From the Brooks Catalog, 1890 (or 13 Great Races Ago)
Nowadays, if there are at least two noughts in a year, it can mean only one thing- that the Knutsford Great Race is, or to be strictly accurate, has just been, once again upon us!
Conflicted Luddites, Assorted Antipodean Throwbacks, Moustache Cultivators and A Few Who Were There First Time Around convened last month at the town of Knutsford, Cheshire in order that they might avail of the decennial opportunity to ride the fabled Great Race.
Part of what makes The Great Race a great race is its organizers’ insistence that all Great Racers race on Penny Farthings, or “High Wheels”. Possibly a case could be made for flagrant transgression of point number six of the Copenhagen Cycle Chic Manifesto. But then again, human activity in Knutsford probably isn’t subject to Danish Law.
Anyway, this was the event’s fourth installment, and in time-honoured tradition, riders were given three hours to complete as many laps of the course as possible. Would you like to see one of the crashes?
The higher they are, the downer they fall. Over the weekend of this year’s race, Knutsford played host also to a pleasing preponderance of self-styled American “Wheelmen”, and at one point what sounded like two of the aforementioned Wheelmen could be heard arguing whether a Penny Farthing built in the present day should be allowed the name Penny Farthing.
Admittedly Two Euro One Cent doesn’t have quite the same ring, but Fifty Cent Nickel could perhaps be a bit of a grower. And as if proof were needed that the old ways are best, those pesky new-fangled transponders in use for keeping track of everybody’s laps were acting up a little, resulting in some podium confusion, which was only rectified days later…
KNUTSFORD GREAT RACE RESULTS – CORRECTION The Knutsford Great Race committee would like to point out that, due to a lap counting error, the Team Trophy was awarded on the day, by mistake to Team Spend a Penny and should have been awarded to Katrina Jungnickel and Charlotte Barnes.
At prize-giving the organisers were informed that Team Spend a Penny where the winners of the Team Trophy and so it was awarded to them on that basis. As soon as it became apparent that a mistake had been made, Katrina Jungnickel and Charlotte Barnes were informed that they had won the Team Trophy and it was agreed they would be presented with their award on a suitable occasion to be arranged.
We apologise for the mistake and any embarrassment it may have caused to all those concerned.
In fairness, this sort of thing can happen anywhere… Next time out, it’ll be back to good old-fashioned human error, the organizers assure us, with every racer to be assigned a threesome of living, breathing counters, all of good standing in the community. And admittedly it’s still ten years off, but those interested in volunteering are advised that swearing-in for tabulating duties will take place two hours before the cannon is loaded, and tardiness will be harrumphed at.
Counters (or “Lapmen”) are, it has at this early stage already been decided, to be positioned at various suitable vantage points on the course (the boring stretches), and in the event of any disparities in lap totals among each trio, the number least high will be handed up as the final total.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a cycling race without a disqualification or two. Those gathered were witness to some appalling manners from #38, who spent the entire three hours rather unsportingly attempting to win the bally thing!
He frequently went so far as to actually overtake other riders, with many seasoned watchers convinced that he was using one of those near-mythical 64 inch jobbies on the front. Which, while within the letter of the law, is surely not the done thing at Knutsford.
And so it fell to the man with the second highest lap count to receive the winner’s plaudits. “Gentleman” Jim Brailsford, who also won it back in 2000, will be looking to make it “three in a row” next time out. Number 38 will doubtless be cordially welcomed back in 2020 too, but this time hopefully on sixty inches, and ten years less impolite.