Here’s some background on this era of cycling | Letter | western avocado

RE: When the helmsmen were the stars of the district (yesterday, today, January 17). The turn of the century up to the period of the First World War was an important period for local cycling, as the mid-west, particularly Dubbo, Bathurst and Grenfell, produced a number of the best cyclists in the world. But it is also a very complex period in terms of the history of cycling. (The term “Wheelman” in the context of that time probably referred to riders affiliated with the League as opposed to the Union. These two administrative bodies make the history of cycling quite complex.) Regarding membership numbers of the Lithgow Bicycle Club and the success of Lithgow secretary Alf Camp, this figure of 265 members may have referred to the Western District Cycling Union, with which the Lithgow club had much to do. Alf Camp sometimes chaired this group of clubs, which caused many dramas at the turn of the century. Western District Union was formed in 1903-04 and was oddly named because it was aligned with the League, not the Union. Alf Camp took over as Secretary of the Lithgow Bicycle Club from Charles Williams and, before that, Mr S Jackson, who were both senior directors of the affiliated group, the NSW League of Wheelmen. Both Jackson and William have had great success with the club, and the truth is that Alf Camp has had many problems during his time with the Lithgow club, as being one of the main movers in the WD Cycling Union would eventually clash with the league and fights must be recorded by the end of 1905. NSWCU and NSWLW clubs existed in Lithgow in these early days and much recorded history can be generated by these two major organizations competing against each other to further establish themselves in the region. Lithgow’s first club was a NSW Cycling Union club. It was founded in 1888 and although it had almost 20 members it struggled to hold a major event and disbanded, only to reform in 1889 when it held the first of its annual carnivals successful, which included the 1889 Five Mile Championship of the Western District, won by Bathurst champion A. E. Ashworth. While Bathurst was the dominant club for these Western District champions of the 1880s, by the early 1890s Dubbo and then Lithgow produced local regional champions. Lithgow star Horace Jones won the Western Districts Five Mile Championship in 1892. But that all changed soon after. With the establishment of the League of Wheelmen in Australia, within a few years the League was hosting some of the largest cycling carnivals in the world. The Lithgow Bicycle Club grew into the League of Wheelmen group and, as the story above indicated, ran some very successful cycling events. It’s true that Western Australian MacDonald beat Aussie superstar Joe Megson in a race at Lithgow, but it was a big surprise as it came after MacDonald couldn’t even hold Megson’s wheel in the race. a handicap event earlier that day. Now I don’t believe anyone was disqualified in the 1898 Western District 1 Mile Championship which was won by Orange star CJ Brooke – from in-form champion Lithgow Goodwin, Brooke and Davies of Bathurst (note – usually a pace violation would be in a wheel race where a rider was judged to be doing work for another rider). Now there was a disqualification the year before in the 1897 Western Division Championship, but it happened at Bathurst. The judges thought the riders died in one of the heats to give OBrien an easy ride to the final. The West Region had some amazing runners, but I’d have to double-check the records on GS Skinner (thought he might have been a local councilor). From memory, the Lithgow club were not part of the NSW Cyclist Union in 1916-17, so not sure of Skinner’s background as suggested in the story. Additionally, the NSWCU entered a vacation during World War I with mostly club-level events and more social-type fundraising events. The mid-west region of New South Wales had some of the greatest cyclists in the world at the time of the First World War, but they mostly raced in the United States. But this is another story.


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