When London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012, the first event was the men's road race, specifically chosen to deliver a golden start to Team GB. The dream team of Sir Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Ian Stannard were primed to win the first medal of the games, but poor pack form and a hurtling 70kg man from Kazakhstan put paid to such dreams. It was down to Lizzie Armitstead to bring in the first cycling medal for Britain during the Women's Road Race the next day.
But 2012 wasn't the first time Britain had hosted the Olympics, nor even the second time; London is the only city to have ever played host to the Games three times. In the summer of 1948 the country was still under rations, and great swathes of London remained obliterated following the war. The Games went ahead all the same, with the American and French teams shipping their own food in, and athletes staying on church hall floors, with host families and in a camp site in Shepherd's Bush.
Track events were held at the Herne Hill Velodrome, the only surviving 1948 finals venue you can still use today, whilst the road race took place in Windsor Great Park, over 17 loops of an 11.45km course.
The race started in a torrential downpour, meaning spectator stands were almost deserted. The course - chosen at the last minute after the realisation that Richmond Park's 20mph speed limit would seriously curtail racing - proved to be entirely unsuitable for a bunch race. Made up of loose gravel, and compounded by the standing water on the road due to the terrible weather, there were over 100 punctures in the course of the event, with the majority of the peloton retiring before the finish line.
Gold was taken by French war time resistance fighter Jose Beyaert who would go on to have an illustrious career of ill gotten means with associates of dubious origin in Columbia. Alongside being accused of murder, he also commentated on cycling on television in Bogota...
Just like with 2012's race one of the joys of the event is that after the Games have finished anyone can ride the route of the race (See MapMyRide for the course). But if you're heading for Windsor Great Park, you might want to take your puncture repair kit...
This week's photos are from the National Media Museum archives on Flickr, whilst accounts of the road race and the career of Jose Beyaert can be found here and here.
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