Saturday 22 September 2012

Cycling's 'Roger Bannister'....

Ray Booty - Fixed wheel speed merchant
Ray Booty was the Bradley Wiggins of the 1950s.
A pre-eminent British time-trial cyclist, famous, above all, for becoming the first rider to complete a 100-mile event in under four hours: the equivalent, it has often been said, of Roger Bannister's four-minute mile. 
Unlike today's generation of celebrated British cyclists, however, Booty, who has died at the age of 79, retained his amateur status, spending his working life as an electronics engineer and using the daily ride to and from work as part of his training regime.

He made a distinctive figure in the saddle of the fixed-wheel Raleigh Record Ace which he used for both competition and commuting. "The Boot" was a powerful man, standing 6ft 3in, weighing 14st, and wearing a pair of thick-rimmed spectacles on and off the bike.
His great 100-mile ride came in the Bath Road Classic on a hot August bank holiday Monday in 1956. Using a fixed-wheel 84-inch gear, and with cold porridge in his drinks bottle, he finished a circuit taking in Pangbourne, Shillingford and Abingdon in 3hr 58min 28sec, more than 11 minutes ahead of the second-placed finisher, Stan Brittain, and the rest of a formidable field. 
The only drink available as he finished, exhausted and parched, was a bottle of sour milk, but he drank it anyway. A month later, using a three-speed hub gear at the behest of Raleigh, whose managers were always conscious of a marketing opportunity, he set a new record for a "straight out" 100 miles in a time of 3hr 28min 40sec, which stood for 34 years.
Ray, still riding at almost 80!!
He won the national 100m championship every year between 1955 and 1959, and was the 12-hour champion from 1954 to 1958. His consistency and prowess over the longer time trials earned him the coveted title of British Best All Rounder in 1955, 1956 and 1957. Many believed that he had the talent to compete as a road cyclist with the continental greats of the time, and that only a lack of ambition held him back. In 1958, while doing his national service in the army, he won the British Empire and Commonwealth Games road race in Cardiff, using his power and endurance to overcome filthy conditions. It was the last of his great achievements, although he continued to ride in club events into the 1970s. He retired from Rolls-Royce shortly before his 60th birthday, but was still riding until pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in January this year. From his hospital bed he watched Wiggins's victory in the Tour de France with great enjoyment.

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