Men in Blazers

By Les Woodland Several decades ago, a handful of race organisers took their roles a little too...

By Les Woodland

Several decades ago, a handful of race organisers took their roles a little too seriously. Cyclingnews looks back at some amusing blazer-clad characters from the British racing scene.

I don't know what they call them round your way but to me they're Men in Blazers. It's a British expression but for all I know it's familiar round the world. Certainly the phenomenon is, because Men in Blazers are quite ordinary people who pull on a badged jacket… and become brainless tyrants obsessed with ever more minute details. At least so far as the riders are concerned.

The thought occurs because there was a wonderful outburst of blazerdom 40 years ago last summer. More of that in a moment but first, a tour de l'horizon.

One of the most entertaining blazer men was a rotund, grey-haired chap from the midlands of England, Benny Foster. You couldn't hope to find a bigger-hearted man but his willingness to push his way into levels beyond his capacity was legendary. In real life, this was a man who sold heating oil from door to door but in cycling he rose first to international team manager and then to organiser of the world championships in 1970.

Benny got not only a blazer out of that but a sign written car, in an era when sign written cars were something seen in cycling only among professional teams. Benny drove this car everywhere, throughout 1970 and long afterwards. And when it wore out or he had to hand it back, he paid for one of his own and, long after the event, had it labeled "World championship organiser 1970".

He could talk, too. I worked at the magazine Cycling then, in London, with an equally fresh-faced Phil Liggett, later race director of the Milk Race - which I'll come to in a moment - and a UCI commissaire and television commentator. It was always a delight when Liggett found Benny Foster at the end of the phone because only he had the nerve and fun to do what you usually see only in TV comedies, which was to put the phone into a desk drawer and close it. Taking the phone out again a few minutes later, Benny would still be talking without having noticed a thing.

To read the complete feature, click here.

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