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Davie Whitehall – Versatile Scottish Rider in the ’70s and ’80s

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He’s a man we should have caught up with long ago – but one of the few good things about ‘lockdown’ is that it has given us the time to catch up with riders who have ‘slipped through the VeloVeritas net.’ At last; Mr. David Whitehall.

Davie Whitehall
Davie Whitehall on his way to a stage win in the Ràs. Photo©John Pierce / PhotoSport International UK USA Asia

Davie, as a junior you had the misfortune to be a contemporary of a certain Robert Millar who beat you for the Scottish Junior Road Race Championship in 1976.

“That’s true but I beat him for the Scottish Junior BAR that year! 

“I had a 59:22 for a ’25’ and 2:03:59 for a ‘50’ with Robert returning a 58:48 and 2:05:24.”

You were 10th in the British Junior Road Race Championship in 1977.

“Yes, that was on the Isle of Man, Steve Joughin won that from Russell Williams, I made my predictable move on the hill too early, I should have sat in and played my hand later.” 

In ’77 you won the Scottish Junior Pursuit Championship the first of a long sequence of success in the discipline, Scottish senior champion: ’78, ’80, ’81, ’82, ’83, ’84 and ’85.

“I think that I was only beaten once, by Jamie Henderson of the City of Edinburgh RC. He beat me by one second but he was running a rear disc and I didn’t have that kind of technology at my disposal.

“I don’t know if you know but I had the British four kilometre record for a while with a 4:59.1 ride, the previous record had stood to Ian Hallam.

“I was down at Leicester track at a meeting with Ian Thomson and just decided to go for it; to stand as a record it had to be done out of competition with only one rider on the track – there was a drug test facility there too so the record was all, ‘by the book.’”

You won the Scottish Kilometre, 15k and Track BAR too.

“The only track in the west of Scotland at that time was Westhorn and it was pretty dangerous; I ended up in hospital after crashing there on one occasion so steered clear of it after that.

“Apart from the odd times I’d get a lift to Edinburgh I didn’t have any track preparation other than practicing standing starts on my track bike in the street a fortnight before the championships.

“I’d just arrive at Meadowbank and ride…”

Davie Whitehall
Davie Whitehall rode for the Greenock CC in the mid-80’s. Photo©supplied

I remember seeing the late John Clark mentor you at Meadowbank.

“That was in my days with the Ivy CC. After that I was with Jimmy Dorward at Scotia Sports and did his infamous ‘long intervals’ outside the cemetery.

“I was also in the Regent and latterly Greenock RC-Eddie Cairney Sports but in my last year of racing, 1987 I left after a disagreement with Cairney and joined the VC Olympia as I was friendly with the Wilson brothers.

“I didn’t start racing until May that year but won the first race I rode – Glasgow-Dunoon; I also finished third in the Scottish Road Race Championship that year behind Finlay Gentleman.

“I was always looking to join a setup where I could get help with expenses and support; I didn’t have a lot of money – with the Greenock it ended up that they were due me money, ‘forgetting’ the cheque book to pay our hotel bills was a common occurrence…

“I didn’t just race in Scotland, I used to go down to Star Trophy races in England and that wasn’t cheap.

“I remember going down to the British Track Championships at Leicester in 1981, where I think I was fourth, getting on the train with two bikes, spare wheels and my bag – but that was just the way it was – I could really have done with more support.” 

You went to the Commonwealth Games in Canada in 1978.

“Yes, I rode the Team Pursuit with Clanky Clark, Roy Crombie and Ian Humphreys. We finished fifth with a 4:50 ride; the Australians won that from New Zealand.

“I also rode the road race but punctured out of it. Phil Anderson won that one.”  

Davie Whitehall
Davie Whitehall was a super-stylish pursuiter. Photo©supplied

You were seventh in the 1982 Commonwealth Games Individual Pursuit in Australia.

“I qualified seventh fastest with 4:58.178 which I was happy with. I was faster than Brian Fowler, the New Zealand rider who was in the silver medal pursuit team at those ’82 Games then he was silver medallist in the road race in the ’86 and ’90 Games. I was also quicker than Daryl Webster and Tony Mayer who were both good English track guys at the time.

“In the quarter-finals I met the Aussie Mike Grenda and went out – but I improved to 4:57.435 to Grenda’s 4:53.877.

“Grenda’s team mate Mike Turtur won gold from England’s Shaun Wallace with a 4:50 ride, with all my rides done on a gear of around 88”.”

But no Games in Edinburgh in ’86?

“No, I had started a new job and was down in Reading for three months so that season was pretty much wiped out.”

Time testing – you had the ‘10’ record twice.

“I broke the late Alan Hewitts’s 1980 record of 21:27 by two seconds in 1981 then took that down to 20:49 the next season; that stood until 1989 when Graeme Obree took one second off it.

“I rode 53 x 12 top gear on the second one, which was on the Loch Lomond course.”

Davie Whitehall
Davie Whitehall spent several seasons in the Regent CC colours. Photo©supplied

You had a good record in hilly TT’s, winning the Tour of the Shire, the Tour of the Campsies and the Circuit of Bute but never the Trossachs?

“I was third in the Trossachs the year Davie Gibson won it from Sandy Gilchrist but by that time of the season I was getting tired and looking forward to a break.

“I was second once to Dave Hannah in the ‘25’ Champs