The next 25 years of Abertillery and District Wheelers Cycling Club
1970 - 1995
After writing the first 25 years of Abertillery Wheelers, another 25 years have swiftly passed. Years that have given us much pleasure and also sadness due to the personal losses felt deeply by the club. We lost George Herbert - ex President and life member, Harry Lewis - President, Cliff Page - Vice President, Eddy Price - Chairman, Mostyn Williams - Racing Sec, Jean Rowlands - Life Member, Brian Challenger - Vice President, Ray Hardwicke - Ex Captain, Pete Webb - Ex Racing Sec.
These were the positions that they held when they passed away, but over the years they held other posts and played a huge part in enabling the club to continue and achieve such standards. they gave many hours of their time to the club in carrying out their duties. They will always be remembered with affection by those of us who were privileged to know them.
The club has continued to develop, adopting to the needs of the modern cyclist, but retaining much of the old traditions. Club runs still provide a means of introduction to cycling and a chance to talk to fellow cyclists, a relaxation from competition, work, or the daily grind. Runs have altered considerably with members returning earlier, well before teatime. There is also a group of older and less fit members who have shorter runs up to 50 miles, with just one stop for tea and a snack. These runs have become increasingly important and fill a need for those who haven't been on a bike for sometime - haven't got the competitive urge, are newcomers to the sport, or just want a steady ride in which they can have a good chat along routes away from the polluted main roads.
Club events have increased considerably and this year there will be thirty six events held. Since the opening of the A467 Abertillery - Brynmawr our club 10 mile Time Trials have been held on this course. Not a fast course but ideally situated close to the clubroom where a welcome cup of tea and a friendly chat about how hard or fast the course proved on that particular Tuesday. This is a highly competitive event with over half our total membership have one or more rides during the season.
This is an important event as a means to introduce people to cycle racing and a good focal point for members not competing. We also hold club 25 mile events on courses at Newbridge, Raglan and Pandy. A hill climb championship from Aberbeeg to Penyfan and a Heads of the Valley climb. We run events to meet the requirements of our members.
Mountain bikes have gained great popularity in recent years bringing in members who take part in that side of the sport. Many members have these bikes and enjoy the delights of going off roand and getting away from the busy roads and learning different types of bike handling skills.
We are the only cycling club in Blaenau Gwent at the present time and although it was decided to keep the clubs old name, we really are the cycling club of the borough. members live throughout the borough, and the square, Brynmawr, is the meeting place for Sunday runs being the most central point.
The last twenty five years have seen a growth in the number of sponsored clubs. These clubs are sometimes able to offer their members help with the purchase of clothing and for the elite racing people - expenses. We have lost a number of members to these clubs who have to rely on attracting members from other clubs for their success. Those that left us found that they were no better off financially and indeed missed the traditional club life of AADWCC and applied to rejoin after a season or two. Our policy is to run the club at the lowest possible cost to the members, and everybody is equal and all put in a little so that every members can enjoy low cost sport, no matter what level of performance they achieve. Many of us who have been in the sport a long time feel it would be better for the sport if sponsorship money was all put into events.
At the present time like other clubs we are short of juniors, but over the years we have had many that have benefited from our system and reached the top in Wales and to win Welsh Championships. This was particularly evident between 1980 - 1990. It appears that if we can get them, we can turn them into top performers.
Since the seventies, John Richards has promoted a weekend stage road race for juniors. His hard work has paid off with it developing into a major British cycling event. Competitors come from all parts of the British Isles and one season saw a team from France competing. Many who have ridden this event went on to become well know seniors representing their country at International level. The scale of this promotion makes a sponsor essential and for many years the Borough of Blaenau Gwent Council sponsored this event. But with Gwent Police asking for as much as £3,000 for the policing of this event, we must raise more money or discontinue the promotion.
Many open time trials have been run by the club and for 3 years after his return to active cycling, George Wynn provided all the prize money for the open 25 mile events. There has been several event secretaries for this event, but Mrs Margaret Halstead from Llandrindod Wells has had the longest period of promoting this event.
The Welsh Cycling Association discontinued the Spring Bank Holiday Rally at Builth Wells in 1992 after running it for 31 years. We helped to get it started and organised open races there for many years. The longest of these was the open 2 up 25 mile Team Time Trials which we promoted from 1964 - 1989 inclusive. We also promoted the Road Race, a Hill Climb and a children's Sports event on various occasions. The club also had a hand in other events there and on one occasion in the seventies, a visitor from Birmingham was under the impression that the club were the rally organisers. Abertillery Wheelers Cycling Club have put as much into Welsh cycling as most other clubs and to the best of our ability. However an official of one of the more recently formed sponsored clubs showed his ignorance of our efforts by asking at a W.C.U. meeting "What has Abertillery Wheelers done for Welsh cycling?"
The face of the sport is continually changing and slowly the club changes with it. Club racing colours are still yellow and royal blue, but the style of the clothing is distinct and modern. Club runs and club events are run in a different format to those of 50 years ago. The club night is till on Thursdays, however the venue has moved from the St. Johns Ambulance hall to the Workman's Institute in Division St. Abertillery, some years ago.
The club is its members and is run to suit them. No club can continuously perform at the top, all the long established clubs have periods of high and low activity. With the full support of members and friends we will succeed with coping with the less successful years. We must keep recruiting new members and in particular from the younger age groups.
There is a good future for cycling, but it will differ from that of 50 years ago in order to survive. Cycle routes and cycle ways will increase and be well used, racing will become more restricted on major roads, safety considerations will force us onto second class slower roads. There will be increasing numbers of people riding as a means of transport, for health and for leisure. If we can attract a small percentage of these riders we will remain strong, with a few of the present members able to celebrate the clubs centenary.
It doesn't matter how competitive people are; the main consideration being that they enjoy riding a bicycle and can find pleasure in doing that with a cycling club. I thank all members who have contributed to the running of the club and who have given me the pleasure of their company since I joined the club in November 1947. As General Secretary since October 1949, my job has been made easy by the other capable committee members and organisers. The people I have met through this club and the sport had enriched my life and I place great value in their friendship.
Gordon Rowlands March 1995