Vic Clark died last week at the age of 96. He was National Hill Climb Champion in 1946, ’47 and ’48, writing his name into the early history of the event. His wins were preceded by victories from Harold Worthern and Bob Maitland.
I had the good fortune to meet Vic about 4 years ago. Once I’d decided to write a book about the National Hill Climb I set about tracking down as many of the early winners as I could. Vic was good friends and a mentor to Lyn Hamel and we met in Lyn’s parents’ house in Kendal. Vic regaled me with anecdotes and details of his career, sharing his experiences over a cup of a tea and biscuit. It was a moving encounter and it made me realise that the book would work; that people like Vic had stories worth retelling, sharing with other people, and that it made for a compelling and rich narrative.
When I struggled with the middle sections of the book, in amongst the pressures of family life, work, cycling and so on, it was thoughts of Vic that got me back to it. In short, and without trying to be too blunt, I wanted him to see it before he died. He had given generously of his time and I wanted him to know that outside of the cognoscenti other people would be aware of this kind, taciturn but fiercely talented and athletic individual. I like to think I succeeded. His presence is missed.
I am currently sorting through audio from the encounter and it looks like I might be working with Jack Thurston on a bikeshow piece. I’ll keep all four of you avid readers posted as to how and when it happens.
Below is some audio I played during book talks. One of the highlights amongst many is his gentle correction of my assumption that he rode a 69″ gear. I chuckle even now.