It's a hot August night in Athens and Chris Hoy is
getting edgy. With just a week before his kilo track race, his bike sponsor
still hasn't delivered the machine. He puts in a phone call and the sponsor
promises to have the bike to him as quickly as possible. A bare frameset
arrives the next day and then Chris has the job of building up the bike
that he will use in anger just days later.
That's a scenario straight out of a fairy story-or is it? In fact,
those were the exact circumstances facing Ernie Scally as he "prepared" to
represent Scotland in the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
in Cardiff. Ernie, a tough, gritty Glaswegian, was one of the best
cyclists Scotland produced in the 1950s and early '60s yet his run-up
to the road race could hardly have been much worse.
At the time, Ernie was doing his national service in the Royal Engineers
and had been using a Witcomb, the London company having won a contract
to supply the army with bikes. Although there was nothing wrong with
the bike, Ernie fancied riding a Scot in the Empire Games, especially
the new Ventoux racing model with its Cinelli-style sloping fork crown
He was, he freely admits, "a bit late" in ordering his new
mount and left for Cardiff with the Witcomb, never having clapped eyes
on the Scot. After arriving in Wales and still with no sign of the
Scot, he understandably grew a bit anxious. He bent the ear of Jack
Smith who was in Wales for the games and the Rattray's boss promised
to sort things out. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the Ventoux
appeared, made exactly to Ernie's specifications.
"The frame arrived about a week before my race and I then had to
set about building it up myself," said Ernie. "The first
time I rode it was in the road race. It was a horrible day and it was
pouring down with rain. I leant the bike over a bit too far and crashed
and that was the end of the race for me!"
Fortunately, both Ernie and the Ventoux survived the spill and the combination
went on to some success in subsequent races. Ernie finished fourth equal
in the amateur section of the World Road Race Championship in Holland
the following year, matching Tom Simpson's performance in the professional
half of the event.
Ernie, who is now 67, went on to win the Scottish Road Race Championship
twice and was runner-up once. He was also the Scottish BAR track champion
and raced all over Europe, including the Tour of Sweden.
"Once I had the Scot, I raced on nothing else ," he said. "Rattrays
made a good bike. In those days, a good bike was made from Reynolds
531 tubing and everybody rode that.
"I retired from competitive racing in 1963 but I still have my Scot.
I have a Raleigh on a turbo trainer and use the Scot on the road but
the traffic is so bad now that I don't get out as much as I'd like.
"The Scot I had built was one of the first Ventoux models made and
it's been a good servant to me."