Rik Evans continues his story, from giving away a Worlds title to Commonwealth Gold medal, racing with top club ’34 Nomads to his slide out of cycling but into depression. Evans has now settled in Australia and cycling has come back into his life.
Part One covered Rik Evans’ early life up to that crash by the German pursuit team in the World Championship final, we now move on to how it all came to an end and bring you up to the present.
Winning the Commonwealth Games team pursuit in 1974 was a nice result.
“Yes, Gold and beating the Australians by over nine seconds in the final was a nice result.
“Being transported into the middle of a New Zealand summer from a particularly grim north European winter was pretty good as well.
“We’d all had to put ourselves through a lot of hard work that winter to be in shape for those Games, and in often quite testing conditions.
“So we really deserved that Gold.”
The ’75 Worlds were a step backwards though?
“To be honest, 1975 in general was a step backwards, perhaps truer to describe it as a slippery slide backwards, a tendency that had begun the year before.
“One problem was that in the team pursuit, approaching those ’75 Worlds, we’d been coached by Harry Hampson – a leading mentor in the south of England – and he’d been working hard at building the team in his own time and at his own expense.
“When it came to making the trip to the Worlds, however, he was discarded; regarded as a ‘maverick,’ and unreasonably disliked and perceived as a threat by the ‘powers that be’.
“Those that took over really weren’t up to the job, and consequently morale and performance suffered.
“My heart wasn’t in it at all either, which would’ve been evident to those around me.
“My prospects from there on were not promising.”
Why no ’76 Olympics for you?
“Well, that slippery slope had got steeper, more slippery – very bumpy as well.”
What sort of support did you get from the British Cycling Federation in that era?
“As far as I know, they gave whatever they could afford, which was next to nothing.
“There was some help with travel costs and so on, but on international trips, those hosting the events would normally cover expenses. I recall that we were each given a pair of tyres for the ’73 Worlds.
“On the whole we had to be self-funding; it actually cost us a lot of money to do our sport at that level.
“I was unable to keep a regular job, because I was frequently going away somewhere or other, so I did casual work, mainly as a labourer on building sites.
“That being the culture, any results achieved at world level by British riders mainly came down to the personal initiative and expense of the individuals involved.
“For us, as well as being up against the generously supported Western European countries, we also had to contend with the state sponsored Eastern bloc nations.
“As I understand it, their athletes were full-time, riding as pros, in effect.
“They didn’t seem to laugh as much as we did though.”
Your British club team the ’34 Nomads was a very strong entity in the 70s – you rode for most of your career?
“I was actually with two clubs before the Nomads.
“I began with the Bromley RC for a couple of years, then moved to the newly formed Lewisham Racing Club for 1968-9.
“Ron Keeble was responsible for starting off that successful ‘modern’ era of the club when he recruited Dave Carter, Alan Upcraft and myself to form a team pursuit squad to win the nationals.
“The Nomads had already been a strong club in the 50s and 60s, but we we’d come along to join Ron, and we all set about winning left right and centre, including national titles, and this attracted more new talent.
“The list of riders coming to the club is impressive (aside from those I’ve mentioned): Colin Christie, Pete Hamilton, Dave Rowe, Dave Le Grys, then another new wave with Sean Yates, Glen Mitchell, Tony James, Steve Sefton, Tim Stevens, plus a bunch of national schoolboy champions along the way.”
Tell us about your relationship with Geoffrey Butler Cycles, and their lovely bikes.
“Geoffrey Butler were a great support, and with Charlie Roberts as their frame builder at the time, they were great bikes as well – I’m sure they still are.
“Back then the business was essentially the wonderful John Pratt (the owner), and the very enthusiastic and supportive Bert Sullivan.
“I think that John had to turn a blind eye sometimes to Bert’s generosity towards favoured riders.
“There were times, after a crash or a string of punctures, when I couldn’t have continued racing without them helping me out.
“I was always broke and my parents had no spare money, so they were my saviours quite often.
What was your favourite discipline?
“I really liked scratch races on the track: the 10 mile, 20km and suchlike; similarly those Dutch criteriums.
“I enjoyed the continuous flow and high speed of those events, and the buzz of positioning for the final sprint.
“I was good at them as well.
“At 17 I was third in the senior (elite) National 20 km Championship, then a close second in the following two years.
“Some thought I’d won in ’72; it was that close.”