The Billy Warnock Memorial race is coming up, held this year on 7th August and run as usual by Falkik Bike Club. The race is named in memory of a former rider and racer, as is often the case with Scottish Road Races. Being a relative newcomer to the Scottish scene, I always wonder who these people were, so I have asked a few contacts for their thoughts on Billy.
Billy was diagnosed with cancer in his late 50s and passed away shortly after, but the race perpetuates his memory.
One clubmate described Billy as a stalwart of the “Fawkirk” for many years and a superb racing cyclist with numerous successes on the roads. “He was a quiet, modest, genuinely nice guy who helped me a lot as a complete novice when I joined Falkirk BC around 1997. Some of those first few Sunday morning runs were a huge challenge for me, a former athlete with no cycling experience at all on 2 wheels, but Billy was one of the guys who helped and encouraged me along to the extent that I started (eventually) to enter some of the Vets Road Races.”
He won The Glasgow-Dunoon road race when he was younger and also competed in the Milk Race. His biggest result may have came in 1967 when he finished 2nd overall and won the last stage from Dundee to Glasgow, on a lone breakaway. In his later years won the Scottish Vets Road Race Champs twice. He was a pretty decent rider and as can be seen in the photo above looked super fit in his prime, and I’m sure had the legs to match when on the bike.
He built a house near Fort William and spent a fair bit of time with the late Jason McIntyre, helping steer him in the right direction in his earlier racing days. Tragically both men died way before their time.
There are several memories of Billy as a tough guy on the bike- snapped seatposts mid-run seemed not to faze him and neither did Alpine roads. In 1994 in the Alps watching the Tour, Billy decided to ride the Val Thorens Mountain Time Trial route after the pros, which apparently nearly killed him and he looked deathly grey at the top, but still he was the only guy in the group to ride it.
Billy was a member of the Chryston Wheelers in his earlier cycling days and the above photo, courtesy of Robert aka Paris-Roubaix on flickr is of a summer holiday run up to Inverness in the 1960s.
Lots of Glasgow area cyclists used to ride up to Inverness, staying in the youth hostels, to ride the Inverness-Elgin and Dingwall road races. Above are three Chryston members having a break in Inverness prior to riding the Dingwall race. Jimmy Fraser (middle) won the race in a bunch sprint and the three of them took the team prize as well. Billy Warnock models his short shorts and Rab Braid checks out his lunch. The riders toured on road bikes with sprints and tubs, removing the mudguards and saddlebags for the races.
One of the flattest circuits on the Scottish race calendar, it can offer interesting tactical racing. In 2009 riders escaped in a breakaway, and two or three teams combined to chase. Then came the counter attack and from this move the winner Ian Sim of Glasgow Couriers. The race often incorporates the Mid-Scotland Cycling Association championship and that year my clubmate Eddie Addis was MSCA champion after a good team performance. The organisation is great as well- the race won Scottish Cycling’s event of the year in 2010.
I rode the Billy Warnock for the first time in 2009, when it was run as an open event,. I was dropped on something like lap 4 of 10. The photo below shows the moment before my demise, on the short sharp climb before Cowie.
In 2010 it was part of the Sup6r Six series, with an A race for categories E123 and a B race for 4WJV, making things a bit easier for me. I had a go in ‘the final’ and did a blog post on it. Here’s hoping for more improvement in 2011.