Some interviews can be like pulling teeth, others start cautiously then your subject loosens up once they realise you’ve done your homework and know what you’re talking about. There were no such hesitancy with Mick Ives – he was ‘off and running’ from the gun.
But in case Mr. Ives name isn’t one you’re familiar with; he’s won 81 British Cycling Championships in all disciplines and 19 World Championship medals, he’s the only male cyclist to represent Britain in all disciplines: road, track, cyclo-cross and mountain biking; and he held a racing license continuously from 1957 to 2019.
But where to start?
How about 1956 and his first race?
“I only got into cycling as a means to get back and forward to work and technical college but I began to enjoy it, joined the Warwick Cycling Club in July 1956 and started going on Sunday runs – where I got hammered.
“But I stuck with it and gradually improved.
“Come October my club mates told me there was going to be a hill climb race up Edge Hill, I didn’t know what that was but entered it anyway.
“I went over early and rode up it three times before the race just to get the hang of it – then I went and won it!”
And what about his first cyclo-cross, off road being the facet of the sport which he’s perhaps best known for?
“That would be January of 1957, the club used to ride a lot of what we call ‘bridleways’ in England, off road paths and tracks – I liked to ride them so racing ‘cross was an extension of that.
“It was starting to really take off in the English Midlands at that time – a lot of guys used to ride their fixed wheel ‘hack’ bikes and I built a bike up from parts I found in a scrapyard, it had 26” wheels, weighed a ton and only had a back brake because I couldn’t scavenge a front one.
“In my first race, which was the Midland Championship the brake cable broke so I had to run the descents but still finished in 10th place.
“Within two years I was on the Worlds and Empire Games road squads.”
And fast-forward to his last race?
“That would be the September 2017 but I only stopped because I’d suffered a heart attack and had to get stents fitted.
“I held a race licence for 62 years and raced summer on the road, track and latterly mountain bike, then ‘cross every winter.”
How many wins in those six decades?
“If you include track races then somewhere around 1500, I was actually on the national squad for the team pursuit but I don’t think my face fitted and I didn’t get to the track Worlds.
“I rode my first Worlds in ’65 – that was in ‘cross with the winner the great Italian rider, Renato Longo.
“That 1500 total includes 62 National Championships across the disciplines and 136 mountain bike race wins – I was in at the start of the MTB craze.
“You must remember that back in those early days I was racing five times each week – road races, track leagues, mid-week time trials…”
But the pro ranks beckoned?
“I rode the 1965 Hill Climb Championship on Dovers Hill and signed the forms to go ‘Independent’ with Mottram Cycles; I won practically every ‘cross race I rode for them over that winter then carried on into the ’66 road season.
“‘Independent’ was a kind of ‘half way house’ where you could ride against the amateurs and the pros but revert to amateur if you wished.
“That ’66 road season we rode the Tour of Luxembourg against the likes of Rik Van Looy – we got hammered but it was a great experience.”
After Mottram’s came the team Mick was perhaps best known for, those ‘Black Cat’ Bantel boys who World Professional Pursuit Champion, Hugh Porter also rode for.
“The Bantel team ran for eight years, I got to know the main man at the company, Barry Brandon having won the track pursuit meeting they sponsored and the next thing I was sponsored by them.
“Mercian was the bike sponsor then; that would be the autumn of 1966, I rode for them for three seasons from ’67 until ’69 when Vin Denson came back from the continent and joined us.”
But there was disappointment after Bantel?
“A big disappointment, I fished around for a sponsor and had attracted the French, Bic pen company as a main sponsor and prolific winner, Albert Hitchen was going to join me.
“But then the British Cycling Federation came to me quoting a UCI rule stating that if a company sponsored a team in one country then they couldn’t sponsor a team in another country.
“Of course, Bic had the French team with the likes of Charly Grosskost, Leif Mortensen and Luis Ocana – so that was that.”
Going back to ‘cross – there was a good GB showing in the ’65 X Worlds?
“I was 24th behind Renato Longo from Rolf Wolfshohl, two of the greatest ‘crossers ever.
“Keith Mernickle was 14th that year with Harry Bond and Mick Stallard both top 30 finishers.”
And you were National Champion in ‘cross in ’68?
“Yes, I beat ‘Goz’Goodman and Keith Mernickle to win that one.
“It was televised and I remember standing about in the cold, freezing and waiting to be interviewed.”
With the Bic project defunct in 1970 you rode for Fred Baker Cycles but were back amateur in 1971?
“It was a bit of a tough time for the GB pro class and quite a few of us reverted albeit they made me wait six months on the grounds that I’d; ‘win too many cyclo-crosses.’
“The only caveat was that you couldn’t compete in the Worlds or Olympics.
“I always worked in the bike trade and was working with the Viscount company as senior project engineer; I was at an exhibition, got talking to management and we agreed to set up a racing team, ‘Coventry Olympic-Viscount.’
“That was June ’74, we started with four riders, went to 12 in ’75 and in ’76 had riders of the quality of the British Road race Champion, the late Grant Thomas and Olympic medallist, Mick Bennett.
“In ’76 we had an eight week spell of racing in the USA, we had the use of a Winnebago and competed against top US guys like Jim Ochowicz, John Howard and Ron Skarin.
“Since 1997 I’ve been behind the M I Racing team and been one of the UK’s most successful cycling racing teams ever since, our main sponsor is Jewsons.
