southern Counties CU inherited the Roberts Shield and this was awarded at a track meeting for about 10 years. As support for the meeting went into a decline, the shield was transferred to the 50 miles time trial where it remains as a prestigious Team award.
The Roberts Shield
A reminder that the 50 counts for the SCCU BAR’s for both men, women and veterans.
Chris and John Watts
SCCU & Addiscombe CC