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The Complete Story, plus some tales!
When veteran cycling began in Victoria in the 1970s there was no club in the Geelong area specifically catering for veteran riders.
A number of Geelong riders were competing in veterans events elsewhere, particularly those organised by Northern Veterans Cycling Club.
As interest in the sport grew among Geelong riders, larger numbers began to travel to races. Some of these riders discussed the possibility of establishing a local veterans club.
A meeting was held at the Geelong West Cycling Club rooms on October 14, 1977.
Fifteen people attended the meeting which was chaired by Mr. J. J. Stewart from the Northern Veterans Cycling Club.
That night, the Geelong Veteran Cycling Club was up and running with an elected committee and a bank account containing $20, thanks to a donation from the Northern Veterans Veterans Club.
Reg Marriner was elected the first president, Stan Howard vice-president and Neville Densley secretary.
The committee wasted no time and the first race run by the club was held on November 3, 1977.
It was a graded scratch event on a Thursday at 6:30 p.m. starting on the Fyansford-Gheringhap Road, Stonehaven. Riders competed in three grades.
The results were:
‘A’ Grade – 16km: 1st Neville Densley 2nd Bill Mantova 3rd John Elliot.
‘B’ Grade – 16km: 1st Stan Rosani 2nd Ray Aldridge, 3rd Michael Mitten.
‘C’ Grade – 8km: 1st Hans Schwidlewski 2nd John Windsor 3rd Harold Barley.
The club’s first handicap race was the 1977 Christmas Handicap at Stonehaven over a 16km course, won by Lance Hamilton with Wal Hazelwood second and Paul Foster third. Fastest time went to Syd Jennings.
The early days
Ten weeks after the club’s first race, 30 riders were turning out for the Thursday twilight scratch races and D grade was added to the race list.
At this early stage, almost half of all members were Alcoa employees. For many of these riders, they trained to and from work with fellow employees.
The Alcoa newsletter regularly included articles about their veteran cyclists. Indeed, they had their own Alcoa motif on the front of their jerseys and were often referred to as the “Alcoa mafia”. The club’s first jerseys were orange with black sleeves.
Alcoa supported the riders with donations. A perpetual trophy became known as the Alcoa Aggregate and was keenly contested during the winter season.
This trophy bears the inscription “To the Geelong Veteran Cyclists, from the Ex-Yanks of Alcoa’. (The company also generously donated $500 to the ‘Dunny Money fund’ to assist construction of toilets once the club moved to Paraparap.)
Move to Paraparap
Stonehaven was deemed a dangerous course and discussions between Reg Marriner (president Geelong Veteran Cycling Club) and Richard Buckwell (Geelong Amatuer Cycling Club, now Geelong Cycling Club) turned to looking for a safer location.
Sunday morning races began on March 15, 1978, at the Robbs Road circuit at Sutherlands Creek. No race took place on the March 26. Instead, riders met at Waurn Ponds and rode to Paraparap to investigate a proposed circuit and decide if it would be a suitable venue for future events.
The following weekend, the first race by veteran cyclists was held at Paraparap. The GVCC and GACC used the new course, starting and finishing at the gum trees in Grays Road.
GACC chose to race on Saturdays and GVCC on Sundays. To qualify to be a member of GVCC you had to be 40 years old and belong to the League of Victorian Wheelsmen (LVW) who were professional.
By September of 1978, the club had grown to the point where it was able to host the Veteran State Titles.
The event was held at Queenscliff and attracted a large field of riders. The best performing Geelong entrant was Bill Mantova who won the 50-54 age group race.
The organisation of this event drew strong praise from competitors and gained strong media exposure for the sport. The Geelong Veterans Cycling Club had now made it into the headlines.
In the early days of racing at Paraparap and, with the finishing line in Grays Rd between the dip and the extension of Hendy Main Road, it was decided to build an “amenity building” for the comfort of riders and spectators among the gum trees near the intersection.
The amenity building was a timber outhouse with a pit toilet and was known for decades as ‘Daves Dunny’ in honour of its designer Dave Scarsi.
For a considerable time this was the only facility available to club members but, as numbers increased, this proved to be inadequate.
