History of the Kamloops Bicycle Club and the Interior Grasslands Cycling Club
The Interior Grasslands Cycling Club had its origins in 1972 as the Kamloops Bicycle Club. Several Westsyde High school teachers, Bob Cyca, Greg Sanger, Jeff Lighthall and Murrey Sallis, asked former British professional cyclist Norm Hill to discuss the formation of a local cycling club. In 1972, after his return from a European vacation, Peter Bartel read an article in a local newspaper that reported the fledgling Kamloops Bicycle Club.
Peter soon after met with the four original members and joined the club. Tony Parker, sports editor at one of the local newspapers, published a number of articles on the club, and it did not take long for the membership to grow. As it turned out, several former competitive cyclists lived in Kamloops, including John Critchley, Fred O’Grady, John Tilley and Karl Gruber. Karl, who represented his native Austria at the 1959 World Champpionships in Rome, was perhaps the most prolific rider in the new club; Karl was a 7-time Austrian sprint champion on the track. Karl and his wife Jennie owned the Bavarian Inn in downtown Kamloops, and the Inn’s Alpine Room became the club’s headquarters. (Karl, 77, passed away in November 2014 in Whitehorse.) John Warnock, a New Zealander who worked for Karl, organized most of the training rides.
The first local event of racing took place at the parking lot of the McArthur Island. The club laid out an oval course with many traffic cones and invited Baz Lyzett, a former British Pro rider and BC provincial coach, to come to Kamloops for a cycling clinic. In later years, Baz would fondly remember the original event, commenting on how far the club had come since its inception.
Frank Luedke, who at that time was the holder of the Canadian record in the 25-mile time trial and a former Olympian, invited a team to the 108 Mile Ranch to participate in an annual road race that he sponsored. Greg Sanger won the novice road race, beating Karl Gruber, Bob Cyca, Jeff Lighthall, Murrey Sallis and Peter Bartel, all of whom placed in the top ten.
After that success the club never looked back and membership increased. Most members soon ventured to open events throughout BC, with good results. On the urging of John Gadsby, the president at that time of the Bicycling Association of BC (later to become Cycling BC), Peter Bartel became a member of the board of directors. Peter was involved in developing clubs throughout the Southern Interior, and in time, clubs formed in Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon. For this, Peter was awarded the annual Tony Hoar Award, which was given to individuals who furthered the sport of cycling at the provincial level. During that period, it was junior rider Paul Berry who brought home the provincial junior road race championship.
Early in the club’s existence the decision was made to rename the club to The Kamloops Wheelmen, and the first club uniform was designed, predominantly in blue and purple. Although the jerseys were accepted, the name met with some opposition from our female members, the Club reverted to its original name, but kept the jersey colours.
The most prominent large-scale bicycle race in the southern interior was the “Tour of the Okanagan”, headquartered in Penticton, and sponsored by the Chmela family. Young Guenther Chmela was a former B.C. junior road race champion. When the Tour of the Okanagan became too big for the shrinking number of volunteers in Penticton, the Kamloops club took it over and renamed it the “Tour of the Grasslands”. This ran for a number of years with ever increasing numbers of participants, but eventually this multi-stage race faced the same fate as the Penticton event — a lack of volunteers.
Before the B.C. Masters Association was founded, riders over 40 years of age were classed as Veterans. For a number of years the Kamloops Bicycle Club hosted the annual Canadian Vets cycling championships. Because all events were handicapped for the various age groups, the Canadian Cycling Association did not recognize them as Canadian championships. This annual event attracted participants not only from within Canada but also from Europe. Notable riders as Tony Hoar, former British pro and Tour de France participant, Elmar Bertelson, former Danish champion and Olympian, and Dieter Tschauner, who while still living in East Germany was part of the team that won the team time trial championship in that country. Roger Sumner, many times Canadian road race champion was also part of that illustrious group of vets.
Prior to the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Kamloops was the host to the final selection race for the Canadian Team. The road race took place along the old Merritt Highway (5A), and there was a criterium on downtown streets.
For many years the Kamloops Bicycle Club held cycling clinics to which prominent coaches lent their support and which attracted riders from throughout the province. George Evans, manager of a sporting goods store, Mountain Mania on Victoria Street, graciously lent his premises for the classroom sessions. At the close of each clinic, a road race saw participants put what they had learned to the test.
The most prominent guest of the Kamloops Bicycle Club was undoubtedly Norman Shields, a British pro, who on the track was twice sprint world champion, both as an amateur and as a professional. Shields held a clinic and there was a banquet in his honour. He later became the National coach and led the Canadian cycling team to a number of successes.
