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Memories of Graham Webb

Graham Webb, world amateur road race champion of 1967 and winner of the Mountain Time Trial on 12th May 1963 in a record time that, as far as we know, was never beaten on the old 62.5 mile course, recalls his memories of this great victory. More information about Graham Webb is available on Birmingham Council's list of famous Brummies and on Wikipedia.

On that May morning in 1963, I had just turned 19 and couldn’t get in any major road races so I entered the Beacon MTT and it was beautiful weather. It was cold but the sun was shining and the wind was calm promising a super day. I stood at the start, N° 31 to go off (I wasn’t even seeded!), one minute behind N° 30 Roy Cromack who was an established name in the same club as me, the Solihull CC. I think that they put us together thinking that we would most likely be travelling together, that was not the case. All that I was wearing on that cold morning was a silk track jersey and a pair of shorts. Just before I was pushed off someone quipped, “Where’s your food and drink?” I replied “food and drink, for god’s sake it’s only 100 kms!”

I headed off not giving one thought to the man in front of me, Roy Cromack, in a tempo that I had been used to since I was 8 years old. At the age of 19 I was at my peak, even more so than later on in 1967 when I became world champion, climbing was as easy as descending to me. I kept on collecting riders on my way, never a moment in trouble or out of breath even though I had done very little training for this event. On one descent, I think it was the second one, with a sharp hairpin bend, I caught another rider. I could see that he was freezing up on the gravely bend so I aimed for the inside of the bend and sure enough he just went straight on through the hedge!

Graham's club, Solihull CC also won the team prize
see press report

I had no idea of the circuit profile and didn’t know any of the climbs, but I found out later that I had caught Cromack at the bottom of this hill called “Ankerdine”. I passed him just in the same way that I had passed all the others, without a word, without a glance. This must have woken something up in Cromack as he sprinted past me like a madman, I took no notice unable to go any faster or slower than the pace that I was locked into. Towards the end of the climb I was pulling him slowly back, but then my heart stopped beating! I was in no pain but I started swaying all over the road from side to side. Just at the last second, before I fell off, my heart started beating again so I was able to carry on. The top of the climb was not too far from the finish and Cromack only finished a handful of seconds in front of me. Many people, including Porter, thought that we had ridden a two-up time trial and cheated, nothing was further from the truth. As I crossed the line I raised both my arms in triumph, saying to myself “Beat that!” (I had a stopwatch on my handlebars). I’ll bet people thought that I was nuts!

I went and had a little cat lick (wash) put my track suit on then ambled over to the timekeepers to find out my exact time. “Two hours 58 mins 49 secs” was their reply, I said “I beg your pardon!”. “Now if you look at my starting time and add 2:58:49 on you’ll find that I’ve not finished the race yet, and I’m standing here washed and dressed!” Eventually the 3 RTTC timekeepers, admitted that they had slapped 10 minutes on my time out of sheer disbelief! “No one could get round in that time so we assumed that we were wrong.”

Porter showed then what a rotten sport he was and wouldn’t shake my hand. Normally he should have finished second, some 7 minutes down on me, if Cromack hadn’t done his darned best to stay out of my clutches. Some 40 years later, at the opening of the Newport track in Wales, I buried the hatchet and held my hand out to him. His first words to me after all that time were “The Beacon Mountain Time Trial?”

Just to tie this up. At the end of that season I was invited to many club dinners, one of them was of course to the Beacon. I had won so many events in 1963 that I had 3 dinner invitations for the same night as the Beacon. I was so proud of my win in the MTT that I accepted their offer and turned the other two down. Now came that night I got all dosed up for the dinner and sat down with a cup of tea until it was time to leave. I was so tired from working, racing, training, that I fell asleep and only awoke when the dinner had long finished! I don’t think that I ever had the chance to apologize properly to the Beacon for my not turning up, so with this I’ll do that now!





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