In around 1982, the Victorian Veterans Cycling Council (VVCC) was founded to bring together veteran clubs under a single umbrella organisation. Ties were cut with the LVW.
Members of the new VVCC included:
- Geelong Veterans Cycling Club (now GSCC)
- Eureka Cycling Club
- Northern Cycling Club
- Eastern Cycling Club
- Hume Cycling Club
- Bendigo Cycling Club
- Grampians Cycling Club
- Warrnambool Cycling Club
- Colac Cycling Club
- Southern Cycling Club
- Goulburn Valley Cycling Club
The next big step occurred in 1985 when the club began efforts to secure and develop permanent clubrooms at the triangular corner of Hendy Main Road and Grays Road.
The site was previously the Paraparap State School (No. 3634) which opened on 12 December 1909 near what is now the junction of Hunts Road and Hendy Main Road. It initially operated part-time, sharing a teacher with nearby Pettavel State School, but operated full-time by 1912. The school “was the heart of the district” and “served as both meeting hall and church”. A tennis court was built opposite the school in 1926. The school closed on 9 November 1951 due to lack of student numbers. We are unsure when the school building was moved or demolised, leaving a vacant block.
Sometime after this, the finish line was moved to Hendy Main Road, about 700 metres east of the club rooms, near Giddings Road.
Lance Hamilton, while he was president of the club, negotiated use of the old pine plantation opposite the Paraparap tennis courts.
The land was controlled by Moriac Primary School and through the agreement, ‘Daves Dunny’ was relocated to its new home.
A lot of effort was required to clear the old student plantation site which had not been used for a long period. Tom Finning, with his bobcat and truck, levelled the site to enable construction of a club house.
Through the efforts of a dedicated group of members, construction of the shed was completed in 1987. It was dedicated to Alec Maurer for his contribution to the project and is today used as the men’s change room.
In 1990, the second iron shed was added. Much of the planning and construction came from Geoff Regan who enlisted a bunch of willing helpers.
During this time, Pyramid Building Society became insolvent and all the club’s savings were lost. Club member Peter Hosking came to the rescue and provided the club with a line of credit which enabled it to remain financially viable. During this period club members agreed to forfeit their prize money to enable the debt to be repaid.
The generator and storage shed was built with money from raffles held after club races and at the Bay View Hotel and Carlton Hotel, neither of which now exist.
By 1992, club membership had grown to more than 100, making the Geelong Veteran Cycling Club one of the largest cycling clubs in Australia.
Also in 1992, some more mature members created the SuperVets group which raced Wednesday mornings and was open to members aged 60 plus. Racing also now attracts women aged 50 plus.
These members were looking for a “fun” social outing with the initial “races” being three laps of the home circuit, but with the first two neutral.
The first race had seven starters and was won by Neil Freeman with fastest time going to Billy Mantova.
SuperVets membership steadily grew to 15/20 riders with an entry fee of $3 and prize money paid to only 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
SuperVets continues to thrive today, racing most Wednesday mornings and is an important and successful section of the club.
In the 1990’s the club was well known and respected throughout the competitive cycling community.
When Jack Griffin, Brian Stephens, Alf Ewins and Tony Spark set a new record riding around Australia they ensured the Geelong Veterans Cycling Club shared the limelight.
During this period, women did a huge amount of work around the club. Marilyn Harbison took entries, Dorris Freeman prepared food with her husband and Life Member Neil Freeman and Val Bent managed the kitchen. Marilyn also served on the club committee, becoming a Life Member in 1998, while Val was awarded Life Membership in 2011.
The kitchen wing was constructed by Jeff Deans and was extended in 2013 with the addition of the women’s change rooms, supported by Terry Robinson and David Phillips. Building was partly funded with a grant from the State and Local Government.
Works were co-ordinated by members John Hilsdon, Carl Judd and Terry Robinson with support from many other members. Brad Keating did the ground works, Mark Richardson (Local Mix) the concrete slab and Grant Rogers the plumbing and water tanks.
In 2010, club secretary David Phillips negotiated with the Victorian Education Department a 25-year lease agreement for the present site, securing it until at least 2035.
