New Forest with Trevor Fenwick
DISTANCE 34 miles (55km)
MAIN CLIMB No big hills, only undulations
TOTAL CLIMB 200 metres
ACHTUNG! Straying animals in the New Forest
Trevor Fenwick has been cycling since he was 10. That’s 68 years of experiences and achievements.
Fenwick was a pioneer of road racing when it began in this country. He was one of the first racers to try his luck in Belgium. He has won national titles. He coached his son, Sean, to become a top racer in the Seventies and Eighties, and since then he has returned to racing and won a multitude of titles as a veteran.
This year Fenwick is the national road race, criterium and time trial champion, and he holds the hour record for his age group. It’s been a long journey that started with a two-week cycle tour in North Wales during the Second World War.
Once peace came, Fenwick, like many cyclists of a similar age, found himself embroiled in a war that was raging within the sport. “Cycling’s governing body, the NCU, wouldn’t allow massed start racing on the open road, but that was what many of us loved because we’d read about the great riders on the continent — Fausto Coppi and the like. The British League of Racing Cyclists was formed to promote road racing, but the NCU’s reaction to
it bordered on hatred.
“Even the forerunner of Cycling Weekly promoted propaganda against the BLRC, saying that if these tearaways were allowed to race in bunches on the open road then all cyclists risked being banned. It was a bad time, but road racing won through because it was more attractive to youngsters than the private code of time trialling with its single fixed gears, dark clothes and secrecy.”
The glamour of racing like they did on the continent saw Fenwick join the BLRC and progress to racing as an independent in Britain, which was like a semi-professional category, but he couldn’t wait to sample the real thing. “I heard that in Belgium you could race every day, so in March 1953 I headed for Ghent,” says Fenwick.
Armed only with a bike and a WH Smith teach yourself Dutch phrase book, Fenwick got permission to race and found himself lining up for the Independent version of Het Volk.
“I got to what I thought was the finish in first place, but I didn’t know then that you went over the line and did a lap of the town before the real finish. I was overtaken and finished eighth. Fred de Bruyne won; a few years later he was a full pro, winning Paris-Roubaix,” Fenwick recalls.
Fenwick is from Manchester but retired to Bournemouth after a couple of extended periods of working there. “It’s an ideal place for a cyclist. I often start my rides by going along the seafront, then I go by a variety of cycle paths and little lanes into the New Forest,” he explains.
It’s a cloudy October day with a fresh wind blowing off the sea, but Fenwick is soon into his stride, along the front and up a steep little climb before starting the leg to Christchurch. It’s no problem for a man who finished Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “They were on consecutive days when I did them and were called the Weekend Ardennaise. It was 1955 and they were the full pro versions, but I rode them without support. I just took two bottles and enough food in my pockets to last.”
Fenwick finished both Classics in around 30th place. He was making a name for himself and was offered a place in the great Belgian rider Rik Van Looy’s team, but Fenwick’s personal situation prevented him continuing. “The bottom was falling out of paid racing in Britain. The independent licence ended and you had to be a full pro. There was one big pro team, Hercules, who were racing on the continent and did the Tour de France in 1955, but that seemed to put other sponsors off. I was married and buying a house in England, so I decided to say goodbye to top sport and concentrate on another career.”
He didn’t stop cycling, though. As he pedals north through the forest, pointing out the best places to take pictures, his love of cycling is still plain to see.
Even when he wasn’t racing Fenwick set himself challenges. “I did the Paris-Brest-Paris in 1987, it took me 72 hours and I only slept for six,” he tells me. “Of all the events I’ve ridden it was the most amazing and rewarding. You could be taking the biggest hammering, really going through a bad patch, then come into a village and there would be hundreds of people cheering you on. I remember thinking, they can’t be for real, they must be from rent-a-crowd. They’d be out even in the dark.”
We stop for lunch in Burley with Cycling Weekly’s fitness editor Hannah Reynolds, top duathlete Phil Mosley and pro racer Dan Lloyd, who has his American coach Hunter Allen with him. Fenwick says, “I’ve got a lot of time for Danny. He’s from this area and he hasn’t let anything put him off progressing to where he is today.” His admiration for a man who is doing what he tried to do half a century ago is clear.
From Burley, Fenwick’s long and low riding style makes light work of the headwind as he rides along the right bank of the river Avon. Past Bournemouth airport and the final leg along the busy, wide but bike-friendly A347 sees Fenwick safely back home.
He’s keen as ever for his next race, the LVRC track champs at Newport on the first weekend of November. After that he’s going to try something new and will join his son who stayed in France after racing there in the legendary ACBB club with the likes of Allan Peiper and Sean Yates.
“My son runs a sports centre near Paris, so since I’m on my own here after my wife died last year I decided to move nearer to him and my three grandchildren. I’ve rented a flat to see if I like living there first though,” says Fenwick, a man who has plenty to look back on but who has never stopped looking forward.
YOUR GUIDE: TREVOR FENWICK
- Age 78, born in Manchester, lives in Bournemouth, retired.
- After a career as an electrical engineer, Fenwick worked for a while as a cycling journalist and photographer for the Bournemouth Echo newspaper and other media.
- In the early fifties Fenwick was Reg Harris’s training partner. Harris was the last British sprint champion before Chris Hoy.
- He regularly rides 125 miles from Le Havre to visit his son in Paris.
From the A347/A3049 roundabout in Bournemouth, follow the A3049 south-east to Boscombe then south on unclassified to the seafront, where turn left (TL) and go along the front. Turn right (TR) on B3059. TR on A35 and TR on unclassified to cross the river Avon in Christchurch. TL on unclassified to cross A35 at roundabout and continue north on B3347.
TR at Burton, TL on unclassified to Thorney Hill. TR to Burley. TR on unclassified, then TL on unclassified again and TL to Burley Street. TL on B3347. TR on unclassified to Hurn and join the B3073. TL on A347 and head back