Earlier in the year we ran an interview with the man who started the ANC team ball rolling, all the way to that famous but fated appearance in the 1987 Tour de France, Mr. Micky Morrison. Our reader Paul Kilbourne got in touch to say he’d enjoyed the piece and revealed that he’d actually been a soigneur with the team.
With a little gentle coaxing we persuaded Paul to give his recollections of a team that could only have existed in the 80’s.
Here’s part one of a highly entertaining piece…
Tell us how you got involved with the ANC Team please, Paul.
“In the early 1980s I started to use the gym at Staffordshire University on some winter evenings. I started chatting to a few other users, one of whom turned out to be Micky Morrison.
“A year or so earlier I had done an evening course on sports massage and therapy with Bob Foxhall, a well-known cyclist and masseur (as we were then called) on the Birmingham scene. Micky quickly fastened onto this and asked if I’d give him a massage from time to time.
“This developed into me going along with him to races with his Moducel Team and generally helping out with mechanic stuff, bidons and so on… At one point Mick asked if I could work with a composite professional team in the 1983 Sealink stage race that he was to be part of, managed by Bernard Burns.
“To be honest I was way out of my depth; I could give a decent massage, but all the rest that went along with an international stage race was new territory. However, with the help and forbearance of Bernard and the riders we got through, and I learned a lot.”
When did the ANC adventure start?
“By The next season, 1984, Mick had met Tony Capper and started to ride as an ANC professional.
“He asked me along to some races, sometimes driving in the convoy if Tony wasn’t about, sometimes being a mechanic as well.
“During the season Simon Day joined the team, and then Neil Stephens.
“It was a year of the Kellogg’s city centre races, and I got along to many of them; fortunately my ‘real’ job in those days afforded some flexibility.
“Tony Capper had definitely got the bug for cycling, and had bigger plans for the next season. Towards the end of the year he got his cheque book out and was shopping for more riders.”
What did 1985 bring?
“Tony Capper threw himself into cycling, following his first taste. He loved the cars, the buzz and, as ANC was a franchise business, there was an opportunity to entertain franchisees across the UK.
“The Team added Phil Thomas, Joey McLoughlin, and Dudley Hayton to Mick Morrison and Simon Day.
“I was listed as the mechanic (no UK team listed a soigneur in those days)
“Tony, with much encouragement from Mick, had brought in other sponsors – Freight Rover, AYEL (Alan Lloyd cycle imports), Gipiemme (through AYEL) and Fircoft Hotel in Bournemouth. They arrived after the kit had been made, so my wife spend an evening or two sewing on patches.
“The success of the team was such that Gipiemme used the team for advertising in Italian magazines.
“The domestic season started well, with Tony enjoying driving the car in the convoy rally, and a promotions manager from ANC called John Picken helping out
“Then, out of the blue, someone from the UK cycling community had managed to get the team in Ghent-Wevelgem.”
West Flanders, the Kemmelberg and the echelons beckoned?
“This was a very different leap into the unknown for me. I don’t think that the story of this has been widely shared.
“We set off with Dudley, Joey and Phil Thomas, other riders being unavailable.
“We managed to pick up Mick Bath and the late Simon Hook on the way – this explains all the “who’s that ANC rider?” questions still on Facebook.
“Accommodation had been booked in a suburb of Ghent called Rabat. It turned out to be a small local café with bunk beds, but the owner (who was a massive cycling fan) had purloined beds in houses along the street.
“We signed on at the Kuipke Velodrome the day before.
“The person who had arranged it all had mysteriously disappeared before we arrived. They were expecting more riders, so I made use of the voluminous ANC puffa coat and a hat and scarf to sign on for a rider whose licence we had in the car.
“I asked about radio frequency etc. but was firmly rebuffed – the clear implication was that they knew all about UK teams, and we wouldn’t get anyone beyond the first feed – so there!
“The evening before I rubbed legs, changed freewheel block sprockets in anticipation of the Kemel, and generally did my impression of a headless chicken.
“On the day, the café owner had found some mates to mechanic and do feeds – it turned out that they’d only ever watched this on the television!
“We lined up, I had a car number close to the back of the convoy, and off we drifted. This was totally new territory for me…
“I recall Sean Kelly started in two hats, spats, two pairs of gloves and a rain jacket. I was learning all the time.
“The first to puncture was, I think, Simon. That’s when we discovered the lack of skill of the café owner’s mate. A few more followed, but the heat wasn’t on yet.
“The feed was then in the back streets of Oostende, or somewhere similar, over the tram tracks. Our man for the feed took one look at the peloton forging towards him and ducked behind a parked car!
“No more excitement until I had a brush with the TeveBlad manager who kept trying to cut his way up the convoy. He’d clearly identified the UK car as a soft target. In the end I “accidentally” took a corner badly and forced him through a field gate.
“I remember thinking that that hadn’t been clever, however a lot of other cars were giving me thumbs up – it turned out that I’d risen in their opinion rather than the reverse. Apparently he had a reputation for not respecting other team car drivers.
“Moving swiftly through the lanes that lace across Heuveland the Peugeot team car came alongside and was shouting to me. “Listen to your radio!” I told them we hadn’t got one. “You have to go behind the break, now!”
“Somehow I eased my way past the strings of riders. Something I found, is that the higher the class of the riders the more respect they show to others working on the race. Just before the Kemmel I got behind Phil Anderson, Rudi Matthys – and Joey!
“It was virtually a fairground ride, over the Kemmel and through down to Ypres, and Joey was still there!
“Just as we hit the big windswept roads from Ypres though the Panasonic car came up to Anderson and told him to stop working – it turned out the day was for Eric Vanderaerden (who went on to win).
“Joey was running on fumes as the big peloton swept the break up. Phil and Dudley were still there to support, and the late Paul Sherwen gave enormous support too. One of my deep regrets is that I should have shared that story earlier whilst Paul was still with us. It showed a lot about the character of the man.
“The outcome was that ANC finished three riders, and had put up a real fight. We wouldn’t be refused a radio again!
“On the ferry back I knew that the team had real potential in Europe.
“I also had seen how other teams were organised, and that I didn’t have the knowledge, skills and time to do everything that would be needed.
“As soon as we hit the UK I spoke to Mick and to Tony Capper and said that if we were going to take this seriously we needed staff; I certainly wasn’t sufficiently experienced in this level of racing to be the Manager or DS.”
Did they take heed of you?
“Enter Phil Griffiths as Manager and DS (although Tony Capper liked to be identified as DS). Phil had the international experience, contacts book and most of all the strength of character to work with Tony Capper.
“The proof of the pudding came early, with the Sealink International where Joey, as a first year professional, won. Tony Capper was over the moon.
“I was still looking after legs and bikes but I discovered that they most important job was the sandwiches and snacks for Tony in the team car.
“The final stage from Bromsgrove to Kirkby was in appalling weather; snow and wind. Luckily we had a lot of big flasks and could keep handing up half bidons of hot drink. Most of the team finished wearing our big padded coats, but Joey’s lead was protected.
“Joey also took the Kelloggs City Centre series that year. For me, these were easy races, rubbing on embrocation, keeping spare wheels handy and wiping riders down afterwards – always with a new casquette for the podium.
“I did stress slightly over the race wheels, as I glued on the tubs. Phil Thomas and Joey especially pushed grip to the limit, but all the tubs stayed in place. Joey, and all the other riders I dealt with throughout ANC were always appreciative of what was done for them.
“Joey gave me his overall winner’s jersey, a lovely gesture, but it meant a very frosty ride back to Stoke in Tony Capper’s Jag!”