Throughout its occupation of the Paraparap site, the club has been off grid, relying on tank water and a diesel generator for power. The site has also benefited from many members, notably Chris de Crescendo and Richard Buckwell, offering to maintain the grounds.
In 2013, GVCC held the Australian Veterans Cycling Championships which was mainly organised and led by Richard Buckwell and David Phillips. Road races, a 25km time trial and crit races were great successes and well received from veteran cycling members across Australia.
In December 2014, the club changed its name to Geelong & Surf Coast Cycling Club and in the following year began Thursday twilight criterium racing on the Belmont track, which was opened in 2010 for the World Road Championships held in Geelong.
The finish line at Paraparap was also moved to Larcombes Road, to provide a safer, less congested area to manage races.
In 2016, the club erected a roof over the quadrangle between the sheds to shelter riders from winter chills and the heat of summer. Then president Kane Airey drafted and planned the development.
The club held its 40th anniversary race and event at Paraparap on the November 5, 2017, with a very good turn out and many past members attending.
In 2017, six solar panels with battery backup were added to the main shed to power a new electric fridge (replacing the old gas model) and providing power for other equipment.
The club also invested in a new electronics timing system “Mylaps” during the year, with Rick Buckwell taking the lead to operate the system and accurately capture race results.
The club’s first female president, Tina Stenos, was elected in 2018 and has worked very hard to increase female participation and lead the club.
In 2020, the men’s toilet was renovated with planning again by Kane Airey and construction by member Darren Williams. Ground works were also completed to improve the septic system which dates back to 1993. The club also installed a water pump, providing mains pressure water to the system.
During the history of the club, all races have paid prize money, except for the period where it was forfeited by members to keep the club financially viable.
Competition has always been fierce and during the first few decades the old practices of “the jug” were often organised to try to take the winnings.
“The jug” involved small clusters of riders in a bunch working together, usually for the person allocated to “win” the race. His mates would sacrifice themselves to frustrate the bunch and lead their man to the line.
After presentations of trophies and prize money back at the clubrooms, members of “the jug” would disappear from the crowd to share out their winnings. The winner always took home the trophy, plus his share of the money.
Those deemed not to be pulling their weight in a bunch were severely verballed and brought forward to contribute to the chase down of the front markers.
Taking the prize money seemed to be a hangover from decades gone by when an envelope of cash won on a Sunday morning might be a handy boost to your week’s wages.
In the 2000s, members still like to win the coveted cash but deals, intrigue and “the jug” seem to have fortunately disappeared from the tactics.
In 2020, a new national cycling body “AusCycling” was formed to represent all cyclists across the country from Olympians to social riders, and everything in between.
The club consulted members and received overwhelming support to transfer its affiliation from Veteran Cycling Victoria and the Australian Veteran Cycling Council to AusCycling as a “Masters Club” servicing the members aged 30 plus.
All of the benefits that club members enjoy are due to the dedication and hard work of those who give up their time, money and effort to support the club.
Club members owe a great debt to those who raise money, construct and maintain the rooms, organise races and social events, officiate on the road, cook, clean up and serve drinks week after week so riders can enjoy a road race.
Never forget that all of these people are volunteers.
The information used for this article was supplied by unofficial club historians Vic Maurer, Reg Marriner (club handbook 1994 edition), Richard Buckwell and Marcus Coppock with help from many contributors and will continue to be updated.
Sometimes it’s not all about the racing.
There’s always one galah in any club. Ours arrived on a cool April morning in 2016, when Colin Hooper was referee for a GSCC handicap race starting in Grassdale Road. The limit markers had set off and the middle markers were awaiting their turn.
Suddenly, a flock of galahs wheeled overhead and descended to the roadside near the riders.
One disoriented galah landed on the referees’ shoulder but lost its grip as Colin sent the next group away. It fluttered across to the helmet of Paul BIRD!
The bird perched there quite happily waiting for Bird’s group to start. Amazingly, the galah clung happily to Bird’s helmet for a few hundred metres up Hendy Main Road until it decided the pace was too high and took to the air.
Note: The galah was banded, so was probably a pet escapee who had joined a wild flock.
Photo credit: Marcus Coppock.
The new millennium heralded a shift in social attitudes which also was reflected in bike racing, with a stronger focus on on-road respect and enjoyment.
