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HomeInterviewsJoe Waugh - Tyneside Climbing Legend of the '70s and '80s

Joe Waugh – Tyneside Climbing Legend of the ’70s and ’80s

"I loved Team Time Trials – there’s something special about the four of you cruising at 30 plus miles per hour with the Clement Silk Threes singing."

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Who’s that bastard with the long hair who make my legs hurt on the climbs?

The poser of this question was none other than Poland’s Ryszard Szurkowski, one of the best amateur riders the world has ever seen.

The subject of his profanity?

Tyneside climbing legend and winner of everything from 10 mile time trials to Hill Climb Championships to international stage races in Europe, Mr. Joe Waugh. 

We should have caught up with Joe before now but better late than never.

Joe Waugh and Bob Downs on a Milk Race climb look more comfortable than the Russian rider.

The big question first, Joe – what about the long hair?

“Ironically, my father was a barber.

“I guess it was just part laziness to get it cut and because I liked it that way – it wasn’t rebellious or a ‘statement.’”

Joe Waugh
Joe Waugh in the 1969 Caterick 25 mile TT Campagnolo Trophy. Photo©supplied

Your formative years were with Tyne Road Club; that North East scene had some hardy guys – Paul Blackett, Ray Wetherall to name but two.

“Tyne RC was my first club and I’m still a member, I go to the regular club reunions.

“It was a pure time trial club but yes, the local scene was strong, as well as Paul and Ray who you mentioned there were riders like Eddie McGourley and Pete Chisman, all quality guys.

In the Tyne RC you had the Clayton brothers, Wes was as hard as nails, I used to go on 100 mile Sunday runs with the club on 69” fixed with wired-ons [that’s ‘clinchers’ or ‘high pressures’ to young uns, ed.] – Wes would give me hell on those rides.

“John Sutcliffe was another demon on those runs – it was a tough upbringing.”

Joe Waugh
Joe Waugh with Des Fretwell and Rob Robinson in a criterium in Hartlepool. Photo©Stan Hilton

You were a Best British All Rounder contender early in your career?

“Yes, 1973, I’d never raced outside of the North East before that.

“I rode the Milk Race that year, Ray Wetherall put a word in to the selectors that I was worth giving a chance to.

“I was in the GB Regions team and had never even ridden a Star Trophy race at that time.

“I got second on Stage Four, Aberystwyth to Great Malvern which went over five third cat. climbs; the Swede Sven-Ake Nilsson who went on to win the Tour de l’Avenir and was to 10 in the Tour de France won it.

“I came out of it with good form, entered the National ‘50’ Champs which was on the Catterick course in a fortnight and finished third behind the late Ian White and Martyn Roach with a 1:54:40 to Ian’s 1:53:53.

“I rode a ‘100’ and did a 3:54 so of course, with those times I had to ride a ‘12’ and got great support from the Tyne, they were 24 hour time trial specialists so knew the score.

“I did 258 miles in my first and last ‘12’ and made the top 12 in the BBAR competition.”

Joe Waugh
Wonderful study of Joe Waugh climbing Winatts in 1977. Photo©Bill Smith

France in 1974?

“Yes, with Colin Davison and Peter Watson, we were with VC Metz.

“I had a couple of wins but with the benefit of hindsight I was too young and naïve for a venture like that and was homesick.

“I rode the Tour de l’Avenir that year and suffered badly, there were three days in the Pyrenees and on the stage that went over the Tourmalet I was fourth over the top, but it was a very hard race.”