|St Mars d'Egrenne Cycle Race 13th June 1976|
Friend of the blog Mike Duffy sent the above photo in with his 1972 Harry Quinn restoration pictures.
I asked Mike, what himself and his Harry Quinn were doing in France, and Mike gave us the following information.
"In 1975 I travelled to Normandie to ride for a club based in St Hilaire du Harcouet. I spent three seasons there , riding over a hundred races, mainly in Brittany and Normandie.
At that time virtually every village, at some time during the season, held a ' Fete ' which is a day or sometimes two of something like an english country fair. Fairground rides, 'ball trap' ( clay pigeon shooting ). a cycle race in the afternoon, and a ' Bal ' ( dance ) in a large marquee in the evening. The whole village would take part and people would come from all over the area. Races were held on a circuit which passed through the centre of the village every lap.Signing on for the riders was usually at the local cafe bar. The race was usually between 100 and 150 kms and the circuit length between 10 and 15 kms so you would pass through the village maybe on 10 occasions. Lap 'primes' were collected from the crowd and were fiercely contested each time over the finish line.
You didn't have to finish the race to be eligible for any 'primes that you may have won.
After the race you would collect the cash from the cafe bar. The prize money that you had won by being placed in the race was allocated to your licence number and at the end of the season you would receive a cheque for the total amount won during the season.
St Mars d'Egrenne was just one of these races, hosted by virtually every village and organised by the local cycling club. Back in the day it was possible to ride 3 or 4 a week but sadly this is no longer the case and the number of races is now greatly diminished.
I should point out that when I say that I rode over a hundred races, that was the total over three seasons. I don't think that I would still be here if I'd attempted a hundred in one season.
Some months I'd ride 6 events, other months 7 or 8. I wasn't good enough to race 4 times a week, didn't recover quickly. The good riders, ( which I wasn't ) travelled widely to find races and the best rider in France at that time, Daniel Leveau, an ex pro who had ridden for Freddy Maertens' Flandria team, won 53 races in one season. You can imagine how many events he must have started. I was just an average club cyclist who wasn't in the same league as the good guys, but I tried my best which is all I could do. Took some real hidings."
I'm sure Mike is being modest, and he proberly did better than 99% off us would have done and well done to him for getting out there and giving it a go.
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