City of Edinburgh founder reflects on cycling award

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BRIAN Annable, the man whose name is synonymous with track cycling in the Capital, has modestly insisted that the credit for his latest honour should be shared with the City of Edinburgh club he formed three decades ago.

Annable was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to cycling. In addition to founding the outfit which has helped propel a host of stars to the pinnacle of the sport, he has been a pivotal figure in cycling’s development in Scotland.

“This is for the achievements of the City of Edinburgh Racing Club, of which I was the founder and manager,” said Annable who, at 83, remains active in cultivating talent. “We are now onto our fourth generation of champions,” he added, referring to rising stars Callum Skinner, John Paul and Katie Archibald.

He can reel off a host of names including Sir Chris Hoy, Eddie Alexander, Anthony Stirrat, Steve Paulding and Craig MacLean who have donned the famous blue, white and black colours with distinction.

City of Edinburgh riders have amassed 96 British titles and Annable already enjoys a place in the British Cycling Hall of Fame. Now that role of honour will be enhanced when the man, viewed by many as the father of track cycling in the city receives his latest award.

Annable said the catalyst for setting up the club was his son, Tom.

Annable arrived in Edinburgh in the early 1970s to take up the role of City Architect. His own cycling career had taken him to the brink of Olympic selection, having been named in the provisional team pursuit squad to compete at the Helsinki games in 1952. However, with training sessions taking place in London and Annable focusing on the final year of his studies in the Midlands, he was unable to press his selection claims.

National service and a burgeoning career effectively ended his involvement in racing although, after moving north, he rode with the Bonnyrigg club which was also where his son – a Scottish sprint champion at the age of 16 – first turned a pedal. Unimpressed by the support available to young riders, Annable took early retirement in 1982 and formed the club. “It was my passion,” he explained. Together with Alan Nesbit, who had started the Meadowbank Track League in 1969, they created the City of Edinburgh Club and, with the threat of closure hanging over the velodrome in London Road, they combined to rescue the facility.

“The track was out of use because it had moss on it and was considered too dangerous,” said Annable. “I managed to get a 35-strong volunteer force together to make the track usable. It wasn’t constructed in the way they do it now. Vibrations made the track loose and with the heat it rose several inches from the trusses. We got joiners in to fix it, then scraped off the moss.”

Reward for his efforts came in the shape of track bikes and derny motorbikes that would help drive forward track cycling in Edinburgh. Among the riders to pass through the club was a young Chris Hoy.

Annable recalled the initial success of the man who is now Britain’s most successful Olympian. “He wasn’t a sprinter. His first big victory was the Meadowbank Grand Prix, which was 20 kilometres. He wasn’t as big as he is now, but, having come from a BMX background, he had phenomenal acceleration. He was then picked up by the British Cycling World Class Plan.”

Hoy initially enjoyed success in the team sprint, but Annable convinced him to make a switch that would contribute to the making of a star.

“I set out to persuade him to take up sprinting for real,” he said. “My view was that people don’t remember riders who are in the team sprint or team pursuit squads. The legends of the sport are people like Fausto Coppi and Reg Harris, who had individual success.”

Hoy initially lived in the shadow of MacLean, the club’s most successful rider in British Championship events with 15 titles, but his determination and capacity for hard work paid off. “In the end, he became the greatest because of his perseverance,” added Annable.