Monday, December 6, 2021
HomeInterviewsSandy Gordon - Part Two: Shipyards and Scottish Championships

Sandy Gordon – Part Two: Shipyards and Scottish Championships


In Part One of our interview with Sandy Gordon, we heard about his horror crash at the 1966 Tour of Austria and missing the Jamaica Commonwealth Games, helping Brian Temple secure a silver medal at the 1970 Commonwealth Games and racing in the Tours of Scotland, Czechoslovakia – and getting banned for racing in South Africa at the Rapport Toer.

We continue the chat by finding out more about Sandy’s other overseas races and his many domestic successes…

The Christchurch, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Austria – where else did your international duties take you?

“In 1967 I rode Ronde van Midden-Zeeland in the Netherlands with Reg Smith [Smith went on to be a successful British professional, ed.] , the late Danny Horton [Horton too went on to a successful pro career, winning the British Professional Road Race Championship, ed.] and the late Graham Webb – who went on to win the amateur Worlds that year.

“There was a team time trial and Graham chided me for going through too strongly…

Sandy Gordon

Did you ever think about a pro career in England or the continent?

“Not in England, no.

“I remember in ’65 Billy Bilsland and I went to Belgium to race on our holidays for three weeks. We finished that six hour Milk Race stage on the Saturday, travelled to Belgium on the Sunday and rode a 100 kilometre kermis on the pave in the wet on the Monday – I could hardly move after it.

“My best placing was 11th on that trip – there was no messing, if you were in the break then you went through or ended up in the ditch. It was very hard racing but you would have adapted to it if you were living there.

“I remember guys coming back from the Peace Race, where they took a hammering, but were flying compared to our level in Scotland.

“When Billy went to France I remember my mother saying that I had a good job, why throw it in?

“And how many guys really make it over there?”

Back to Scotland, seven Scottish championships in 1972?

“There was the ‘50’ where I tied with Gilchrist, Ron Gardner was a good bike rider and he was almost four minutes back so it tells you a bit about how hard that morning was – Sandy started behind me so he had the advantage of time checks.

“I won the road race, beating the late Drew Robertson; the 4,000 metres pursuit where I beat the late ‘Clanky’ Clark; the one kilometre time trial on the track and the 15 kilometres on the track where I beat Tommy Banks – I also won the Road race Best all Rounder and Track Best all Rounder.

“I have a box full of medals somewhere!” [Gordon also took bronze in the 100 mile championships that year, ed.]

Sandy Gordon

Three Scottish Road Race Championship wins…

“Yes, ’70, ’72 and ’75 – but the one where I beat Sandy Gilchrist to win in 1975 is my favourite.

“I’d ridden the team pursuit champs the day before and we’d been beaten by the Musselburgh Roads CC so I was a bit ‘down’ after that.

“I had a few drinks on the Saturday night and wasn’t going to ride the road race champs but my wife talked me into it.

“It was on the Balfron circuit I was a bit disorganised with having a hangover and even forgot my feeding bottle – my wife had to go home for it.

“I was actually dropped at one stage and if it hadn’t been for Ian Humphreys I’d never have got back on, he was off the back too but we worked together and got back.

“At the death there was a break of maybe 16 riders with Clanky just off the front, Gilchrist took a flyer up to him but I shouted, ‘Clanky !’ as Gilchrist went across, Clanky looked back and half responded, I used his momentum to get me half way across to Gilchrist – I eased a little in the sprint, then went again in 54 x 14 to take it. Happy days.”

The Hour Record?

“The Dundee boys were having a track meet and wanted me to ride and go for the record.

“I rode a ‘25’ at Irvine the week before to get used to riding solo, I didn’t ride a lot of time trials, Drew Brunton won with a long ‘57’ and I had a short ’58.’

“I won every race at the track meet on the Saturday, stayed over in Dundee and went for the record on the Sunday.

“It’s wide open up at Caird Park and I remember the wind getting up; it wasn’t easy, I was on 28 spokers with silks – I have a picture somewhere of me after it and I’m not looking happy!

“But I added 470 yards to the old record.” [Gordon achieved 41.411 kilometres in his 1973 ride to break Eddie Brown’s 1957 record of 40.915 kilometres. The record stood until 1980 when Steve McCaw took it to 41.932 kilometres, ed.]

Sandy Gordon

Your training?

“I did a lot of ‘fartlek’ training which is where you make a lot of fast efforts of varying lengths but it’s not structured like interval training – which I also did, designing my own programmes.

“Jimmy Dorward was the pioneer of interval training but I was actually doing it before he got big into it.

“But I also did the miles, I liked to ride my bike – but always remembered that you had have something left for the weekend race, you didn’t waste the best of yourself out on training runs.

“The words the former world professional sprint champion, Reg Harris stuck with me; you have to be able to go but then go again in a sprint and I trained with that in mind.

“In the winter I’d do weights Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning with circuit training on Tuesday and Thursday – and I’d cycle to work.

“It was a way of life for me.”

And you always worked during your racing career?

“In the shipyard offices; coming up to the 1970 Commonwealth Games the boss approached me and asked if I wanted to go out on the sea trials for a new frigate which the yard had built.

“You’d be at sea on the ship for a spell but the money was good; I declined, I couldn’t swan off at a crucial time in my training for the Games.

“The boss couldn’t understand how I could pass up on such a good money-making opportunity.

“But it so happened that the trial was curtailed because of mechanical problems with the ship and put back until after the Games, so I went out on her after all and got the good pay-day.

“My wife used to say that if I fell in the Clyde, I’d come out with a fish supper in my hand!”

Sandy Gordon

We saw you up at the Tour de Trossachs recently, how did things compare to ‘your day?’

