PEZ Retro Talk: John Trevorrow Part 1
Ed Hood has dug into his suitcase of retro and pulled out an interview with John Trevorrow to keep you entertained over the festive period. Race organizer, pro rider, journalist, Trevorrow has been them all. Before the likes of Richie Porte or Cadel Evans and even earlier than Phil Anderson, there were a big band of Australians making a name for themselves in Europe, John Trevorrow was one of them. He has so many tales we have split the interview into two parts, part 2 follows tomorrow.
The Herald Sun Tour in Australia is a standard on the Southern Hemisphere calendar with Bradley Wiggins among the big names on the role of honor. The organizer is a small chap with a face which looks like it’s lived a bit – John Trevorrow is his name. He’s an Australian cycling legend and there’s much more to him than race organization; as well as cycling journalism and PR, the Commonwealth Games, Olympics and a pioneering career as one of the first Aussie Euro pros have all rolled under his tubulars. ‘Iffy’ they call him, as in ‘if only,’ read on, you’ll discover why.
But being a Scot, the first question had to involve ‘Auld Scotia’ and his trip to Scotland in 1970 for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
PEZ: The late lamented Scottish Classic, Inverness-Elgin 1970 you were third – tell us about that one, please?
John Trevorrow: I can’t remember much about that race except that we went up to Inverness for a couple of events before the Games to prepare. One was a 25 mile time trial along Loch Ness where I came second. The road race in question I can only remember the finalé and we turned into the main street and there was a huge crowd and I was third wheel and I remember wondering where the finish line was and suddenly a flag dropped and that was it.
PEZ: Then third in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh – 31 laps around Queens Park and climbs of Arthur’s Seat in the rain. . .
Yes – that was a tough day as it rained most of the day. I was thought of as mainly a sprinter before this day. But the break went early then Kiwi Bruce Biddle, the eventual winner and Aussie Ray Bilney, silver medallist jumped clear and later that lap I took off after them. We soon caught the break and virtually went straight past. The main peloton led by the British riders Dave Rollinson, Phil Bayton and Nigel Dean were chasing. I cracked climbing the hill with one and half laps to go and hung on for the bronze. Biddle beat Bilney by a fraction for gold.
Interesting note – Bilney had finished fourth at Tokyo in ‘64 in the road race as an 18 year old and made a comeback for this.
That was my first trip away and I had just turned 21 – I remember racing the Scottish Milk Race after and it was a great event. The Worlds were in Leicester that year so most of the international teams rode it as final selection and preparation for those worlds. That was also a great event and I remember Jempi Monsere (Belgium) beating Leif Mortensen (Denmark) for the pro title after they had run one – two only the other way around in the Amateur title the previous year. Jorgen Schmidt of Denmark won the amateur race in ‘70 but I crashed out.
PEZ: The Olympics, Munich ’72 – what are your memories of that one?
Well, I have mixed memories of Munch – firstly the terrorist attack was something that will stay with me forever. The Israeli rooms were close to us so we witnessed a lot of the drama. We had raced the team time trial and then this all happened the night before we were supposed to race. Everything was postponed for a couple of days and my daughter was also born that night. As far as the race was concerned I remember that well. Our teammate Clyde Sefton got in the early move and they stayed clear. Hennie Kuiper was a fitting winner and Clyde won the silver. Don Allan and I were back in the main peloton, I felt great on the last lap and tried to bridge to the next group but I got swallowed up by the main pack. I finished second in the gallop behind ’73 world amateur champ Ryszard Szurkowski for about 30th place.
PEZ: And you rode the Peace Race.
This was a great year. Aussie expat and former pro Ron Webb organized for a group of Aussies to come over and race most of the season. So the Munich Olympic team of Clyde Sefton, Don Allan, Graeme Jose and myself joined by Don Wilson and few others jumping in for different events. It was a brilliant time; Don won a stage at the Peace Race plus a stage at the Scottish Milk Race and the amateur race that was a prelude to the first stage of the Tour de France in The Hague.
