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Maurice Laing – Scottish Star of the 70’s had a Short but Scintillating Career

"All of that hanging on behind the East Europeans in the Milk Race had brought me on another rung up the ladder."

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The front page of the French La Voix des Sports newspaper, June 1978 – Italy and The Netherlands in World Cup action, Formula One legend Niki Lauda and; ’20 year-old Scotsman Maurice Laing the first leader of the Three Days of Marck-en-Calais.’

Maurice won the Scottish school boy road race and time trial championships, made the podium of the junior and senior road race championships; won the Davie Bell, Sam Robinson and Trophy Pernod; rode the Milk Race and performed with distinction in France.

But like a comet he burned brief and bright across the Scottish cycling firmament; his career over at 20 years-of-age when perhaps six or seven years from his peak.

He’s still slim – he does 200 miles/week on the bike – and he still has that glint in those blue eyes as we sit down with a coffee in the cosy kitchen of his beautifully renovated farm house out in the rolling Perthshire countryside – ‘I did all the work myself’ – to discuss his short but scintillating career on the bike.

Maurice Laing
Maurice Laing. Photo©Ed Hood

How did you get into the bike, Maurice?

“When I was a wee boy I had a Triumph palm beach and used to bomb about on it and by the time I was 10 or 11 I had pictures of Eddy Merckx up on the walls of my bedroom. [good boy! ed.]

“As I progressed as a schoolboy I won the Scottish road race champs on the Saturday at Bellahouston Park then the 10 mile time trial champs on the Sunday at Wallyford.”

Do you remember your very first race?

“It was an APR on the Monikie circuit and I was off in the first group, I ended up alone, in the lead but was swallowed up just a mile from the finish.

“I got a good write up in the paper, they said I was the ‘hero of the day’ – my dad carried that clipping in his wallet all his life.”

Maurice Laing
Maurice riding a 65 mile RR at 15 years old. Photo©supplied

Tell us about your Scottish senior results.

“Before I turned senior I was second in the junior champs and made the podium in the senior champs behind Jamie McGahan and Robert Millar – I also won the Davie Bell and Sam Robinson Memorial races.

“But the ride which I look back on with most satisfaction was the Pernod Trophy race in Glasgow, 1976 when I was 18 years-old.

“It finished in Strathclyde Country Park and Sandy Gilchrist, Jimmy Millar and I were in a breakaway group with just a few kilometres to go when George Miller, the commissaire drove up alongside us and said that if the traffic lights we were approaching turned red and we jumped them, we’d be disqualified.

“We all stopped and I looked back to see the bunch hurtling down the hill towards us; as soon as the lights went to amber I was off, I had a fair jump on me and left Sandy and Jimmy – they were scoped up by the bunch and I was alone in the lead.

“I never used to look back in situations like that but I had to steal a look; and there was the bunch in arrowhead formation lead by Bobby Melrose, he was snapping at my heels all through the years I raced – he was like a terrier you couldn’t get rid of!

“But I held on the win – that one gave me a lot of satisfaction.”

And you had some good results in England.

“I won a stage in the Skelton Two Day at Hull and when I was with the Roiseal we were fourth in the British team pursuit championship.”

Maurice Laing
The Roiseal club was well-respected in Scotland. Photo©supplied

Tell us about the Roiseal club.

“It was a racing team set up by Angus Fraser from Edinburgh who gave us so much of his time for no reward other than the satisfaction of seeing us do well in races.

“When were still schoolboys he’s take us over to the Netherlands to race – 72” single freewheel.

“He’d take us down to the British Track Champs and races in England and Wales; he also organised our training programmes – and he didn’t spare us with those!

“‘Russian steps’ intervals with increasing effort and decreasing rest.

“He’d also organise training camps for us in the winter so we’d be riding on different roads up at places like Fort William and Inverness.

“I was lucky too with my boss at work – I was an apprentice joiner with the Co-operative – if we were doing a job at a store in perhaps Aberfeldy or Blairgowrie then he’d let me cycle from Perth to the site for training.”

Maurice Laing
Lots of attitude with these youngsters! The 1975 Guinness