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Mick Bradshaw – “My heart was completely shagged from 30 years of red-lining it”

"That’s 36 years I've been with the G.S. Metro - the main entry requirement is that you can hold your liquor.”

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I’ve checked the legendary Italian ‘CONI’ cyclists training manual but can find no mention of it.

I’m talking about ‘Kestrel Super Lager’, 9% by volume.

But that was the ‘recovery drink’ of choice of a certain Mick Bradshaw; one of the fastest time testers around in the 70’s and 80’s and 1988 RTTC 50 Mile Time Trial Champion.

‘Legend’ is a word bandied around these days but for this small gentleman from the North East, it’s wholly appropriate.

Here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas, recently.

Mick Bradshaw displays his typical, urgent riding style.Photo©supplied

How did you get into cycling originally, Mick?

“When I was a school kid I borrowed a friend’s bike and rode it through the fields to school.

“‘This is the thing for me!‘ I thought to me self.” 

I believe your 80’s success came after a ‘comeback’?

“Comebacks?

“I’ve had a few of those!

“My first race was in 1966 and by 1968 I was one of the fastest juniors in the country, the top lad was Alf Engers protégé, John Cornillie from London but I had a 55 minute ‘25’ at 17 years-of-age.

“I remember there was a ‘25’ on the T254 course at Catterick and I took the fastest lad in the clubs best wheels out to the race for him on sprint carriers on the front forks; then I got to race on his training wheels.

“I beat him – I didn’t get another shot of his wheels after that…

“But at 18 I started working compulsory nights as an electrical fitter at the Parsons generator factory.

“I was doing two 80 mile training runs each week and with the night work it was all too much, I packed up and pursued other avenues – I became a Hippie and explored sex and drugs and rock & roll ‘til I got it out my system.

“I got back on the bike in ’74 and raced from ’75 to ’80, I rode the ‘25’ Champs which big Sean Yates won in ’80; I was fifth in 53:57 to his 51:30.”

“I’d been doing about 400 miles per week but then I was married at the end of 1980 and got into running, 10 k runs and half marathons.

“I got back on the bike, season 1985.”

Did you always work during your cycling career?

“Like I said, my first job was heavy going, physical work with a lot of heavy lifting involved.

“I was made redundant in ’81 and spent a year on the dole before I got a job as a delivery driver.

“Then I got a job on inspection in electronics, which was easier on the body than working on those big generators at Parsons. 

“I also worked with Dave Yates and built me own frames, initially they laughed at my 80 degree seat angle but then along came Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman with their forward sitting positions and my ideas weren’t so funny anymore.” 

You won the ‘50’ Championship in 1988?

“Yes, I won the ’50’ title in ’88, beating John Pritchard by 12 seconds after I was third to him in the ‘25’ champs that year.

“I’d been second in the ‘50’ champs to Phil Griffiths in ’77 by five seconds so it was good to win at last

“I was third to Pritchard in the ‘50’ a year later in ’89 with 1:50:59 to his 1:50:01 but by then they had all gone low profile, I was one of the last to still ride what you’d call a ‘conventional’ time trial bike.

“I bought a pair of clip-on ‘bar extensions, tried them and realised that ‘aero’ was the way to go.”

Mick Bradshaw

Did you ride the BBAR distances?

“Yes; one ‘100’ in particular sticks in my mind, the ’91 championship won by the late Gary Dighton where I was fourth less than a minute behind Gethin Butler who got the bronze medal.

“But more than one watch had me up on Butler late in the race and I know there were ‘time keeper’s errors’ that day but they wouldn’t entertain discussion about it. 

“As for the 12 hour, I started several but never finished one – they just weren’t my cup of tea, I was about speed and concentration; in a ‘12’ I would start looking at the cows in the fields and listening to the birds singing.” 

What were your personal bests back then?

“I had a 20 minute ‘10’ which is common or garden now but was decent back then.

“I had a 50 minute ‘25’ and on the night the late Pete Longbottom broke Alf’s 49:24 record with a 49:13 I did a 51:12 for sixth spot but I was shagged from a hard day at work, I didn’t finish until 4:30 pm and then went straight to the race. 

“I asked Pete for his autograph that night, we had a good laugh.

“My best ‘50’ was a 1:46 but that included a crash, I’d just caught my five minute man and the next thing I was laying in the middle of the A1!