As often happens, it was difficult to get good people to run the club. So it came as no surprise when the club went dormant after some great years. But it always remained on the minds of the cycling community. And then several years later the club re-emerged with some of the old guard at the helm for a time.
In 2004 John Tilley was approached by the executive of the Kamloops Long Blades Speed Skating Club, with the plan to train a team for the 2005 BC Summer Games in Abbotsford. Initially John, who had retired from the cycling scene, believing that he was too old for the sport, turned the offer down, but some gentle prodding from his wife Lynda changed his mind, and he took on the challenge. Long Blade members Terry Norlander, Trish Archibald, Lee Kenney, Suzie Tevendale, John Coyne, Hugh Jordan, Doug Wright and John Froese revived the old Kamloops Bicycle Club. John took on the coaching job and brought Peter Bartel on board. However, Peter was busy in the tourism industry, was hardly home, and took only a minor role in the emerging club. The young club members, Gavin Coyne, Hand Froese, Ellis Jordan, Erik Norlander, Sarah Froese and Matt Russel, wanted to rename the club. The new name was to be Interior Grasslands Cycling Club (IGCC).
Although training several times a week, progress was slow and the team did not win any medals in Abbotsford that year, participation in the Games showed promise. In 2007 the breakthrough came — the team came home with several medals: Evan Guthrie won gold and bronze, Vanessa Tilson, silver; and Elizabeth Yeomans, Hans Froese, Erik Norlander and Matt Russell came away with bronze. That year John Tilley ran a mountain bike clinic in the Tranquille Valley which had 40 riders signed up. Evan Guthrie went on to win gold in numerous events, and teaming up with Catherine Pendrell, he won silver at the Olympics. In 2004 and 2005 the IGCC, together with City of Kamloops, hosted back-to-back Tim Hortons National Road Race Championships. In 2013, the BC Senior Games were held in Kamloops under the leadership of club member Charley Bruce, for his efforts he was awarded Sportsman of the Year.
The Club continued to grow and in 2008, picked up sponsors. Club colours were chosen and a logo was designed and racing kits were ordered. A number of promising young riders were sponsored to various cycling camps in Victoria, Rossland and Penticton.
In 2010, Club members supported Ian Fillinger during the “Race-across-America”. On the team were Dan Hill, Liana Kaay, and John and Lynda Tilley, James Schaefer, Michelle Fillinger, and Trevor Streek; Rick Ross was team leader and Trina Radford was MS coordinator.
When it became apparent that the club needed reliable timing equipment for races, Peter Bartel researched many systems, which resulted in the purchase of two Sony Action Cam cameras with funds supplied by New Gold. With a grant from the Blazers Sport Society, the Club put together a 4-bike roller racing system. A van was purchases that houses and transports the club’s equipment for races. Another grant allowed for ongoing junior development.
Ian Fillinger, Devon Moonie, Kristine Brynjolfson, Paul Berry, Chris McNeil, Aaron Weiss, Brian Keast, John Armstrong, to name a few, have represented the Club in National and International events with success.
In 2011, the club was featured in Canadian Cycling Magazine (http://cyclingmagazine.ca/issues/24-issues/interior-grasslands-cycling-club/)
At the end of 2014, John Tilley retired from the club’s executive. Peter Bartel stayed on as club secretary and a mostly new group of people stepped up as the club’s executive.
In 2014, a new web site was launched, the club’s logo was redesigned and colours were tweaked. By the end of the year, the club membership reached an all-time high of 75. In addition to Thursday evening races and Sunday social rides, Tuesday evening social rides were added. A cyclocross season was trialled in the fall with plans to continue it in future years.
Where are they now ?
Bob Cyca lives in New Zealand and has visited Kamloops twice.
Greg Sanger moved to Kelowna and is still involved in cycling.
Jeff Lighthall and Murrey Sallis both moved to the U.S.
Fred O’Grady passed away many years ago after having moved to Penticton.
John Critchley is in Nanaimo and changed his sport to Ballroom Dancing.
Karl Gruber is a resident of the Whitehorse area and still is in cycling.
Tony Hoar, Baz Lyzett and Dieter Tschauner live on Vancouver Island and still ride.
Norman Shields returned to England following his National Coach duties in Canada.
John Tilley and Peter Bartel will always be involved in the local cycling scene, confident that the Interior Grasslands Cycling Club will thrive and produce many future champions. The Club has a sound base on which to grow, and grow it will.