Great drama at Knutsford's penny farthing race

PUBLISHED: 16:53 23 November 2010 | UPDATED: 11:40 03 November 2015

Race starter, actor, Simon Gregson, aka Steve McDonald in Coronation Street

Race starter, actor, Simon Gregson, aka Steve McDonald in Coronation Street

There was controversy at Knutsford's once-every-ten-years penny farthing race, as Paul Mackenzie reports

Josef Zimovcak (right, in blue and white), who was disqualified, challenges eventual winner Jim Brailsford (centre, in black)Josef Zimovcak (right, in blue and white), who was disqualified, challenges eventual winner Jim Brailsford (centre, in black)

There was controversy at the Knutsford Great Race when Josef Zimovcak’s victory celebrations were cut short. The Czech rider thought he had won the once-every-ten-years race but hadn’t realised marshals had disqualified him on his second lap.


Zimovcak, who has previously ridden the Tour de France on his penny farthing, went on to complete 105 more laps of the course around Knutsford heath.


Race organiser Glynn Stockdale said: ‘It’s a great tragedy that he had to be disqualified and he didn’t take kindly to it. He was riding recklessly and he took out two other riders and was immediately disqualified by the race marshal but he doesn’t speak English and didn’t understand so he got back on and continued the race.


‘He takes his cycling very seriously and he is possibly the best penny farthing rider in the world and he would have won by some distance but for that incident. After the race the argument went on for about three hours but we had such a mixed field, we just can’t have that kind of riding.

The Knutsford Great Race founder, Glynn StockdaleThe Knutsford Great Race founder, Glynn Stockdale


‘We had people of all ages and all abilities taking part - we had some veteran riders and some people who had only learned to ride this year, so there was a lot of naïveté out there. It was a narrow and dangerous course and he was going round in under two minutes, while some people were taking twice as long to complete a lap.’


The incident didn’t mar the day for the other riders who came from all over the world to take part in the event which challenges penny farthing riders to complete as many laps of the heath as possible in three hours.
After a warm-up lap by riders on bone shakers and hobby horses, the Great Race was started by Coronation Street actor Simon Gregson.
Jim Brailsford won the main event, clocking up 107 laps and defending his title from a decade ago.


And Glynn, who founded the Great Race in 1980, added: ‘There were a lot of spills but I think everyone had an enjoyable day. There is always a lot of audience participation, the crowd is very close to the track and get involved, cheering, or booing as the case may be.’


Glynn bought his first penny farthing in 1978 and his second a short time later. ‘I sold my first to a friend and he challenged me to a race,’ Glynn said. ‘Initially it was to be a 24 hour race, but we realised we couldn’t go for 20 minutes without stopping for a break so we gradually brought the time down until we hit upon a three hour race, with money going to charity.’

Running repairs for James TurnerRunning repairs for James Turner


The first great race was held in September 1980 and the event has grown steadily ever since. This year 86 riders took part and raised more than £10,000 for the Shelter Box charity.

 

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