Hugh McGuire, who has died suddenly of a heart attack aged 71, was the Glasgow-born Scot who became one of the top UK cyclists in the 1960s, representing both Scotland and the British Army. He took part with the best of GB riders in the Tour of Britain / Milk Race era, winning stages – and in so doing following the wheels of a slightly older top gun, Jimmy Savile.
International racing cyclist who competed in Europe.
Born 24 October 1937.
Died February 22 2009.
McGuire became noticed, and in 1962 and 1963, was selected to travel behind the Iron Curtain to participate in the annual Berlin-Warsaw-Prague road race, the co-called Peace Race designed by the Soviets to bring together the world’s top cyclists in reconciliation between Warsaw Pact countries and the West.
McGuire’s life revolved around two wheels, and when National Service came, the Army was not slow in taking his talents on board. In those days, the reputation of the Army Cycling Union was that they could have fielded two international cycling teams as against any one from the UK.
Always a good rider, his two years in an Army jersey became his purple patch. Fiercely competitive, he was fortunate enough to enjoy the spur of fellow Scots Kenny Laidlaw, Ernie Scally and Jimmy Rae, as well as Englishmen Vin Denson and John Geddes – plus Regular soldier Ray Booty, who in 1956 had been the first man to break four hours for 100 miles on an out-and-home course.
In addition, road racing had just begun in to emerge as the UK’s favourite form of cycle competition, and McGuire would prove a formidable opponent in all portions of the event – grinding slogs, climbs, primes and finishing sprints – in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and at home. He also won the Army 5-day race, and took 4th place in the Archers Grand Prix, in those days possibly the biggest massed-start race in Britain.
McGuire was the original all-rounder. Wearing the light blue of Barmulloch-based Glasgow Brunswick Cycling Club, he took part in time trials, roads race, hill races and team events, as well as playing a prominent role in club runs and tours.
A keen clubman and inspirational clubmate, he proved an inspiration role model for youngsters coming through the ranks. He would leave a clean pair of wheels to anyone. In 1960 he turned up at an Australian pursuit that started at Lennoxtown and included two ascents of the 1000-foot Crow Road.
Wearing Army colours, McGuire raced away with the scratch group – and entirely on his own with no teamwork – won in a fashion that both demonstrated his love for his sport and at the same time epitomising everything that was good about the bike.
Shug – as he was known to his clubmates – could in those days have smoked for Scotland. His first request on crossing the line would habitually be for a cigarette. “Shug” became a word interchangeable with “fags”.
McGuire, an electrician by trade, surprised his clubmates by both suddenly leaving Glasgow for a girlfriend in Birmingham – where he lived for the rest of his life – and by giving up cycling for 15 years. But Scotland and the lure of the saddle drew him back – to tour regularly in his beloved Trossachs and to line up at veteran events.
As in youth, he proved no mean competitor, dropping rivals two generations younger and returning times into his seventies of 1hour 4 minutes for 25 miles. If for some reason McGuire was unable to race, he’d still turn up at the start to support and encourage, his loyal Jack Russell terrier by his side.
McGuire’s reputation as “a gent” showed in his courtesy; racing or spectating, he never left without a word of thanks to the organisers. In his adopted Birmingham, McGuire built a reputation for outwitting rivals with both skilful cycling and Glasgow “patter”. One-liners, humorous anecdotes, self-deprecating jokes and great personal warmth made him a man whose big heart matched his 6ft 1in stature.
He’d be a foxy rider, never declaring his tactics in either race or fun run.
Indulging recently in what his old Glasgow chums called “a habble” and his Brummie mates know as a savage session of “through and off”, he hung towards the rear until, one of his clubmates related, “He cunningly dummied us all for the cafe sprint”.
A stalwart of the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists and Beacon Road Club, McGuire and teammate Ken Haddon last year were the oldest competitors in a two-day race in Wales. In gale-force winds and driving rain they camped out for three days rather than stay in a local inn. A colleague queried afterwards “Was it something to do with Hughie’s character in saving a few bob? Or was it that he still enjoyed life if we make a bit of an effort?”.
In 2004, McGuire won the LVRC over-65s road race championships. During the race, his great friend Clive Pinfold, racing as an over-55, crashed and was taken to hospital. Discharged later that night, Pinfold found McGuire waiting outside. “How did you get on, Hugh?” asked Pinfold – at which McGuire unzipped his top to reveal the champion’s jersey, adding drily “You robbed me of my moment of glory. Everyone’s been asking ‘How is Clive?'”.
McGuire died as he would have wished – cycling with clubmates. He had been returning from an annual cycling weekend in Wales when he was dropped during a scrap up a hill. When he failed to rejoin the group, Clive Pinfold rode back and found Hugh dead near a bend on the descent. It is the measure of the man that an eye-witness reported that McGuire had been seen on the way down “tucked up for maximum speed”.
He had been planning to travel to Mallorca this month for a series of warm-weather training rides.
He is survived by his daughter Jill.