De Britse wielrenner Arthur Stanley Brittain viert vandaag zijn negentigste verjaardag. He won a silver medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games, came third in the 1955 Peace Race and finished 68th in the 1958 Tour de France. Op de foto zien we hem echter aan de start van de Tour in 1960 als tweede van links, naast Norman Sheil. Links van hem (dus rechts op de foto) herkennen we nog Tom Simpson, Brian Robinson, Harry Reynolds, John Kennedy, Vic Sutton en John Andrews.
Brittain was born in Liverpool and joined the Woolton Wheelers. He was picked to ride for Britain in the 1954 UCI Road World Championships at Solingen, near Cologne, Germany, together with Bill Baty, Ray Booty, John Perks, Bernard Pusey and Don Sanderson. Brittain crashed on the seventh lap and finished 12 minutes behind the leaders.
In 1955 Great Britain picked Stan Brittain to ride the Peace Race. He came second on the first day (op bovenstaande foto zien we hem rechts, naast de ritwinnaar, onze landgenoot Maurice Boeckx; of Brittain als liefhebber reeds werd gesponsord door Huret of dat hij “zo maar” een petje heeft opgezet, is niet helemaal duidelijk) and next day took the lead. He held it until the seventh stage, when he lost it to Gustav Schur of East Germany. Brittain slipped to third on the ninth day. Schur won and Brittain came third.
In 1956 Brittain was again selected to represent Great Britain. He came ninth on the first day but then he slipped further behind and dropped out at the start of stage six.
Brittain represented Great Britain also at the 1956 Summer Olympics that were held in Melbourne (onderstaande foto). He competed in both the Men’s Individual Road Race, where he finished in sixth position, and in the Men’s Team Road Race, where Great Britain finished second and he won a silver medal.
In 1957 he won two stages in the Peace Race and in 1958 he finished ninth and was invited by Jacques Goddet, organiser of the Tour de France, to be part of an international team with fellow-countrymen Brian Robinson and Ron Coe, Shay Elliott of Ireland, Austrians Adolf Christian and Rudolph Maresch, Danes Hans Andresen, Eluf Dalgaard, Kaj-Allan Olsen and Fritz Ravn and two Portuguese riders, Antonino Baptista and Antonio Barbosa Alves. Brittain rode a Witcombe Cycles bike. The British and Elliott rode as a team within a team. Robinson won the stage into Brest and Brittain finished 68th at 3h 3m 5s. He said in an interview in Cycling: “There was a big difference between the Tour of Britain (which had been used as a selection race) and the Peace Race compared with the Tour de France. It wasn’t wise to go from one to another in such short stages. Although I finished 68th, I was never in contention. The Tour is a race and a half. It was then and is now. It is the class of riders who make the race and the country you go through: the Alps and the Pyrenees – the toughest in the world – which makes it a bike race. I wasn’t involved in the racing. That was up front with the big-hitters. Just to get through the Alps and the Pyrenees was something. I had lost my climbing ability, but even in my best climbing years I was never going to climb those mountains, some 12 miles long. I was six-foot something and with a racing weight of 12 stones four [78kg], which made it difficult to take over the hills and the mountains.” (Op onderstaande foto kan men hem aan het werk zien op de Col de l’Izoard.)
Brittain was actually an independent, a semi-professional. He rode for Viking Cycles in Britain for the first months of 1959, then left to live off the prizes he could win in Belgium. He didn’t ride the Tour de France because of a broken wrist. Next year he continued to ride on the continent and started once again in the Tour de France: “All was going well and I came to the Tour more confident than I had been in 1958. However, I picked up a stomach bug after seven days. It was on the stage from Limoges to Bordeaux – I hadn’t eaten for two days – and my legs had gone. The slight hills finished me. I would have got through the Tour with style if it hadn’t been for that.”
He stayed in Belgium and rode criteriums, local races with an engagement fee, until the end of summer.
He abandoned the Tour again in 1961, when it reached the mountains and returned to ride in England until the end of 1964, when he stopped racing aged 33 (zie onderstaande foto): “It became harder and the enthusiasm waned. I had been training for so many years and I had had my best years. I could have ridden a few more but I decided that was it. I wasn’t going to improve and I was no longer as good as I had been.” [Wikipedia]