|Roy Thame joined WF Holdsworth in Mar 1953 as the Putney shop manager.
He was in the Hemel Hempstead Cycling Club (NW London) and was club TT champion
in 1952. The club colours were orange
and blue. Roy gave up competitive cycling
in 1958, but was active on the race scene as a masseur and provided neutral
service support, from a yellow Austin Mini pickup. In 1962 Roy
supplied Bob Addy (Ross Wheelers) with a Shop Holdsworth bike, the
frame and equipment to be renewed annually.|
For 1963 Bob agreed to join the Hemel Hempstead CC, where Roy similarly supported Mike Shea and Jim Hinds, forming a small team with Bob Addy's father as manager. They were given beautiful copper plate finished Holdsworths. These were made by Reg Collard in the Putney shop. Reg meticulously hand filed every lug, "as a frame-builder he was second to none" (Bob Addy). These frames were probably not any particular model, but bespoke Holdsworths.
In 1964 Jim Hinds left and Mike Brown arrived, a fourth, Alan Perkins joined them later. The squad rode lime green Holdsworth Stradas with white panels and red, lower case, comic/casual lettering. Reg Collard built some frames used in the 1964 Olympics.
In 1965 Bob Addy became an 'Independent' class rider, backed by Falcon, but that year the UCI deemed that Independent riders would be re-classed as professionals. Up until then the 'indies' could race with the amateurs or the pros. They could receive sponsorship and a financial retainer, but were independent of either class. With the UCI reclassification, they had to turn Pro. or take a year out before being reinstated as amateur. In Feb 1966 Bob headed to the South of France, but after an impressive performance in Belgium was signed there in 1966 by Terrot, as a full professional.
In 1966 the British Professional Cycle Racing Association (BPCRA) was formed, Roy Thame became Chairman (a position held for many years) and pro races were organised in the UK. Suddenly there were 70+ UK registered pros, with plenty of teams and events. Optimism in the UK was high, tempting some riders back from the continent. Despite this, the instability and low basic pay for a pro failed to tempt many top amateurs and the annual flow, from amateur to pro in the late 60's /early 70's, was just a trickle.
In Nov/Dec 1966 Bob Addy wanted to return to Britain, he approached Roy Thame who agreed to sponsor him as a UK based pro. This was a shop thing, W.F.Holdsworth, it had nothing to do with the Holdsworthy factory. A special Holdsworth frame was made for Bob by Reg Collard. They adopted the Hemel Hempstead CC colours of orange and blue. The neutral service Austin pick-up usually carried three spare bikes, one was a silver Holdsworth (with red block lettering) in Bob's size (23.5").
Holdsworthy step inBob felt he would have to join another team if Holdsworth couldn't sponsor a full squad. Roy approached Dave Goodall, Sales Manager of Holdsworthy, who agreed to help sponsor a team. Holdsworthy were the sole UK importers of many quality brands. Campagnolo agreed to be a main co-sponsor, others like Regina, Fiamme and D'Allesandro agreed to be sub-sponsors. The sponsorship arrangement was that Holdsworthy provided all the cycles, equipment, clothing and cash for bonuses. The shop, W.F. Holdsworth, built the wheels, did all the organising, provided the back-up service and team cars, the first being a 1966 Ford Corsair 2 Litre GT (bought 1969). Roy Thame was the Team Director / manager / masseur and handled all personnel matters. Roy became Chairman of the British Pro. Cycle Racing Assoc. and held that position for many years.
1968: Team Formation
Dave Nie (second in BRRC 1969, narrowly beaten in the sprint)
Reggie Barnett, a top sprinter, joined from Clive Stuart & left at the end of 1969 to join Falcon.
Alan Bridges worked at Anerly and was backed by the MD Dave Goodall. He was a very able racer, rode a fast 25 mile TT, but struggled at professional level. Despondent after a couple of months he did only local events until the end of the year, when he was replaced by Mike Cowley.
Unfortunately the top frame in the Holdsworthy range (until at least Oct 69) was a tourer, the Fastback Super Mistral, so the first squad was given custom shop frames (based on the Colnago and approved by the riders. RT), made by Reg Collard. Reg was a craftsman, he produced 2-3 frames per week. Sometimes Reg would make them in the shop, other times at his home in Hemel Hempstead. They were enamelled by Broma Art Enamellers of Romford, London, whose orange was always lighter than the factory orange. Initially the Team frame (See Dale's) design was orange with kingfisher blue panels and large white letters, outlined in red. These frames were actually Holdsworth 'Italia range' Professionals. They had little stick-on italia decals on the fork blades (see Professional model page for details). There was no chrome plating on 1969 team bikes (Brod). "The Pro Team riders were usually issued with a new frame each year and their previous frame was re-enamelled and became their training bike or team spare".(RT)
1969 had its "settling in" difficulties, as would be expected.
Top UK Team 1970
was clear to Roy Thame and Holdsworthy that the frame position was not
ideal. The team promoted Holdsworthy products, yet the frame was not from
the factory range. Late in 1969 or early 1970 Bob Addy returned from Belgium
with a frame built to ultra close clearances. This feature so impressed
Holdsworthy they decided to adopt it on a new 'Professional' model. Features
of Reg Collard's WF Holdsworth Professional were adopted too, like longer
lug points. The Holdsworthy Professional appeared in 1970, but the team
still used WF Holdsworth Professional's for this year.
