Scores of cyclists are saddling up for a celebratory ride through Wolverhampton to mark the 75th anniversary of Britain's first ever road race.

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And they will be remembering the city's world famous cycle racer and builder Percy Stallard, who organised and championed the historic 59 mile race, which ended in Wolverhampton all those years ago.

Wolverhampton Wheelers cycling club will stage a celebration ride in, at 11am on Saturday 3 June, from what was Percy's old shop in Broad Street.

Cyclists will then arrive at the City Archives at the Molineux Hotel, where Percy formed the Midland League of Racing Cyclists in 1942, for anniversary celebrations.

Despite opposition at the time, from the National Cyclists' Union, Percy Stallard organised the road race for 40 cyclists who rode from Llangollen to Wolverhampton on 7 June, 1942.

To celebrate the landmark event, which changed the face of British cycling, the anniversary event will feature lots of historic bikes including Percy Stallard, Sunbeam and Viking models in the City Archives Rococo room.

Many of the cycles are from local collector and enthusiast Luke Willans, including the bike raced by the great man himself Percy Stallard, as well as the West Midlands Championship winning machine raced by John Upton.

Also on display will be the locally made Viking racing cycle raced by the Viking managing director Reginald Davies.

Old photographs and memorabilia will be on display and refreshments will be supplied by the Friends of the Archives. Wolverhampton City Radio is broadcasting its regular Saturday Sport Report live from the event from 10am to 12pm.

Percy, who died aged 92 in 2001, ran his cycle shop in Broad Street and made much sought after bespoke cycles. He became a member of the Wolverhampton Wheelers Cycling Club and was a keen competitor in cycle races, competing for Great Britain in international races during the 1930s, including three consecutive world championships in 1933, 1934 and 1935. He was also a successful cycling coach and team captain.

He came up against opposition for his planned road race because up until 1942 cycling in Britain was all track racing but Percy wanted a mass road race much like those held on the continent.

He was quoted years later as saying: "I just explained to the police what I was doing and told them that things like that were normal on the continent and they said they were happy and that they'd try to help."

He got sponsorship from the Express & Star, offered any profits to the newspaper's Forces Comfort Fund, and recruited 40 riders to take part. The rest was history.

Bike enthusiast and collector Luke Willians, who is helping to organise the event, said: "We are hoping for a great turn out at the City Archives to celebrate Wolverhampton's cycling heritage, the anniversary of this historic event and the city's famous son, Percy Stallard."

CAPTION: Luke Willians with one of his Percy Stallard bikes - a PT Stallard Zakopane 1957. Luke, 37, from Newbridge, who works at Halfords in Wolverhampton, is helping organise the 75th anniversary celebrations of the first road race from Llangollen to Wolverhampton organised by Percy Stallard. He is pictured with Jonn Everall, City Archives collections officer

  • released: Friday 26 May, 2017