The Peace race was a sensational event conducted in the Eastern bloc it started in Prague and raced through to Warsaw and finished in Berlin. I went close in the final stage in Berlin and was up near the front as we approached the big athletic stadium where it finished on a cinder track. I messed up at the entrance and lost about 20 places as we hit the track. I passed most of the field on the last lap and finished fifth. The Peace Race was the amateur Tour de France in those days. The Russians, East Germans, Poles and Czechs were nearly as good as the pros so the racing was of a super high level. I just loved it. Sadly the tragic death of Graeme Jose in the Tour of Austria in June really hit us all hard; he was a great bloke and it was a bloody tragedy.
PEZ: In ’78/’79 you were with Carlos-Galli, how did you get that ride and what was the team like?
I raced a few races the year before when I came out for the pro Worlds in Ostuni in ‘76. Don rode a brilliant race and finished 8th and I punctured when going pretty well. I rode well in a few kermises in Belgium and got offered a contract with Carlos Galli for the next year. In the end I didn’t come back until ‘78 and only came over in August for the last part of the year and the Worlds. I had really good form and I remember my first race when I got taken out in big crash in the sprint and the brand new bike I had just been given was completely wiped out.
I remember Gary Wiggins driving me down to the factory the next day and the look on Mr. Carlos’ face as I handed him my wreck. Anyway he was smiling the next day when I finished third in the Championship of Flanders. I went over to Italy with the team and rode Milano Torino and Giro d’Piedemonte. It was my first meeting with Gianni Savio who became a close friend. Anyway, at the team dinner the night before Milano-Torino our DS Julien Stevens was giving instructions and telling us we all had to ride for Dirk Baert who had been world pursuit champion a few years earlier.
Stevens then asked me why I was there – to race or have a good time? I wasn’t sure where he was going but then he said he had noticed that I was on my fourth glass of red and I was told it was limit of one. In the race I physically pushed Baert over much of the course (you could do that back then although it was bloody dangerous) and rest of the team didn’t last long as they couldn’t climb to save themselves. Anyway on the last climb into Torino the race had all come together and the winning move was happening off the front. As I pushed Baert again he said that he was finished and I should go for myself. Bit bloody late though – as we approached the top I recovered enough to go off the front in pursuit of the 10 that had got away but never got there but finished alone for 11th which was pretty good; it impressed the team anyway. A couple of nights later at dinner in the same restaurant in Milano discussing the race tactics for the next day’s Piemonte Classic, Stevens said the team had to ride for me and that I could drink as much red wine as I wanted!
This was an even hillier race and all my teammates were gone before halfway so I didn’t get much support. I rode a good race and finished around 12th. The worlds that year were in Nurburgring on the famous circuit and it was bloody awesome. The banked corners on the descent made it bloody amazing. The best circuit I’ve ever raced on. I had a great day and when Moser attacked at the business end of the race I was there and feeling great. There was only about a dozen left and suddenly my chain started jumping and then it got even worse. One of Merckx’s teammates looked down and started laughing and I realized that both jockey wheels had fallen out of my new Galli derailleur. With no team car (not enough Aussies in the race) I finally got a faulty spare bike after a two minute wait and limped into the pits but the race was over (Another Iffy story).
PEZ: Belgium in the 70’s – not for the faint of heart. . .
I absolutely loved racing in Belgium and my biggest regret is that I didn’t spend more time there. I won’t say I liked the cobbles but I handled them well and loved the challenge they threw up. Back then every Kermis had at least one section of cobbles so they were tough races.
PEZ: ’81 Safir-Galli, how did that ride come about and what was the team like?
This came about because of my friendship with Gianni Savio. Gianni who now runs the Andronni pro team, used to own Galli equipment and he was there when my derailleur fell apart at the ‘78 worlds. Although he blamed the mechanics he felt a bit to blame I guess and he offered me a contract in ’79 and ’80 but because of family reasons I didn’t make it over.
Gianni was a major sponsor of the Safir team which was Belgian but raced a lot in Italy. They were quite a big team but being a Belgian beer brand (many thought that was the perfect fit for me) couldn’t ride the Tour de France as even back then alcohol sponsors were excluded. In April of ’81 Gianni called to ask if I would ride the Giro as their sprinter had been injured. The problem was I hadn’t been on a bike for three months and I was about 12kgs over weight.
