Above: Left to right: Axe Valley Wheelers’ Alistair Cope, Milk Race legend Roy Hopkins and British Cycling’s Andy Parker enjoying a stiff March breeze on Teignmouth beach.
Alistair Cope, a member of the Axe Valley Pedallers cycle club, working as a cycle adviser for The Prostate Cancer Charity, recently met up with both Andy Parker, Regional Events Officer for British Cycling, and local cycling legend Roy Hopkins. It was a blustery day on the seafront of Roy’s hometown Teignmouth and so the three took shelter in a cafe and huddled round a table with mugs of hot tea in their hands to discuss, as well you might guess, ‘cycling’!
They had arranged a meeting because this year Teignmouth is going to host the finish of the Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Ride on 5th September and, this being Roy’s home for the last 22 years, it was time to hear about his astonishing record that was set in the Milk Race of 1962, a record that to this day has not been broken.
Roy is a wonderful ambassador for cycling and despite a bad accident last year, he laughed and smiled as he talked about his extraordinary achievements. He described how he would work all day in a quarry and still manage to find the time and energy to cycle 450 miles a week as part of his training! He modestly recollected how he represented Great Britain in a race in Yugoslavia, but his smile was greatest when he recalled the day that he set the fastest stage victory in the Milk Race, a race today now known as the Tour of Britain, and a race with a stage finish in Teignmouth this year.
It was fitting that the windblown waves were crashing onto the beach outside the cafe window, as on the day that Roy set his record, the peloton were blessed with a strong tailwind on their route from Northampton to Skegness. The race was progressing well when Roy managed to cross from the main Peloton to a breakaway group of about nine riders who then managed to hold a steady distance from the main group for quite some time. However, Roy could see the peloton reeling them in and so with 30 miles of the 102 mile still stage to go, he bravely jumped from the breakaway group to try and go on his own.
A Czechoslovakian rider broke with him and the two battled on for a few miles, however Roy had to do all the work and so decided to press hard and go it alone. Roy rode the last 27 miles solo, and at the finish his average time for the stage was an astonishing 29.83 mph! – the fastest average time for a stage then or since, which, considering how technology has improved bikes makes his achievements so worthy of recognition today. Well done Roy!
This year, on 5th September, cyclists will get to experience just what it’s like to ride a stage of the Tour of Britain race. The Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Ride is a partnership between The Tour of Britain and The Prostate Cancer Charity and is a unique opportunity for riders of all ages to experience Britain’s best bike, ride and to help a great cause. The ride will offer a memorable day out for the whole family, whether you are a sportive rider looking for a goal to set your sights on or just a leisurely spin with the family. There are three different rides and they all finish in Roy’s home town of Teignmouth, details of which can be found at www.tourride.co.uk an event not to be missed and don’t forget to look out for Roy and say “well done” on his 38 year lasting record.
Clearly his stand out victory was that of his 1962. T.O.B. stage win but, amongst over 30 wins, twice taking national road titles, twice winning the Ras de Cymru and taking the Devon and Cornwall Championships – when he was already a veteran – are just some of his major achievements.
Fortunately, I got to see and chat with him a couple of weeks ago and, although very frail, he was still bright as a button. When I misquoted his average speed for that memorable stage win sixty years ago, Roy immediately corrected me!
I believe he first earned the monicker ‘Iron Man’ when he worked at Stoneycombe Quarry, where he was able to load the lorries faster and more efficiently than the mechanised equipment that had been brought in to replace him! His strength was later confirmed by his outstanding cycling ability.
Roy was a great clubman and fiercely proud of being a member of the Mid-Devon. He always had a cheery greeting and big smile when he met you out cycling; a sport he had a lifetime passion for. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Ron Keegan – Vice President MDCC
Great memory’s of Roy and seeing him race, a real hard man of the roads and always had a winning smile. Best wishes to all his family.
RIP Legend! Roy, Keep stamping on the pedals with Colin up there!
What a legend. I’m too young to have seen him racing but am honoured to have one of his cycling jerseys from the 1963 Milk Race.
A hard man and a gentleman to race with. Too many good men leaving us.
Ken, Colin and Roy all stalwarts of the highest order RIP Roy.
Very sad to hear that RIP Roy
Sorry to hear this Graham. I didn’t know Roy at all but remember riding evening 10’s in the early 1970’s whilst on holiday and invariably he won them. Rest in peace Roy
In 1962 Roy was part of our ” Southern Team ” in the Milk Race ( or Tour of Britain) , my small part was as team mechanic hence my meeting him for the 2 weeks of the Tour.The team manager was Maurice Cumberworth and Masseur the late George Addy ( R.I.P.) .Roy’s outstanding ride in that Tour was his stage 8 win ,from Northampton to Skegness at 102 Miles in a time of 3hr-30mts-42secs which was a record and fastest stage at over 29 mph.The photo shows him with his ” Pinta-milk” and on the left of photo is team Manager M.C. One of the other inputs on this page mentioned him on board his ” Holdsworth ‘ bike , many of our Southern Team had the same bikes Mick Shea , Jim Hinds, and two others I re-call , as my life long friend the late Jack Hearne was a Main Dealer for “Holdsworth ” he arranged for them to send mechanics out around the course to help me with the daily servicing of the bikes , with me aged only 16 yrs I was very glad that Roy was on such a famous brand of bike .At the end of the 62 Tour Roy finished in 19th position . My sincerest condolences to his family ,R.I.P. Roy Hopkins. ” Jaffa” CRC.