The East London club for all kinds of sports cycling


Cycling legends from the past made Sean Kerrigan's trip to Belgium for the Ghent Six in 1997 a trip to remember.

I’ve just treated myself to a slightly belated 40th birthday present - a trip to the Ghent Six-Day IN Belgium.

Originally I intended to travel with Graham Baxter’s Sporting Tours but at the last minute switched to Tony Doyle Pursuits because there would be no overnight travelling.

On the Friday morning I was a little surprised to see the mini-coach arrive at the pick-up point at Victoria - I was expecting a coachload of 50 or more but there was only 17 on the trip. The small group meant of course that we all got to know Tony Doyle, former world pursuit champion, quite well (pictured). He was very affable and quite happy to talk on a variety of topics including his career, other riders (particularly the legendary meanness of his regular partner Danny Clark) and of course his dispute with the BCF.

A couple of hours after checking into our hotel we all met in the foyer and set off for the evening’s racing at the velodrome. We got there just in time for the presentation of the teams which takes place every evening before the racing starts in earnest.

I must admit of all the riders taking part there were only a few names familiar to me with perhaps the most famous being Etienne de Wilde. The evening passed quickly with the usual mix of Madison sessions, Derny-pacing and Devil-take-the-hindmost events - although most of the group survived till the 2 am finish I sloped off earlier.

During the daytime on Saturday most of us made a trip to Bruges, the "Venice of the North", which is a very attractive town and well worth a half-day visit. Later when we got back to the hotel there were many more British cycling fans around including a large contingent from the Crest CC and Rena Brown from the Victoria.

Evening dinner on Saturday was booked at a restaurant that Tony frequented when he was racing in Ghent. The owner, Albert, was a well known figure in Belgian and British cycling circles as he and his mother had helped many British riders with their racing ambitions throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies. Albert was particularly famous for his friendship with Tom Simpson and was with him at San Sebastian when Tom won the world championship. The food was excellent and we were joined by Ray Pascoe who has recently compiled the video on Tom Simpson’s career.

Towards the end of the meal Albert brought out his collection of photographs. The pictures included many of the famous Belgian riders of the era but were primarily of British riders that Albert had be-friended. The professionals included Barry Hoban, Vin Denson and Tom Simpson, of course, but many of the amateurs also had familiar names. As we were just finishing our meal and getting ready to leave for the velodrome Albert pulled out a particular photo and said "And these were the two riders who started it all when they stayed at my mother’s restaurant.

That’s ....... he came from North London and that’s Roy Godber and he was from Walthamstow !

I was surprised as he hadn’t realised that ‘Spit’ was so famous - Albert was pleased to hear he was still going strong and said he would love to see him again.

Saturday night at the track was busier and there were more celebrities around : Patrick Sercu, Jean-Marie Leblanc and Eddy Mercx (pictured), who I apparently walked past without seeing. Tony Doyle spent some time at track-side talking to Sercu and others and was then introduced to the crowd and invited to start one of the Madison sessions.

Sunday afternoon we returned to the velodrome for the final frantic session to see Etienne de Wilde and Matthew Gilmour clinch overall victory.

Overall a great weekend made more enjoyable because of the small group. Personally one evening at the velodrome would have suited me - although it was very exciting three sessions was just a bit much.

However I would have no hesitation in recommending Tony Doyle and his company to anybody thinking of a future trip to a Six-day or the Tour - I might even do one of his training camps.