“It was a well organised event but the entries and crowds were well down, on the hairpin on the Dukes Pass – which we used to call ‘the agonies’ – there would have been a big crowd, this year I counted eight of us.

“And back then the English lads would come up to ride it – guys like Ray Wetherall from the North East.

“It was very much an occasion, the start of the social season; we’d stay in the hostels at Loch Ard and the Trossachs and the lads and lasses from Dundee would come down too – great times.”

Any regrets?

“Not really. Jimmy Dorward used to say that I ‘liked the bright lights too much’ but I remember being on the Scottish team with Robert Millar, Manchester-Rhyl it was I think, and I just couldn’t be like that – he was a total introvert.

“I was always an outgoing sort.

“And before we finish, I’ve been told by Drew Brunton and the rest that I have to name check the Tapas Café in Kilmacolm, it’s where us ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ crowd meet up for our banter – but don’t turn up if you can’t take a bit of a ribbing!”

With pleasure, Sandy – with thanks again for your time, an easy interview subject and great bike rider from a time when Scottish road racing was thriving.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

The 1978 Tour de Trossachs Remembered

When Ed Hood said he and VeloVeritas editor Martin Williamson were going out to watch the Tour de Trossachs it brought back my memories of watching the race for the first time in 1978. When I started my reminiscences it was going to be all about the Trossachs but one thing led to another and now we are looking at the early career of Robert Millar and the state of Scottish cycling.

Neah Evans – “I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve made huge leaps this year”

It was at the Berlin Six Day a few years ago that we first saw Neah Evans in action on the boards. She’s made a lot of progress since then and the 27 year-old was recently part of the successful GB team pursuit squad at the Manchester World Cup. High times we ‘had a word.’

RTTC 10 Mile Championship goes to John Archibald, by 3 seconds!

An RTTC championship in Scotland? VeloVeritas couldn’t miss that – on the way down I was thinking about opening lines; ‘Marcin Bialoblocki gives himself as a birthday present a clean sweep of all CCT titles from 10 to 100 miles' but John Archibald was having none of it and pulled off the testing surprise of the year.

Scotland seeks additional Premier Calendar event

Rapha-Condor-Sharp rider James McCallum has pledged his intention to defend his title at the Davie Bell Memorial 2012 Memorial, a 'monument' of Scottish cycling aspiring to join the Premier Calendar series in 2013. The promoting club, Ayr Roads-Harry Fairbairn BMW have already secured 'National A' status for the 47th running of the 100mile event to be held on Sunday June 10th 2012, guaranteeing the best possible line up of British professional and elite cyclists.

Stuart Balfour – Dave Rayner Fund ‘Rider of the Year’

Stuart Balfour’s win in the supporting u23 race to the GP Ouest France Plouay, one of the most prestigious amateur in France, was special. The Dave Rayner Fund thought so too and made him their ‘Rider of the Year.’ As well as his Plouay success he won in Montpichon and at the Ronde Briochine; he was top 20 in the tough Kreiz Breizh UCI stage race and top 10 in the Tour de la Manche.

Mark Stewart – “I realise AN Post is ‘the real deal'”

The last time we spoke to Scotland’s top endurance track rider, Mark Stewart he’d just added to his growing medal collection at the European Championships with bronze in the team pursuit and silver in the scratch. Some nice road results in the Ronde van Oost Vlaanderen followed where he made his breakthrough from riding as a domestique and/or ‘getting round’ to being a serious contender for stage and overall honours.

At Random

The VV View: Rogers, Gabrovski, Colo and Clenbuterol Inconsistencies

Back in December in our year end rant we mentioned the fact that there seemed to be one law for ‘genial Aussies’ and another for ‘dodgy Spaniards.’ What we said was: "And whilst Contador’s ‘contaminated beef’ defence was largely scorned, the mood surrounding Michael Rogers’ positive for Clenbuterol seems to be; ‘poor old Mick’ – with Matt White telling us that the UCI should sort out the Chinese meat industry."

La Vuelta a España, Stage 15: Notes from Lagos de Covadonga

It's 10:00 pm and we've just finished dinner in our 'local' at Cangas de Onis, we were here last night too. The Mahou is cold, the food is good and the wi-fi is free. It's a working dinner, words and pictures get dealt with in between patatas bravas and chorizo. 'Lagos de Covadonga' - one of the Vuelta legends.

Scottish National Road Series, Round 1 – Gifford, Tom Arnstein Wins

On a bright but sometimes cold and blustery Saturday afternoon in beautiful East Lothian, the Scottish National Road Race Series got off to a surprising start as Velo Ecosse junior, Tom Arnstein beat all the favourites to win; outsprinting tester supreme, Arthur Doyle (www.Dooleys-Cycles).

James MacDonald – Attempting the 24 Hour Track Record

James MacDonald holds the Lands End to John O'Groats AND BACK record, and recently attempted the 24 Hour Record on a velodrome. It didn't quite go to plan...

Organising the 46th Davie Bell Memorial Road Race

The best cyclists in Scotland will descend on South Ayrshire this Sunday, the 5th of June, as Ayr Roads Cycling Club/Harry Fairbairn BMW play host to round four of the Scottish Power Renewables SuP6R Six series at the 2011 David Bell Memorial Road Race. The event has attracted a full field for the first time in over two decades, with the riders lining up to complete the gruelling 120km marathon over the hilly roads around Straiton.

Cycling dismay as Chris Hoy events frozen out for London 2012

"Cycling dismay as events frozen out for London 2012" says the headline in the Guardian. The bottom line of the article is that there will still be the same number of women's track events in London - three, sprint, pursuit and team pursuit.