Thursday, 22 March 2012

1956 Olympic Road Race


Road Race

The road race was held on a circuit at Broadmeadows about 12 miles from the centre

of the city, on Friday, 7th December. The distance of the race was 187.7315 kilometres (116

miles 1,144 yards) according to a survey made by the Royal Australian Survey Corps for the

Organizing Committee, and consisted of eleven laps of 17.0665 kilometres (10 miles 1,064 yards)

over an undulating road which had a few steep slopes.

In the morning the weather was mild, indeed perfect for the road ; the afternoon,

however, was rather warm. For many participants these conditions proved a telling factor.

The race started a little late because two Irish cyclists not belonging to an affiliated

association tried to start ; they were removed.

In this trial there were two classes—individual and team : In the individual class 88

participants represented 28 nations ; 20 nations competed in the team section.

The early stages of the race were rather quiet with the stronger cycling nations' teams

trying to test the strength of the others. After the third lap the pressure was applied.

Because of this, and the heat of the day, many riders were left behind. The fast tempo of the

race was maintained until the fifth lap when feeding was allowed. During this time, one of

the few falls of the race occurred when Trickey (Australia) had a food-bag tangle in his front

wheel, causing him to fall heavily ; an Ethiopian, Menghestu Negussie, crashed into him and

neither rider was able to continue in the race. In the seventh lap it was clear that many of

the participants were feeling the effects of the hot humid conditions and at many points

around the circuit representatives and managers were throwing water over their charges.

During the eighth lap the speed was stepped up. Four groups formed with Baldini

(Italy) dominating the race and looking a winner even with more than 30 miles to travel. It

appeared that the only thing that would rob Baldini of victory would be an accident or

machine trouble. He must have realized this fact by constantly accelerating until he was alone

in front of the field. Riding brilliantly and slowly increasing the lead over his rivals, he rode

the last three laps alone to win the race by two minutes from a bunch of four riders headed

by Geyre (France) second and Jackson (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) third.

France with three riders finishing in the first twelve took the team victory from Great

Britain and Northern Ireland by only one point, Germany being third.

After the race an objection was raised against Baldini stating that he had received

assistance from the photographer's car. After a brief inquiry the commissaires dismissed the

case.

Of the 88 participants, 44 completed this race, one of endurance and one which calls for

perfect fitness of body. The course was a very hard and exacting one.

(pages 415-6, The Official Report of The Organising Committee for the Games XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956, via http://www.la84foundation.org/6oic/OfficialReports/1956/OR1956.pdf)