23 Jul 2012

Olympic archive: cyclist Phil Edwards (1972)

After their Tour de France success, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish will be stars at London 2012. How different from 1972, when Phil Edwards was living on his savings as he prepared for Munich.

In June 1972, ITN reporter Mark Andrews went north to cover the Milk Race (a British version of the Tour de France) and to speak to Olympic road cycling hopeful Phil Edwards about his preparations for the Munich Games, writes Ian Searcey.

Despite the considerable costs involved, Edwards, a 22-year-old former engineer from Bristol, had given up his job and was living on his savings to focus on cycling full time. The object of his gruelling race schedule was to win Britain’s first Olympic cycling gold medal for 64 years.

The Olympic road race was to be a one-day event of 120 miles, rather than the grind of the various stages of the 1,100 mile Milk Race. Once the Milk Race was over, a determined Edwards planned to complete four more races before leaving for Germany.

The ITN crew followed him and his team as they took on the 10th and longest Milk Race stage, over unclassified roads and up one-in-four hills. Competitors had to share the route with the usual traffic.

Crashes, punctures and injuries were a common hazard for riders who, in 1972, lacked the aerodynamic helmets and protective clothing used by cyclists today.

As we watch the racing pack power its way up a steep incline, a voiceover from Edwards describes the agony of climbing the hills, the need for metal toughness, and “101 other things” required of a good road cyclist for success.

After the race, Mark Andrews asks the cyclist to compare the rigours of the staged event with the planned Munich course. Asked what he learned on his recent visit to Germany about his opposition, the exhausted Edwards admits they are “hard to beat”.

At the Olympics in September of that year, Edwards finished sixth behind teammate Phil Bayton in the individual road race. He went on to ride professionally from 1976 to 1980. Britain did not achieve Olympic cycling success until 1992, when Chris Boardman won gold in the individual track pursuit.