Mark Cavendish has followed in the tracks of some of the biggest names in British cycling, as well as a number of less heralded and nowadays almost forgotten ones, in being named the 2011 winner of the Bidlake Memorial Plaque.
Graham Thompson, Secretary and Treasurer of the FT Bidlake Memorial Trust said “In a year when he won 5 stages of the Tour de France, was the first Briton to win the Green Jersey, won the UCI Road World Championships and was appointed an MBE, Mark Cavendish was the clear winner for the 2011 Award.”
The award, presented annually since 1934, is named in honour of FT Bidlake, who died at the age of 66 the previous year three weeks after being hit by a car as he descended Barnet Hill on his bike, just four months before he had been due to retire to his ancestral home at Great Bidlake in Devon.
Bidlake had set a number of Road Racing Association tricycle records during the 1890s, and also set a 24-hour tricycle ride benchmark at the Herne Hill track of 410 miles, 1,110 yards that would still stand at the time of his death four decades later.
He would go on to become an able administrator, both with the Road Records Association and the Cyclists’ Touring Club. It was his idea to institute the Cyclists’ War Memorial at Meriden, in what is now the West Midlands.
Past winners include some of the greatest names in British cycling on both the road and the track, with the likes of Tom Simpson, Reg Harris, Chris Boardman, Graeme Obree, Sean Yates, Beryl Burton, Mandy Jones, Yvonne McGregor and Nicole Cooke all figuring on the role of honour – although Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Barry Hoban, Robert Millar and Victoria Pendleton are among some notable absentees.
Those cyclists whose exploits are unknown beyond these shores have been recognised too, with recent examples being time trial powerhouses Michael Hutchinson and Julia Shaw.
Broadcasters, too are honoured – David Duffield in 1998, and Channel 4 boss Jeremy Isaacs in 1984 for bringing the Tour de France to a wider audience – while Dave Brailsford was honoured in 2008 for masterminding Great Britain’s success at the Beijing Olympics.
Also featured are cartoonist John Helms and artist Frank Patterson, the latter’s citation in 1944 emphasising what is delightfully called his “joyous delineation” of cycling.
But perhaps more than anything, the list of winners reflects those who work for cycling unstintingly behind the scenes, including administrators at national level and organisers of local races, often giving up their time with no reward other than the satisfaction of contributing to the sport they love.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.