“During that period the team has won over 1000 races all over the UK and mainland Europe.”
But going back to Viscount, they folded?
“Yes and I became involved with the English Speedwell Bicycle Company who were innovators in producing titanium frames; which Luis Ocana used when he won the Tour de France in 1973.
“It was tricky stuff to work with, it had to be welded in and inert gas atmosphere.
“One of the orders we got was from the famous Lamborghini sports car company; for 100 bikes.
“The idea was that when you bought the car there was this hi-tech bike in the boot as a ‘gift.’
“But they fitted them with Clement white strip track tyres; you’d have ridden about six feet on your gravel drive on those before they exploded!”
And there was your own bike shop and your embracing of the MTB scene?
“Yes, we did well with BMX and when MTB’s came along we got involved and did well with it too; Barry Hoban was a rep for British Eagle at the time and sowed the seed with me in 1988.
“Then I got a phone call in ’89 from Madison, the big cycle parts distributer who had the Ridgeback and Shimano agencies for the UK .
“They asked me to run an MTB team for them and I also managed the GB MTB team; the BCF weren’t interested in that side of the sport back then – until they realised there was money in it.
“I rode the vets 40 plus MTB Worlds and finished third but I was actually 50 years-old and up against the likes of Albert Zweifel who was only 40 and had finished fourth in the pro Worlds ‘cross just the year before.”
I believe season 1990 saw you pioneering new equipment?
“The MTB Worlds were in Durango in the States, I managed the GB team and rode the vets event, where I was third again, behind Zweifel.
“Paul Turner of RockShox approached me and setup our three British riders – and me with them, each set of forks specifically tailored to weight of each rider, at that stage there were only about half-a-dozen sets in existence.
“Turner was so impressed with the way we performed he let us keep the forks.”
And a pro with Saracen Mountain Bikes?
“I was with them for three seasons from ’92 to ’94, the second season I had 36 wins in the vets; and I was giving away 10 years to some guys – between ’89 and ’94 I had 136 wins.”
What about all those Worlds medals?
“I rode in 20 World Cyclo Cross Champs – amateur, professional and veteran
“I won six UCI World Masters Championships, five in Belgium and one in Switzerland.
“I was second three times; twice in Belgium – my first Belgian Worlds the parcours took some getting used to, it was 90% sand – and once in the USA
“I was also third in the event, three times, all in Belgium.”
Then there’s the coaching and management…
“I never took coaching exams but was British Cyclo-Cross Association and took teams to the Worlds.
“I coached Nicole Cooke right up until she went abroad, I could see the talent she had, even at 12 years-of-age.
“Hugh Carthy who won the Angliru stage in the Vuelta and finished on the podium is another rider I’ve coached.
“When Peugeot came over to ride the Tour of Britain I managed the team; Roger Legeay took me to the Dauphine and Tour to show me the ropes.
“I also managed the Ever Ready – Carrera squad with Stephen Roche at the Tour of Ireland; that was a great experience too.”
And then there’s the Annapurna Mountain Triathlon where he has the bike record, but that’s another story… and we’ve just scratched the surface…
With thanks to Mick and Eliot Blundell for his assistance with this piece.
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Mick Ives Firsts
- Rotor Chainset that had round chainrings and two cams fitted to the crank arm (Mick won 2 World Masters Cross Champs using this and also did his Tour de France ride on one, the first model that Rotor produced).
- ‘Egg Beater’ pedals (in the World Championships).
- Shimano double sided off road pedals and shoes.
- Weyless Lock-In pedals, the New Zealand manufacture asked Mick to try them.
- Rock Shock Suspension Forks at the World Mountain Bike Championships in 1990, the designer asking Mick to use them.
- Speedwell Titanium Cyclo Cross frame.
- Viscount Aerospace 10 speed bike (Mick was the Senior Project Manager in this exercise).
- Fuji race bikes in UK (Mick was Sales Manager of Fuji UK).
- Moulton track bike (Easter 1962).
- Shimano road products – Mick was asked by UK importers Middlemore’s to road test all the items and do a report on each, it was the first time Shimano products had been brought into the UK.
- Saracen race bike, as part of the Pro Mountain Bike Team, in 1992.
- First (and still only) rider to ride exact route of Tour de France SOLO, in 1 day less than the race.
- Broke Record for 62 1/2 mile Beacon Mountain Time Trial held by National T T champion and Empire Games Road Race Champion Ray Booty.
- Broke 56 km cycle section record in Annapurna Mountain Triathlon, over the Annapurna Mts in Nepal.
- Broke Redmond C.C. 2 up T T record with Sean Yates.
- Set new record for Port Erin (Isle of Man) 2 Up TT with Graham Obree (on his original ” Funny Bike “).
- First person to organise mountain bike training camp in Lanzorette (which ran for 7 years).
- First British Rider to represent GB Internationally at Road, Track, Cyclo Cross and Mountain Bike.
- Only British Rider to win National Championships at Road, Time Trial, Cyclo Cross, Mountain Bike, Tandem, and Hill Climb!
- Only British ride to ride World Cyclo Cross Champs as an Amateur, Professional, and Veteran.
- Only British Rider to have held Racing Licence for over 60 yrs without a break.
- Holds the course record for Veterans in Man v Horse v Cyclist, in both directions.
- Only rider to have raced non-stop, summer and winter for 62 years (with the only break forced through injury).