Dozens ride out in memory of road race anniversary and cycle champion Percy Stallard

Dozens of cyclists tested their pedal power as they took part in a special road cycle event to mark 75th anniversary of Britain's first ever road race, which had its birthplace in Wolverhampton.

The road cycle took place on Saturday outside of number 30, Broad Street, Wolverhampton, which was once home to the cycle shop of Percy Stallard.

The cyclists all pedalled to the Wolverhampton Archives, based on Whitmore Hill, to celebrate Percy's legacy.

Percy, who competed for Great Britain during the 1930s, was a member of the Wolverhampton Wheelers club and current members of the club were those that cycled in his memory.

Arrival at the Archives

He is considered to be the man that brought road race cycling to Britain and organised and championed the historic 59 mile cycle road race.

Despite opposition at the time from the National Cyclists' Union, Percy organised the race for 40 cyclists who rode from Llangollen to Wolverhampton on 7 June, 1942.

Stallard narrowly beat fellow Wulfrunian Cecil James Anslow in the race. It came after Cecil, who was also a member of the Wolverhampton Wheelers took a slight wrong turn at Tettenhall.

He won support from police and got sponsorship from Express & Star.

The successful 'rebellion' led to the creation in 1942 of the British League of Racing Cyclists,

Visitors in the Rococo Room

Dave Brookes, committee member of the club said: "We had all ages join us for this ride out. The youngest was eight years old and our oldest members are in their 80s.

"I think it was very important to mark what Percy did for cycling. Now, of course, cycling is in the public consciousness with racers such as Bradley Wiggins and alike, but back when Percy was bringing this in, there was no option for British cyclists to race on the road.

"We were lagging behind the continent until Percy did what he did and now he has opened up road racing to British people in England where there wasn't opportunity before."

The cycle event ended at the Archives where an exhibition is currently underway of restored Stallard bikes, a Sunbeam and other Wolverhampton-made bicycles. They are displayed alongside displays, photographs and memories about the ground-breaking race and Percy himself.

Percy Stallard

Luke Willans, aged 37 of Newbridge, provided nine of the Stallard bikes ranging from ones made in 1947 to 1967. He said: "Percy changed the face of road cycling forever. He was a real pioneer. Without him we wouldn't have the road racing we have today.

"I have always had a passion for cycles ever since the age of six. I have an ever-growing collection of bikes but these ones are the most historic in terms of Percy. I wanted to put on the exhibition to show people the contribution he made to the sport and how important he still is."

Collections officer at Wolverhampton Archives, Jon Everall, organised the event. He said: "I am extremely pleased and proud about the how the event has gone. Self evidently by the amount of people that visited us today, he is still a very important and indeed popular figure in Wolverhampton history and I'm happy that we've been able to mark his legacy in such a fitting way."

The exhibition of the bikes at the archives is due to finish today (MON) but a small display about Percy Stallard and the history of the Llangollen to Wolverhampton race will remain at the archives for a couple of weeks.

Percy died on August 11 2001 aged 92.

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