1950s Biographies - Ken Russell

Ken Russell
With Albert Keenahan and Pete Jepson
Credit: formerly online at

Ken will probably always be remembered for the drama of his Tour of Britain victory in 1952. Riding as a lone rider for Ellis Briggs Cycles of Shipley (and working in the shop all week brazing frames) Ken led the race into its final stage to Alexandra Palace - but felt his cotterless crank loosening, and his back tyre going down! Desperate, he said to Marcel Michaux of the Belgian team, "Donnez-moi votre bicyclette!" Michaux, admiring Ken's heroic fight with the big teams, didn't hesitate but slid off his machine and handed it over. In the final sprint Ken noticed that the fork end was loose in the fork of Michaux's frame, but he still finished second on the stage to Sun's Les Scales, and first on general by 3 minutes from Scales.

From the back window of the comfortable house he built near Bradford for himself and Renee, Ken has a view of Ilkley Moor and distant Ingleborough and Whernside. From the front he looks up to the village of Mountain, the highest point in the race Ken chooses as his favourite victory ("Apart from the Tour of course!") the 1948 C.J. Fox Memorial RR.

"First, it was in memory of a great man, who did an awful lot for the BLRC. Also, I was only 18, but near the end I was in the lead with Bob Thom, a great rider and an international. Going up towards Queensbury on the last lap, Bob said, "I suppose you're going to leave me now Ken!" I didn't know what to do, so I just went to the front and rode, I didn't attack or try to drop him. I looked round when I got to Queensbury, and he'd gone. I came through Mountain and down here" - pointing to the road outside his garden - "and won by two minutes."
As a junior in 1947, Ken won the Junior National Hill Climb Champs, beating all the seniors and most of the Independents. In 1949, during a spell in the RAF, he won the Senior. He signed Indie for top team ITP for 1950 and 1951, ITP was a football pools firm. Geoff Clark, Ken Jowett, Eric Mitchell and Frank Seel also rode for the ITP squad.

1952 saw Ken as a lone rider for Ellis Briggs Cycles of Shipley. "I was enjoying my riding, so I got very fit." A win by 5 minutes in the Yorks Champs didn't stop Ken's name being put right at the bottom of the Tour of Britain programme. He finished right at the top.

The story of Ken's bike-swap with Marcel Michaux has often been told. Marcel is now very ill, but Ken and Renee are still in touch with him.

Another tale of '52 has never been published. When the race reached Newcastle, Ken had knee trouble. All the physios on the race were working for the big teams and daren't help, so Renee (Stopford, Ken's fiancee) said, "I'll find one!" and went out into Gateshead to a phone box to search the book for masseurs. A stranger wanted to use the phone, so Renee stepped out, telling him she was using the directory because she was trying to find a masseur. "You've found one!" declared the stranger - Glasgow man John Durkin, who did his training in Newcastle. He worked on Ken's knee, refusing payment, and Ken says his win in next day's stage to Scarborough (4 minutes clear with Ian Steel) would not have happened without John's treatment. Renee wrote his address on a race programme; which was accidentally given out to a fan next day!

"In 1956 I packed in, I was sick of all the wrangling."

Ken and Renee always wanted to thank John properly, and many years after Ken told his story to TV programme "Searchline". John's sister saw the programme and rang John (at home in Dorchester) who switched on to watch!

more info at Classic Lightweights UK


Ken Russell
Credit: Coups de Pedales

Ken wrote us a list of races he'd won; at the top it said "Born Idle, 13/11/29" [Idle is a region of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK]. This list of around 50 races and speaks for his energy!

1st. Shropshire Hospitals 3/J
1st. Bradford RCC Time Trial (J)
1st. National Hill Climb Champs (J)
1st. Airedale Olympic MTT
1st. Moss Moor MTT
1st. C.J. Fox Memorial RR
1st. Severn Valley GP
1st. G.W.Bell Memorial RR
1st. Moss Moor RR
1st. Baslow RR
1st. Tour of the Peak
1st. RAF Massed Start Champs
1st. RAF Swinderby M-S
1st. RAF Binbrook M-S
1st. (First day) Cleveland 2 Day RR
5th. Brighton - Glasgow
Time Trials
1st. RAF Northern Counties Champs
1st. RAF 100 mile Champs
1st. RAF 50 mile Champs
1st. RAF Swinderby 25
1st. RAF Scampton 25
1st. RAF Bawtry 25
1st. RAF Syerston 25
1st. Louth 25
1st. RAF Binbrook MTT
1st. RAF Leconfield 25
2nd. Brighton - Glasgow
(1st. Bradford - Newcastle Stage)
1st= Tour of the Chase RR
3rd. National Independents Champs
1st. Circuit of New Mills
1st. (second day) Manchester - Llandudno 2-day
1st. Sheffield - Burton, East Mids 3 day
1st. Bradford RCC 25
1st. Nottingham - Sheffield 3 day
1st. Cardiff - Wolverhampton (Tour of Britain)
1st Tour of Britain
1st. Chesterfield RR
1st. Yorks Champs RR
2nd. Dover - London
2nd. Wolverhampton - Llangollen - Wolverhampton
1st. Jackson Trophy RR
1st. Wilsden RR
Time Trials
1st. Sheffield RCC MTT
1st. Bradford RCC 25
1st. Border Grand Prix, Newcastle
1st. Midland GP
3rd. National Independents Champs
1st. Buxton RR

This is not a complete list

If anyone can add anything then please get in touch