They raced in the Tour of Majorca, the 5 day Tour of Catalania, etc. Les West won the British Road Race Championship with Colin Lewis coming third. In the 1970 Vaux Grand Prix (its final year, won by Barry Hoban) Colin Lewis came second and Les West third.
Les entered the 1970 World Championship, a top one day race being held that year in Leicester. His preparation was far from ideal in August, "with two laps to go he dropped off the back of the bunch to the support car, he said he wanted to pack. After stern words he got back to the bunch. Next minute he was off in a four man break, with Felice Gimondi, that went to the line. We were amazed, he wanted to pack then he's off like a rocket. Les was no sprinter and, although it was close, he came in 4th" (Brod). This was a brilliant result, Les also won the Isle of Wight three day event, the Grand Prix de Nations time trial and other road races, 20 in all. The team had 23 victories, doing well in the Players Tour of the S.W.
In 1970 Holdsworth-Campagnolo became the top British racing team. It later became the most successful British Pro team of all time (Says Ken Denny, pointing out that the excellent Ti-Raleigh team was Dutch!). After an approach by International Cycle Sport, Les West completed his autobiography 'The West Way' in Dec 1970. On p51 he pays tribute to Hughie Woods and Kurt Schmidt who 'do all the mechanical jobs for us'.
The team car was often driven by Hughie Woods or Mike Shonleben, Roy Thame's nephew. Mike joined the company in 1971 and was still running the W.F.Holdsworth shop on the Lower Richmond Rd, thirty+ years later. Bob Addy resigned Nov/Dec 1971, said to be over a dispute with Roy regarding tactics. He later rode with some success for Ron Kitching.
Only Les West remained from the original line-up. In 1971 and 1972 Colin Lewis won the teams "Golden Wheel" Award for being the best all rounder in the squad. Peter Kisner was the Dutch National Champion 1970.
Gary Crewe was a top sprinter and roadman who promptly repaid Holdsworth by winning the 1972 BRRC with Les West second. "In that race all the teams just sat on HC, particularly on Les whose every move was countered. So Gary went up the road and scored a great victory, Les still came second" (Brod). After the 1972 season invitations arrived to compete in the prestigious European Classics.
In the 1973 BRRC Les West again came second, after losing a two man sprint finish with Carltons Brian Jolly. New team sub-sponsors were Cinelli, Mavic, Sedis and Clement. At the end of the year, Gary Crewe went to TI Raleigh Euro Team.
In 1975 Les West won the BRRC with Keith Lambert second. Colin Lewis retired from racing, with a total of 38 Professional victories to his credit. He set up the Colin Lewis cycle shop (Paignton?) in 1976. By 1976 Bob Addy was reinstated to the amateur class. This brochure (right) is after June 1976, but the pic is 1975.
Holdsworth-Campagnolo had now won 5 of the last 7 BRRC's, all gruelling road races of over 130 miles, in fact they had won the last 3 on the trot, an unprecedented record.
1974 BRRC was won by Holdsworth Campagnolo team
rider Keith Lambert.
Les West was a brilliant time trialist. He had a go at the London - Bath - London record. This was about 170 miles. They started about Reading early in the morning, with the idea of getting into (and out of) London before the traffic got heavy. Inside London Les soon dropped the support car (with Ray Robinson as mechanic) and built up a couple of minutes lead. However a motorist jumped a red light and collided with Les, his rear wheel was smashed. Les was unperturbed, he was well known for his laid back attitude to life, but it cost him minutes waiting for the support car and a new bike. He still broke the record.
Geoff Wiles took 3rd in the 1977 BRRC. Some European exploits were:
The team competed in the Pro Tour of Britain and Scottish Milk Race of
1977 and 1978. They rode the Paris-Roubaix in 1977. They entered the Amstel
Gold in Holland. Some Belgian tours, like the Tour of Flanders and the
Tour of Ghent. Also the Tour of Spain.
1978 The Professional frame lost the blue panels, changing to orange with blue lettering. The team vests were a new style too. Two new team cars, both Ford Cortina (Mark 3) estates, echoed the changes. 1978 Pro SL
1978 team pic was taken on "winter training"
on the Cote D'Azur in Feb 1978. Geoff Wiles stayed in the UK, to recover
from a collision with a car. This was the final Squad.
The cost of running a Pro Team successfully became too much, so the team was disbanded at the end of the 1978 season and Les West retired from racing. There were about 50 licensed pros in Britain, but the economic situation was very difficult, there had been high inflation in the 1970's and now severe industrial unrest. The recession killed advertising budgets. In 1979 the Tour of Britain was gone, by 1980 only three pro. teams remained; Carlton, Falcon and Viking. The low passed but it was the end of the Holdsworth-Campagnolo Pro Team.
Holdsworth sold a lot of bikes on the success of their racing team, for a couple of seasons the team colour scheme was their most popular finish.
Dudley Hayton came in third in the BRRC 1979 and 1980, second in 1985.
Les West joined Holdsworthy as a Sales Rep, it was thought his fame and popularity would guarantee his success, but he was such a nice guy he didn't like to push for orders. Bill Hurlow recalled that Les was absolutely elated when he arrived at Oakfield Rd with his first order, it was for a number of bikes, only to be told that Holdsworth had recently dropped that model! Les moved to BT and worked for 25 years as an Installation Engineer. He retired from competitive cycling in Oct 2010, one month before his 67th birthday, doing a two up time trial of over 25 miles with an average speed of 27mph!
With particular thanks to: