Early in the last century, because of resistance from the police and the judiciary, bunched (‘massed start’) racing on public roads was actively discouraged, if not subject to an outright ban. This led to the National Cyclists’ Union (NCU), the international representatives of British competitive cycling, restricting its activities either to the track or to massed start on closed circuits, with rare exceptions such as on the Isle of Man (from the 1930s). This decision had a number of consequences for the British racing scene. It led to poor representation by British riders in continental-style races, and to the formation of the Road Time Trials Council (RTTC; see above) who began to organise time trials on British roads, early on Sunday mornings, in ‘secret’ and in black alpaca. It also led to the formation of the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC) whose avowed intent was to introduce bunched racing to Britain’s roads – and to a split in British cycling, between the NCU and the BLRC, which was to continue and to hold back British cycling for a good few decades. It must be added here, however, that cycle racing in Scotland was never subject to such a rift; it was always organised by a single body, the Scottish Cyclists’ Union (founded in 1889), and none of the animosity experienced in England was seen north of the border.

The BLRC had its beginnings with the organisation of the Llangollen to Wolverhampton road race on June 7th 1942 by Percy Stallard and his like-minded colleagues. Despite dire predictions from the powers-that-be, Stallard obtained permission from the police to organise his 59 mile race. The NCU and RTTC immediately condemned the event and warned their affiliated clubs from supporting it. Both organisations also promptly suspended Stallard – a suspension that he duly ignored. The race (won by Albert Price) was catalyst for the biggest cycling argument of the century, its reverberations continuing until the final amalgamation of the BLRC and NCU into a single representative body (the British Cycling Federation) in 1959.

During the 1950s the argument between BLRC and NCU clubs raged with considerable ferocity. The Northwood Wheelers was a staunch NCU-RTTC club and we were ‘not allowed’ to even mix with ‘the enemy’; hence Stan Boyes’s lecture to us up at the clubroom.