Het is vandaag vijf jaar geleden dat de Britse wielrenner Ken Joy is overleden. Ken Joy is een typisch voorbeeld van het “insulaire” wielrennen in Groot-Brittannië, met andere woorden het pre-Team Sky-tijdperk. In Groot-Brittannië is Ken Joy immers een ware legende, terwijl hij op het vasteland totaal onbekend is. (*)
Ken Joy was the top male time triallist in the early 1950’s. Four times BBAR (**) on the run (1949-1952, for the Medway Wheelers) and competition record holder at 100 and 12 hours before turning professional for Hercules (foto 2).
Dave Moulton vertelt: “At the end of 1952 Ken Joy turned professional and was sponsored by Hercules, a large manufacturer of roadster bikes, located in Birmingham, England. As British time trialing did not have a professional category, the only thing open for Ken Joy, was to ride solo and attack the many place to place records and distance records under the auspices of the Road Records Association (RRA).
So when Ken Joy was invited to ride in the Grand Prix des Nations in 1953 it created tremendous excitement for the average British Club Rider. This famous French event was after all considered to be the unofficial World Time Trial Championship of Professional Cycling.
Britain was somewhat cut off and isolated from the rest of Europe as far as cycling was concerned. We were in our own little world of time trialing, and the time trials held on the continent of Europe were odd distances, and held on courses that were not always flat, so how did you compare.
There was much speculation in the weeks leading up to the event as to how well Ken Joy (foto 3) would do. After all he had to be in with a chance, 100 miles in 4 hours 6 minutes is not exactly hanging around, by any standard.
I was 17 years old at the time and in my second year of racing, mostly time trialing; I was definitely caught up in all the excitement. The Grand Prix des Nations was to be run over a distance of 142 kilometers, which was just over 88 miles, a distance that would suit Joy.
The event was held on a weekend, and a few of the major British newspapers had the results in Monday’s morning edition. However we had to wait until the following Wednesday when the “Cycling” magazine came out to get the full impact of what had transpired.
The event was won by a then unknown 19 year old French rider named Jacques Anquetil. Not only did he beat Ken Joy, he started 16 minutes behind the British rider and caught and passed him. A nineteen year old kid, just two years older than me, had trounced the best that Britain had to offer.
There were two British professional riders in the 1953 event; the other was Bob Maitland who’s previous riding was mostly in NCU Mass Start Circuit Races. I seem to remember Maitland finished with a better time than Joy, but both were well down the field.”
(*) De eerste foto werd genomen door Bert Hardy heeft als onderschrift: “Ken Joy receives a drink during his 1949 London to Brighton speed record attempt”, maar er bestaan op het internet meerdere versies van deze foto! En ik kan me toch niet voorstellen dat Joy tijdens zijn recordpoging de tijd heeft gevonden om de foto een paar keer over te doen! (Ik heb eerder de indruk dat het een publiciteitscampagne voor bustehouders is.)
(**) British Best All-Rounder. The British Best All-Rounder competition, organised by Cycling Time Trials since 1930, is an annual British cycle-racing competition. It ranks riders by their average speeds in individual time trials, over 50 and 100 miles (160 km) and 12 hours for men, and over 25, 50 and 100 miles (160 km) for women. There are similar competitions for under-18s and teams of three. Qualifying races have to be ridden between April and September. Certificates are awarded to men with 22 mph (35.5 km/h) or faster and women averaging 20 mph (32.25 km/h) or more. The junior speeds are 23 mph (37 km/h) and 21 mph (37 and 33.9 km/h). Competitions modelled on the BBAR are organised within UK regions, and for over- 40s.