Reminiscing on the Milk Race

50 years after competing as an amateur in the renowned British cycling event, George Harlock speaks to James Davies for this week’s First Person

By James Davies   |   Reporter   |
Saturday 6th August 2022 12:00 pm
@ThatJamesDavies
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George Harlock in action in the 1972 Milk Race
George Harlock in action in the 1972 Milk Race (N/A )

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IN THE 1960s and 70s the annual Milk Race was a focal point in the British events calendar, as people lined the streets to see cyclists from across the world.

However, while many people watched from the sidelines, some were lucky enough to take part in the race.

George Harlock, 71, was one of those lucky few; 50 years on, he is looking back at his time in the race.

In 1972, George was an aspiring amateur cyclist who had competed in a number of events across the world, however, when he received a telegram informing him of his inclusion in the Tour of Britain, otherwise known as the Milk Race, he was ecstatic.

“I wanted to be the first Brit to win the Tour de France and being part of the Milk Race could be an opportunity to get noticed,” George told the Cambrian News.

Despite initially being named “third reserve”, due to a series of fortunate events, George found himself in a complete team of last-minute reserves who would be competing alongside the other teams during the race.

“I had two weeks’ notice to prepare for a 14-day race which covered over 1,000 miles, I certainly wasn’t prepared for such a race and was really, well out of my league,” he said.

The race, which took place 50 years ago this year, would see its competitors cycle from Brighton, into Wales, through Aberystwyth before diverting to Sheffield, the North East and finally into Blackpool.

“Port Talbot to Aberystwyth was stage four of the race,” George explained. “I remember coming into the town and there being a massive sprint up Marine Terrace to the finish.

“At the end of each stage they used to have a milk bar, where athletes could come and have a pint of milk. I remember standing at the bar, it was quite a wet day, and Pete Mathews, who was part of the British B team, crashed and he slipped on his back all the way to the milk bar, immediately he stood up and asked for a drink.”

George returned to Aberystwyth to retrace his steps and experience some of the area.

“When you’re racing you don’t get to see much of the areas that you go to, you ride in, eat, maybe get a massage, sleep and you’re off again the next morning,” he explained.

“While I’m back it’s great to see more of the town and reminisce over some of the place that I did get to see all those years ago, I’ve even been retracing some of the routes.”

Despite some of the happy memories, George still remembers the difficulty of the race.

“Not all of the memories are fond, racing hurts and it hurts a lot,” he said. “By the end we were just riding to finish the thing.

“Of the 55 finishers, I came 54th which I don’t think is too bad, considering.”

Five decades later, George still rides the same bike today and is happy to be re-experiencing some of the Welsh portion of his journey all those years ago, but this time, he’s chosen to do it in his car.

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