Cast of thousands perform Cycle Song opera about Scunthorpe grass track cyclist

Video: Albert 'Lal' White was a steelworker by day, Olympic cyclist by night

by Sarah Barth   July 15, 2012  

Cycle-Song

Thousands of people turned out in Scunthorpe this weekend to watch a community opera celebrating Albert 'Lal' White, who worked as a steelworker by day and trained at night to win an Olympic silver cycling medal in the 1920 Antwerp Games.

Cycle Song had a cast of thousands, including 910 child singers and 250 adult singers, and the whole town became involved, sending in letters, photos and personal memories of Lal to help research the project.

One of those who got in touch was the poet Ian McMillan, who wrote the libretto. The score was written by Tim Sutton, a judge on BBC3’s Choir of the Year.

Lal, who is still regarded as one of Britain's greatest grass track cyclists, is also credited with one of the most important inventions still used in modern cycle training.

There was no track within 30 miles of Scunthorpe, so Lal and his brother invented the static trainer, using mangle rollers and a drive belt - the prototype for rollers still used today. The creation enabled Lal to train into the night, after a day's work at the steel plant.

In 1920 his hard work paid off when he won four British titles and was picked for three of the four track cycling events in the Olympic Games in Antwerp. He went on to win an Olympic silver medal in the 4,000m team pursuit.

Lal died aged 75 in 1965.

Cycle Song was part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad; a series of cultural events across the country this summer. It secured £70,000 in funding via the Yorkshire and Humber region’s Olympic legacy intiative, called imove.