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Village History

Champion of the road

Posted on October 25 2014 at 9:39:03 0 comments

Stan

It’s always interesting to find out about villagers who achieved amazing things in their lifetime. One such person is Stanley Higginson, a resident of both Barnt Green and Alvechurch, who died in August this year – not many of his neighbours would have known that he was once a top-level cyclist who won three British 25-mile championships and achieved the first sub-60-minute ride over this distance.

Stan and his twin brother Bernard were born prematurely in Smethwick in 1931. The boys were evacuated to Kidderminster at the age of seven, where they learned to ride; their interest in train and bus-spotting led them to cycle all over the county.

At the age of 15, Stan and Bernard started apprenticeships at Longbridge and were able to buy Royal Enfield sports bikes, which they used daily to ride the eight miles to and from work, earning a reputation for overtaking trams uphill.

Then in 1948 they joined the Youth Hostel Association and went cycling around the country. After watching a few park races they decided to join Halesowen A&CC Club in 1950 – first enhancing their bikes to ensure they were competitive – and their racing careers began in March of that year.

Riding individually in time-trials at the 25-mile distance, where breaching the “magic hour” was the goal, the brothers rode the course in 1hr 9 and 1hr 12 minutes respectively in their very first races – and by the end of their first season, both had got it down to 1hr 1min.

On March 23, 1952, Stan became the first man to post a time under 60 minutes in a medium gear, when he rode in a Cavella RC event in London.

That same year he won the national 25-mile championship, and matched this achievement in both 1953 and 1954 – making him the first rider to achieve three victories in as many years. It took another 20 years before this feat was repeated.

After the third victory, which took place in appalling conditions, Cycling magazine rather poetically reported that “fantastic, incredible Stanley Higginson goes rightly and proudly into history as the master 25-miler of his time”.

Stan also held the English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish records, posting his fastest-ever time of 56 min 21 sec on July 11, 1954 in Ireland – where he and Bernard also set a new national record on a tandem.

The day was also memorable in that Stan met Helen, a fellow cyclist and his future wife, at the celebration dance that evening.He would later describe her as the best prize he ever won.

After this, Stan felt he had achieved all of his cycling ambitions – and with demob from National Service imminent, he retired from competitive cycling just before his 23rd birthday.

He married Helen in 1956 and set up home in Alvechurch, working for Renold Chains, Shell Mex and BP while continuing his education in the evenings.

The couple, who had two children and four grandchildren, went on to live in various parts of the UK before returning to Alvechurch and finally Barnt Green.

Stan died peacefully at home, aged 82, on August 31, 2014.

Cyclist Alf Engers – who incidentally was the man who broke Stan’s record of three consecutive national titles – sent a tribute to the man he credited as his inspiration.

He said that he used to read about the Higginson brothers in his cycling magazines as a boy, before watching them at a national 25-mile event.

“They had a meticulous approach to bike care and were always immaculate in presentation for any cycle race. I am told they even used to polish all ball bearings in their bikes.”


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