Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reg Harris

Reg Harris 1947
 Reg Harris (1920 - 1922) was one of the greatest English track racers. He competed mainly in the 1940s and 1950s. During the years 1944 and 1945 Harris won 6 British National Championships on the track. In 1947 he won the Amateur World Sprint Championship. Harris won the two silver medals in the 1948 Olympics and then turned professional. As a professional Reg Harris won the World Professional Sprint Title 4 times; 1949 in Copenhagen, 1950 in Belgium, 1951 in Milan, 1954 in Cologne. In 1974, 20 years later, he came back at the age of 54 and won the British National Sprint Title. 

At the age of 14 Reg Harris left school and became an apprentice as an automobile mechanic. During this time he saved enough money to buy his first bicycle. He entered a roller-race and his ability was obvious. He joined the Lancashire Road Club and won his first race in 1935 on a grass track. He also started to compete in individual time trials.
Harris left his job as an automobile mechanic and went to work at a slipper factory. In 1936 he went to work in a paper mill. The paper mill job would allow him to make enough money during the winter months to race and train during the summer without working. Harris was willing to work seven days a week to save as much money as possible while working at the paper mill. He did this during the years 1936 and 1937. 

In 1936 Harris won his first events in a true velodrome at Fallowfield Stadium in Manchester. In 1938 he was racing well and joined the Manchester Wheeler Club. Harris won a major event in 1939 and was selected for the British World Championship Team. He was preparing for the World Championships in Milan at the Vigorelli Velodrome when World War II broke out and the British team had to return to the UK.

Reg Harris was a tank driver for the 10th Hussars in the North Africa Campaign during World War II. He was injured and found unfit for military service in 1943. Despite his military medical status he won in 1944 the 1,000 yards (910 meters), quarter-mile and five mile (8 kilometers) British National Cycling Championships. He won three more national titles in 1945.

In 1947 Reg Harris won the Amateur World Sprint Championship in Paris. He was working for bicycle manufacturer Claud Butler and had his bicycles and equipment supplied by the company. Harris was barely hanging on to his amateur status so that he could compete in the 1948 Olympics.  At this time an athlete still had to be an amateur to compete in the Olympic games.

Three months before the 1948 Olympics Reg Harris was involved in an accident while riding on the road. He fractured two of his vertebrae, but continued to train hard. Then just three weeks before his olympic events he fell while competing in a 16 kilometer race and broke his elbow. Harris continued training with his elbow in a plaster cast. He raced the Olympic sprint and tandem sprints. The injuries undoubtedly took a toll on his performance, but he still won a silver medal in each event. 
Reg Harris beats Kain (Austria) 1951
Harris turned professional immediately following the 1948 Olympics. This meant that he was not able to compete in anymore Olympics. As a professional he won the World Sprint Championship three years in a row; 1949, 1950 and 1951. He won his fourth World Sprint Championship in 1954. It was 54 years before another British rider, Chris Hoy, won the title again. Reg Harris was a national celebrity and was named Sportsman of the Year twice by the UK Sports Journalists' Association in 1950 and 1951. 
Harris retired in 1957 and was involved in many different business ventures. He managed the Fallowfield Stadium where he won his first bicycle race on a true Velodrome. The stadium was later renamed Harris Stadium. Harris was involved in several different ventures with the Raleigh bicycle company. He started a business in Macclesfield manufacturing bicycles under the Reg Harris label. His bicycle company only lasted for three years. During the 1960s he owned and managed The Reg Harris Petrol & Motor Service Station on Wilmslow Road near Manchester. 
A 1963 Reg Harris Professional Model

Click here for an excerpt from Two Wheels To The Top by Reg Harris. This section is about his time working for Raleigh  Bicycles.

Click here for an excerpt from Two Wheels To The Top describing Reg Harris experience operating his bicycle company.

Harris returned to racing in 1971 and in 1974 at the age of 54 won the British Sprint Title.

Harris continued to ride his bicycle for the rest of his years and in 1992 while riding near his home in Macclesfield he suffered a stroke. Harris died on June 22, 1992. A bronze statue of him in action  was unveiled in 1994 on the third turn of the velodrome at the National Cycling Center in Manchester, England. 
Bronze Statue of Reg Harris at the velodrome in Manchester.
Reg Harris

No comments:

Post a Comment