Imagine setting aside a week (or better still … 9 days) where you could ride the fastest '10', '25' and '50' courses in the country ... (at least one a day … more if you wanted), try your hand at a road race or two and even ride a tourist trial if you really wanted (that's what ‘they’ were called in those days). How about the possibility of visiting an International Cycle Show in the same area thrown in for good measure?
Too good to be true? Well yes … now maybe! Not in the 80s though.
A chap by the name of Maurice Cumberworth got together with a group of like-minded individuals and came up with the Harrogate International Cycling Festival based, not surprisingly, in the picturesque spa-town of Harrogate in West Yorkshire. Over the period of nine days (from Saturday to Sunday inclusive) events were promoted on some of the fastest courses in the country, the most popular being on the A1 north of Wetherby. On some evenings I can remember two different ‘25’s being held on what were fondly referred to as ‘top-Boro’ and ‘bottom-Boro’, both at the same time – each coming from different directions turning at the same point! Who said time trialling can't be a spectator sport?
There were also non-standard events like the Joe Manby ’10’ which used the Pennypot Lane circuit and the Nunbrook Whs (VERY) Hilly which went up both Dacre Bank and Darley Head ... and which even I rode ... once!
Road and circuit races took place for the BCF subscribers and even the Pros came to town to ride their evening criterium (lots of crashes!).
Pinocchio’s and Della Mamma's for pizzas too :-)
The actual bike show took place in the Exhibition Centre slap bang in the middle of Harrogate. This was initially open to the trade for one day only with the doors being flung open to the public over the last weekend.
To cap it all (and this was the REAL fun bit) if you really wanted, you could camp out at Rudding Park for the duration of the Festival. We did (see below). Note the bottles of ‘plonk’. Subsequent years it was home-brew by the demijohn!
The legend that is Mick Bradshaw turned up at Rudding Park one evening and struck the fear of God into me bearing in mind his reputation for Newcastle Brown, flatulence and fire-lighters!
Shame there's no modern day Cumberworth or characters like the good Mr Bradshaw around these days.
Nigel Brunton, Matthew Allen, me, Paul Smith and A. N. Other sunning it up at Rudding Park