Terry Hammonds Unrecorded Victory
The Hammond family is a cycling dynasty in Melbourne. From my memory, Terry is the middle one of five brothers who were all top road riders in the 1970’s and 1980’s era.
On the Cycling Archives website you can see a page that document’s Terry’s cycling career. You’ll see that he won the Herald Sun Tour overall twice plus various stage wins and that he was also the Australian Road Champion in 1983.
At the top of that page is a list of the various teams he rode for each year from 1977 to 1989 and to the right of that a list of how many victories he recorded each year.
This is where my story begins. On that list it shows ‘zero victories’ for the year 1981, but I beg to differ.
In that year I was racing in the USA and went to the industrial city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to race at their annual Superweek. This race series, which according to Wikipedia ran for 40 years from 1972 to 2012 used to be one of the biggest events on the USA racing scene.
All the major USA teams took part. The year I rode others on the start line included the all-powerful 7-Eleven team that in later years rode the Tour de France.
Also on the start line were a handful of Aussies including Terry who was riding for the AMF-Motobecane team.
Part of the attraction of Superweek was that you raced every day in a wide variety of events from longer road races to tight city block criteriums.
There was good prizemoney on offer that was very attractive to poor Australians used to racing for peanuts back home. But it was proving very difficult for a few individuals to beat disciplined teams such as 7-Eleven.
I was enjoying the challenge of riding in a higher standard of field that I had ever encountered in my life, but to summarise my week, only finished in the prizemoney once - a minor placing on the final race of the seven or eight race series.
Meanwhile, on about the fourth day we rode an evening criterium in front of a big crowd who lined a tight, triangular circuit of perhaps one kilometre in length. A front wheel blowout on a corner ended my race so I watched the rest from the sidelines.
There were about 120 riders in the field, eventually reducing to less than half of that under the relentless speed of the race. In the end the race winner was, of course, Terry Hammond.
Back in 1981 there was no internet, no Australian Institute of Sport cycling program, air fares were many times higher than today in real terms and it was way too expensive to phone home.
Australian cyclists hoping to crack the international pro scene would have to save hard for an airfare, then arrive alone and live off their wits, with virtually no outside support. Even if they had success, it was highly unlikely that people back in Australia would ever hear about it, let alone see it, as they can today with YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and whatever other new media you’d care to mention.
So only a handful of other Australians were there to witness Terry’s against the odds victory that day, which isn’t even recorded on Cycling Archives.
For me, as a homesick young Australian a long way from home, it stirred up emotions both of patriotism and affirmation that at least sometimes, through courage and tenacity, the underdog can win.