1955 5th Tour of Britain and 2nd “Oats” Circuit of Britain

Credit: 1955 Race Programmes, The Bicycle and History of the Tour of Britain by Peter A Clifford (1967)

Despite everything going wrong with the sport’s administration, Britain managed to have a range of stage races in place by 1955. The top event remained the Tour of Britain - but the Amateur Circuit of Britain was still a major 9 day day race with the backing of the Quaker Oats brand name. So first to be covered is “The Tour” (below) and then “The Oats” later.

A Difficult Start

For the 1955 Tour there was no Daily Express sponsorship - a direct result of the NCU versus BLRC civil war. Today it is hard to imagine just how fraught the situation had become. But here are some items from the press of the time -

First it’s OFF - Now it’s ON!
(The Bicycle 23-Feb-1955)
THERE'S an "Off-on" quality about this year’s Tour of Britain. Last week the "News Chronicle” scooped the "Daily Express” in announcing that the 1955 was "off".
Twenty-four hours later the “Express" confirmed that it would not be sponsoring the Tour, mentioning the present political differences between the sport's controlling bodies.
But after its meeting on Sunday, the British League of Racing Cyclists' Management Committee sparked the Tour of Britain into life again by announcing, "We will run the Tour this year". "To keep faith with B.L.R.C. members and to ensure the continuity of the Tour of Britain, the B.L.R.C will run the event in 1955," it was stated.
Asked by THE BICYCLE whether the B.L.R.C. Tour would be in addition to the Amateur Circuit of Britain. chairman Eddie Lawton said," Quite definitely."
The race - not necessarily a 14-day affair - will be open to professionals and/or independents. The date and route have yet to be fixed. Said Mr. Tom Blackburn, general manager of the "Daily Express", announcing his company's decision not to sponsor the 1955 Tour: "With the three controlling bodies unable to reach agreement we have decided against holding the race this year. Even if the national bodies got together now, there would be insufficient time for the “Daily Express" to organise the event this year in the way and on the scale on which we should like to see it put over."
Cancellation of the "Daily Express" Tour of Britain would provide the opportunity for a big professional road race in the Isle of Man, Week programme, with which the "Tour" clashed. But THE BICYCLE was told last week by a leading Manx official: "The possibility of staging an important professional race is always an attractive proposition, but many factors, including the disharmony among the controlling bodies, have to be overcome first."

Tour of Britain to Finish in Isle of Man (The Bicycle 20-Apr-1955)
THIS year's Tour of Britain, to be promoted by the National Cyclists' Union, will finish “overseas” at Douglas; Isle of Man, on Friday, June
24. The end of the fortnight's race will come as a climax to the annual Isle of Man Cycling Week.
Announcing this last week, the N.C.U. stated that arrangements were in hand for riders, officials and the race caravan to be shipped across the Irish Sea.
THE BICYCLE understands that the Manx authorities will provide financial assistance to help cover the cost of this miniature armada.
The. last day of the Tour will not be confined to the 37 3/4 mile mountain circuit. The course will take in southern parts of the island to bring the stage distance up to the 100-mile mark.
The Tour of Britain, open to national professional and independent teams, starts on June 11 - probably from London.

I am amazed at the recent decisions of the N.C.U., first in announcing a Tour of Britain in competition to that of the B.L.R.C., and then abandoning the whole idea. The competitors in our sport have suffered long enough, but my comment is from a rather different angle - that of the spectator. Following the announcement of a Tour of Britain finishing in the Isle of Man, my friends and I went to quite a bit of trouble booking holidays and arranging travelling and accommodation, only to be disappointed.
I hope those who have arranged their holidays to watch a British team in the Tour of France will not be similarly disappointed by some official decision. Our riders on the Continent are showing great promise, and hopes of British participation in international events on at least equal terms are high. All of us, officials and clubfolk alike, owe it to these riders to see that their efforts are not nullified by official instability.
To-day one views the cycling game in an extraordinary light. The riders and club members support three different bodies. At district level the same officials are working for these three bodies. I believe the formation of an overall body is being obstructed by no more than a dozen 'top-line' officials.
The riders, the clubs and the local officials  all want unity and efficient management of the sport. It would appear to be only the "national officials" who offer repeated objections. It is said that a sport, like a nation, gets, the sort of government it deserves. We must impress on our leaders that we want unity; if they are not prepared to accept the wishes of the majority, they must make way for officials who believe in a unified sport. (Readers Letters, The Bicycle, 25-May-1955)

As a member of the London Centre N.C.U. Professional Racing Committee I was surprised and disappointed to read the announcement that the N.C.U. had abandoned the Tour of Britain. This is particularly unfortunate at the present time, when our riders are putting up such a good show abroad and when, for the first time in the history of British cycling, a team 100 per cent. British will be competing in the Tour de France. An opportunity to see these riders at home is particularly desirable.
Mr. Foster stated in his letter to the Editor of THE BICYCLE that over one half of the necessary support had been raised for the Tour, -and bearing in mind the importance of maintaining continuity of promotion, it surely should have been possible to continue with the organisation, even if on a reduced scale. I read that the B.L.R.C. is now organising a Tour of Britain, and even if this does not reach the scale of previous tours, it does demonstrate the League's approach to this subject as being more positive than that of the N.C.U.
The act of abandonment is hardly in keeping with the N.C.U. statement of its intention to promote a full programme in 1955. This volte-face, together with the abandonment of the Leamington Rally and the loss of the Welsh National Championship event, all within the space of two months, is no answer by the “controlling body" to the ambitious and extensive programmes offered by the B.L.R.C., which- have, incidentally, included the initiation and promotion of the Tour of Britain since 1951, together with other major events over the past years.
Their promotion of the 1955 Tour of Britain is surely very significant, and it must be obvious to every thinking cyclist that the time has now come when the B.L.R.C. must be recognised as an equal partner in the control of the sport, without any further petty arguments being put forward by the N.C.U. and R.T.T.C. (Readers Letters, The Bicycle, 25-May-1955)

Start List - from the official programme






1 Jean Vermaelen




41 Desmond Robinson

2 Jean Fourneau




42 Brian Haskell

3 Jean Moxhet




43 Kenneth Stratford

4 Henri Guldemont




44 W E Penvose

5 Jean Borcy




45 John Robert Henry Swinney

Hercules Cycles A


Wearwell Cycles


Sheffield City

6 Robert Maitland


26 Graham Joseph Vines


46 Edward Wren

7 Brian Robinson


27 Lesie J Scales


47 Anthony Hewson

8 David William Bedwell


28 John E Pottier


48 Richard Neville Bartrop

9 Anthony Hoar


29 Kenneth Harold Mitchell


49 John Short

10 Arthur Victor Ilsley


30 Ian Brown


50 Michael John Waterfield



Hercules Cycles B



11 Raymond Van Dorpe


31 Frederick Otma Krebs


51 John Morris

12 Armin Russenberger


32 Dennis Talbot


52 J B Higgins

13 Vincente Mattivi


33 Bernard Colin Pusey


53 John Andrews

14 Claude Viano


34 Clive W Parker


54 L J Barnette

15 Andre Auquier


35 Derek Adrian Buttle


55 D W Blissett

Viking Cycles


Russell / Wilson Cycles



16 Doug Booker


36 Kenneth Russell



17 Ian Steel


37 Douglas Petty



18 John Leslie Gill


38 Sydney Wilson



19 Kenneth Jowett


39 Malcolm Hinch



20 Joe Christison


40 James Frederick Wilson



Race Route - 3 to 10-September








ToB1955Stage_08Bournemouth-London (Hampstead Heath)

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