I had retired at the end of January to concentrate on my small bike shop and my growing family of four kids. Anyway, I love a challenge and said, yes I would come over. Luckily I had won the Melbourne 6 Day back in January with Paul Medhurst and had a couple of air tickets as prizes from that event. I talked my wife Kaye into finally coming to Europe and also talked the airline into bringing the four kids. I arrived in Belgium and had arranged a flat in Knokke. I raced a couple of Kermises and my form was that bad that I couldn’t finish the first one, struggled to join the break but at least finish the second. I remember a young Phil Anderson storming past me in the last lap and thinking this kid is going to be something special.
The DS was Florent Vanvaerenbergh who had been Don’s DS at Frisol and he took an instant dislike to me as, firstly Gianni had overridden him with my selection, but mainly because he could tell I was way overweight – still about eight kgs. The Giro started up in Trieste and luckily the first few days were pretty flat down the Adriatic coast. The first road stage was a bunch sprint and I rattled home for fifth but I reckon I would have won it but got ran into the barricades about 150 out.
I had to brake and at the line I was coming home quick; I passed De Vlaeminck and Saronni in the final meters. On day three I got caught smoking by the DS and he dubbed me in to Gianni who asked me what was going on. I told him I sometimes had one in the morning to calm the nerves. Gianni, ever the salesman, did a deal with Marlboro and I got paid to start the stage with a cigarette. They must have paid off the cameraman because the footage showed me puffing away and when the gun went off I butted the fag on the head stem and took off.
I became known as the ‘Smoking Kangaroo’ in the Gazzetta dello Sport. I managed to ride myself in during the Giro and by the end had really good form. You couldn’t do it now but the Giro was a different beast back then; plenty of “piano” in the early stages allowed you to improve each day. I can remember the first rest day where I didn’t get out of bed but I felt myself start to improve from there. By the race end I actually started to feel like a pro cyclist.
I was climbing in the front group and one day spent 60 kms chasing the break with Didi Thurau and although we never got there I didn’t miss a beat. On another occasion three of us were away and on the final descent the guy leading lost it on a tight corner and the three of us went over the edge. Two of us continued although the other guy had to change both wheels. It was about 20km to go and we got caught on the outskirts of the finish town – bummer! (another Iffy story)
The one big change that happened was the DS started to change his opinion of me. He had caught me out late one night earlier in the race and just shook his head and I thought; ‘oh well once we leave Italy and Gianni’s influence there is no way I will get a ride in any big event!’ But with about four days to go in the Giro Florent came up to me and said I was riding Tour de Suisse. There was only a two day break from the finish of the Giro so it was like riding a 5 week tour.
PEZ: Yes, Tour de Suisse ’81; second in the Prologue – and Stage Two to Roger De Vlaeminck.
The Prologue was actually a crit and I got pipped. It would have been nice to get the first leaders jersey. I finished second to Roger on a stage with a good steep climb that we had to climb twice. I remember saying to the team that I needed the 12 for the downhill finish and the 26 for the steep climb. When I lined up at the start I realized I only had the 13. In the end I couldn’t get past Roger on the 13 as I was valve bouncing and I whinged to the DS that I would have won with the 12. His reply was “you don’t beat De Vlaeminck”.
A few weeks later at the finish of the Grand Prix of Dortmund I won the bunch kick for fourth passing Roger and Sean Kelly in the final 100m. I made a point of mentioning to the DS that I had the 12 on. There were two other stages that I was in with a chance in Swiss, one coming in to Lugano and descending very quickly into town with about 300 to go. Roger had hit the front with Gavazzi on his wheel and me next around a sweeping bend. Suddenly the road took a sharper left and the three of us missed the corner. As we had kicked a couple of lengths clear, everyone else got around.
#In part 2 tomorrow (Sunday), Trevorrow describes his transition from Euro rider back to Australian pro and his involvement in the Herald Sun Tour stage race and the Orica-GreenEDGE team. Plus many more stories in the Trevorrow style.
Many photos are from the archives and original owners difficult to find, but to all a big thank you.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.