The years leading up to the nineties had brought with them practices of strong aggression riding for the money.
Perhaps, this was a symptom of the professional racing circuit where bookies were on course and riders chased handsome winnings. There were many country carnivals and velodrome events that paid well.
At the club level, however, cash prizes were minor but still vied for.
So strong was the drive to take home the cash, that different training groups from seaside towns, Geelong suburbs and bike shop bunches would train among themselves and team up during races to set up victories for their own groups.
The race day “jug” was common. Jugs were formed by small groups who worked together to thwart others and to get their sprinter “the pea” across the line to take the winnings. The prizemoney – “the chop” – was shared among members of the jug.
New riders could easily fall victim to their practices. Nominated jug members would continually make dummy attacks to provoke a chase and wear down the others. This could occur in handicaps and scratch bunches.
Riders from the nineties recalled yelling and screaming and overt intimidation during racing events. If an outsider won a race, they could even be approached later to share their prize money based on a spurious claim that jug members helped them. Naturally, you would refuse.
In 2021, you no longer hear the words jug, the chop or the pea in club racing and you won’t witness any of the on-road behaviour associated with the chase for money.
Bike riders have always pushed the limit when buying lighter, more responsive bikes. When Shamal aero wheels hit the international circuit, club scratch riders had to have them.
In the mid 1990s, Marcus Coppock led the charge with a pair of the 16-spoke, Campagnolo wheels weighing it at just 1165 grams. It was said aero wheels would give you a considerable advantage, not that Coppock needed it. He received them for Father’s Day.
Shortly after, half a dozen riders had them.
Gear levers on the down tube then moved up to the brake levers. You could now disguise your gear shifting and even change gear in a sprint without sitting down and reaching for the down-tube shifters.
Clipless pedals came into vogue, replacing toe clips and flimsy leather lace-ups. Power was now more effectively transferred directly to the stiff sole which was clipped into the pedal.
Cinelli’s Spinaci clip-on handle bar extensions also made a brief appearance between 1993 and 1997. They increased a rider’s aerodynamics on the front of a bunch. It was claimed they could increase your speed by 4 or 5kmh. A great advantage. They were used by Tour de France riders but banned because they were unsafe in the bunch.
In the early nineties, the best frames were made from 531 Reynolds alloy steel tubing. They’d been the choice of riders for almost 60 years.
Aluminium was the next fad, featuring oversize down tubes for stiffness. In the mid 1990s, Geelong bike builder Ken Evans developed the Evolution frame which was popular in clubs and also on the professional circuit such as The Sun Tour.
Another local brand was KHS. Club member Geoff Regan made them in his East Geelong shed.
Titanium frames were quite exotic and made rare appearances until composite materials began to be trusted by bike riders.
Look and Trek were early brands to appear at club level. Carbon fibre caught on in a great rush and eventually took over frames, wheel sets, crank sets and handlebars.
The weight of club bikes rapidly reduced to under 10kg. Cycling’s governing body, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) has long imposed a minimum weight of 6.8kg for bikes in any of its sanctioned races – the Tour de France included..
Tyres also changed. Singles tyres were glued to the rim creating less resistance, were lighter and could be changed more easily on the road without the use of levers. Clinchers are now the most popular weighing in as low as 220grams at 25mm width.
In the nineties, some riders attached a home-made specially shaped wire off the rear brake callipers which would sit lightly on the spinning tyre to remove any object that might be picked up and cause a puncture.
The rider who “half wheeled” others to gain a greater wind advantage has mostly disappeared. A very dangerous practice, it involved a following rider riding with his front wheel half way across the back wheel of a bike in front. Should one of these riders make the slightest twitch both often ended up on the road.
Drinking a few beers after club races was popular among some. They would stock up the club fridge with their own cans or stubbies for post-race refreshments, which often lasted until late into the afternoon.
Raffles after Sunday races raised vital funds for the club. Members donated items to the raffle and club officials sold tickets before the trophy presentations. Doris and Neil Freeman did the catering each Sunday.
For the annual Christmas Handicap, everyone brought a plate and even Santa would arrive in the back of the ute for a big family day celebration.
The story continues – Watch this space