“I think I hit a pothole and the clearance between the down tube and front wheel was so tight on the bike that when the forks flexed the tyre touched the down tube and I went over the ‘bars.

“My best ‘100’ was a 3:47 ride.”

Mick Bradshaw
Mick Bradshaw on his super-tight-clearance Dave Yates TT bike. Photo©supplied

You were always more about power than pedalling?

“I did some tests at Newcastle University where they compared me to sprinters; the sprinters generated way more power than me but as their repetitions went on their power curves flattened out whilst mine didn’t deviate.

“The guys at the uni. said I had extremely slow twitch muscles and that was why I was so suited to time trials.

“I used to ride 57 x 12 to 16 on a five speed block with the 17 screwed down because the chain line would have been too extreme given the very short chain stays my bikes had.” 

I remember seeing you ride the Journal Two Day stage race.

“I was a first category roadman, I wasn’t much of a sprinter but got over the hills on power.

“I won a stage race or two by winning the time trial then just sitting on and defending – but then they stopped including time trial stages in races up my way.

“I remember I rode the Musselburgh Two Day stage race up in your patch.” 

Mick Bradshaw
The withering write-up of the Campagnolo Classic ’50’ in Cycling Weekly in 1980 isn’t what you’d see these days – certainly not on our pages!

Did you ever have a coach?

“Nooooo!”

Have you always been a GS Metro man?

“I have since 1985.

“I was originally in the Bedlington and I had a spell with Been Bag, but that’s 36 years I’ve been with the Metro.

“The main entry requirement is that you can hold your liquor.”

Mick Bradshaw
Mick Bradshaw used a tin or two of Kestrel to calm down after a training ride. Photo©supplied

You had a reputation for liking a beer?

“I’d go straight from work out on the bike, 65/70 miles most nights, when I got back home I’d still be buzzing so I’d have a couple of tins of Kestrel Super Strength lager to calm me down. I’d have those every night. 

“For the national time trial champs I’d book my annual holidays to coincide. Me and the Missus would head off with a pair of new Chrono CX tubulars and my tins of Kestrel.

“Mind you, I used to get in some states; at the Harrogate Festival of Cycling I was voted ‘Rider of the Week’ a couple of times but I don’t know how, I’d ride six races in seven days but we’d be ‘on the lash’ every night.

“We’d be on things called ‘Follyfoots’ which were Carlsberg Special mixed with barley wine…”

Tell us about the heart transplant.

“My heart was completely shagged from 30 years of red-lining it.

“I remember the last race I rode before the transplant in 1994, me lips were blue and I thought I was going to die…

“I spent four-and-a-half months in hospital, one day a nurse said to me; ‘we might have a heart for you,’ so I couldn’t have anything to eat before the op. – but it fell through at the last minute because a relative objected.

“But by then I was starving and ate three dinners on the trot – that happened to me a couple of times.”

Mick Bradshaw
Mick Bradshaw

ANOTHER come back after the transplant?

“Yeah, I rode the ‘Transplant Games’ six months after me operation but the distances were really short, seven miles for the road race and five kilometres for the time trial, hardly worth putting your kit on for.

“I won the TT at those Games in 2017, up your way at Ravenscraig, Motherwell, but I haven’t ridden them since.

“I rode my first open ‘10’ that year too and saw folks I hadn’t seen for 30 or 40 years, that was nice, I love the social element of the bike.

“I was getting in the prizes for the over 60’s in time trials in 2018 but then I got knocked off me bike in October of that year and broke me pelvis, shoulder and collar bone; that wasted season 2019 for me. 

“I’d like to go for the North East age related records; that would require a 22 minute ’10 and 57 minute ’25.’

“I train on the static bike in my shed, two hours, five times each week with intervals in the session, I have Garmin power pedals to monitor my watts but I have to be careful, I don’t have an immune system anymore. 

“I have one of the new flat tubed carbon time trial bikes with a 54 x 11-23 set up but it doesn’t compare to my bike from the old days.”

Mick Bradshaw
Mick Bradshaw reckons his new equipment doesn’t match the kit used ‘back in the day’. Photo©supplied

If you had your time over, what would you do differently?

“I’d do it all exactly the same, I had the best laughs…”

Mick Bradshaw
Mick Bradshaw wouldn’t change a thing. Photo©supplied

With thanks to Mick for his time and an entertaining conversation. File this man under ‘One Off.’

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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