Sunday, October 17, 2021
HomeOtherEditorialGrant Thomas Tribute, Part Two; "The most stylish bike rider, a gent"

Grant Thomas Tribute, Part Two; “The most stylish bike rider, a gent”

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Perhaps VeloVeritas sage and mentor, Viktor summed it up best; ‘he was the coolest – nobody looked better on a bike than Grant Thomas, he was everything I wanted to be in a cyclist.’

We’ve already run Paul Kilbourne’s tribute to Grant but thought that we should share more of the tributes which have been paid to the man.

Please forgive any little changes we’ve made to put the comments into context and not seeking approval from everyone individually but we’re sure they won’t mind given the circumstances.

* * *

Grant Thomas
Grant Thomas (l) and Mick Bennett (r) after a Two-Up TT win, either side of TT king Alf Engers. Photo©Bob Thom

Our first words come from Tour of Britain organiser, Grant’s close friend and Madison partner;

Mick Bennett

Twice an Olympic medallist, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and multiple British Champion

“There have been some most wonderful messages written, on social media, in memory of my dear friend Grant.

“I have many happy memories. 

“I’ll never forget the very first time we met, down at Salford Park Track in Birmingham, in ‘69, when training for a place in the Birmingham division team pursuit squad. I was in absolute awe of him, his film star looks, his dapper appearance, coupled with his immaculate track bike and his willingness to assist a ‘wet behind the ears’ budding 19 year- old.

“Little did I know that the following year we would be ‘top and tailing’ in a double bed in Limburg Holland where we travelled to seek the exalted life of two would-be bike riders. 

“For Grant, The Netherlands was to become his adopted home, and his victories, at that time unheard of, do not do justice to how well he was received, he was adored by the Dutch family he lived with and quickly became their adopted son.

“Latterly during his time spent last year as our guest on the Tour of Britain we constantly had to locate him as the stage was about to start, he was found with the team mechanics discussing the advantages of, amongst many other things, various crank lengths and how they relate to a rider’s leg and foot dimensions.

“Dapper, a gentleman, modest, immaculate but above all an endearing naivety. Grant was all these things, and with personal qualities that one rarely comes across these days. There was nothing to dislike about Grant – other than his passion for ‘The Archers, an everyday tale of country folk’.

“He even made up a foursome on my very first date, in 1991 with Jill (now my wife of 26 years) and her friend Nicola, at the Teddington Spaghetti House. Most of the evening was, of course, spent talking about bike racing.

“Jill recalls the many conversations she had with him about health and vitamin supplements as he often called to chat to her and mull over articles he had read. And my sisters have fond memories of him visiting our house in Birmingham when we were teens, everyone loved him.

“Grant was always making us laugh and would not want us to be filled with sadness following his passing, but to remember him with joy and smile or even laugh at memories of his stories and anecdotes – of which there are many. This is how we should remember this great man, with such incredible qualities. 

“His legacy is that he had such a fundamental and profound effect on all of us that knew him as a friend, he touched us all.”

* * *

Ron Keeble

Olympic medallist and multiple British Champion on the track

“A good mate and adversary back in the day. 

“A classy rider and a nice polite bloke. 

“Sad news.”

Grant Thomas
Grant Thomas and Mick Bennett with their good friend, Aarmant Pielaat Rogheist.

* * *

Darryl Webster

Multiple British Champion on road and track

“Very sad to report the passing of [Facebook] group member Grant Thomas apparently after a brief illness (not Covid). 

“British amateur road race champion, winner of amateur Six Days and one of the best road men in Europe in the early 70’s.

“I’ve never heard a bad word said of him and he was one of the coolest-looking riders. 

“RIP.”

* * *

Barry Davies

70’s cyclo-cross ace

“He was the coolest – nobody looked better on a bike than Grant Thomas, enough said.”

Grant Thomas
Grant Thomas famously had ‘film star looks’. Photo©Bob Thom

* * *

Tim Crumpton

70’s roadman and contemporary of Grant’s 

“Grant was so enthusiastic about his training and racing. He always wanted to know the ins and outs of everything connected with the sport. 

“A clever tactician always hungry for a win. 

“He often gave other riders encouragement and sound advice and seemed to have a real down-to-earth appreciation of what was needed to be a winner. 

“He also had a quirky sense of humour and a knowing smile.

“A great rider and a great guy.”

* * *

Gary Sadler

Multiple British Champion

“May your levers be tilted at the correct angle and your Binda straps tight and threaded through the back of your pedals. 

“Rest in peace old friend. 

“The most stylish bike rider, a gent.”

Grant Thomas
Grant Thomas (l) seated power. Photo©Bob Thom

* * *

Steve Sefton

British professional and Milk Race stage winner

“Very sad news, I didn’t know Grant but his results racing around the world gave me the impression he was capable of winning at the very highest levels; and he did so frequently. 

“I used to like reading his opinions on Facebook, always friendly and really knowledgeable.”

“RIP Grant.”

* * *

Terry Lewis Batsford

Roadman and contemporary of Grant’s

“I think Grant missed out a lot on selection for GB because he spent so much time racing in Holland. 

“But that’s where he was happiest and he won a lot of races there. 

“Did you ever hear of the Six Day ‘den Haag’ series of races? A phenomenally fast series of 100km crits around The Hague. 

“Well, Grant Thomas won that overall one year.”

Grant Thomas
Bob Thom gets a visit from Grant Thomas, out for a ride. Photo©Bob Thom

* * *

Hugh Rainbird

Roadman and contemporary of Grant’s in the Flatlands

“One win missing from Grant’s palmarès you listed at the end of the interview you did with him and one of my memories of him: ‘1972 1st Destelbergen (Bel)’.

“It was a wet, miserable Sunday in summer – when the English riders in a crit over the cobbles and rail lines in the Gent Zeehaven, Bob Cary and Norman Gower among them, all ended up crashing, Norman being taken to hospital with concussion and a broken collarbone.

“Destelbergen was my first race in this trip to Belgium with the Polhill and in spite of Grant coming up before the race and having a chat and putting us wise to the ‘big hitters’ in the field, I definitely needed to ‘get up to speed’, and as it turned out, brush up my technique of racing on rain-soaked cobbles. 

“At one point on the course the bunch lined out into single file. ‘Good,’ I thought, ‘time to make up some places’, only it was to ride along a narrow, very heavily cambered stretch of cobbles. 

“All went well in spite of some ‘Godverdomme! Engels’ curses from other riders, until we reached a sharp corner, where, being on the wrong side of the camber, I slid down into the cess at the roadside. I managed to avoid falling, but with one shoe now full of cold, muddy water, I lost all the ground I’d made up, and more, and restarted at the tail end of the peloton.

“Not surprisingly, I didn’t finish that race, but was there to see Grant cross the line at the finish ten and twenty seconds in front of the next two finishers, both Belgians, Victor De Valckeneer and Jos Meynzer. 

“It was one of only two English wins in races that I took part in in Belgium, the other being the late Alan Williams’ victory in the Omloop van de Pajotteland a year or two later.

“RIP Grant, and thanks for the memories.”

* * *

With thanks to everyone for their contributions.

Rest in Peace, Grant Thomas; a champion and a gentleman.

VeloVeritas
Here at VeloVeritas, we provide our readers with truthful, accurate, unique and informative articles about the sport we love. We attend many local races as well as work on the professional circuit, from the local "10" mile time trial to the "monuments" - classics like Milan-SanRemo and the Tour of Lombardy, the World Road and Track Championships, the winter Six Days and the Grand Tours; le Tour de France, il Giro d'Italia and la Vuelta a España.

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