Reg Harris

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Reg Harris : biography

31 March 1920 – 22 June 1992

By the time Harris won the world amateur sprint title in Paris in 1947, he was already employed and equipped by bicycle manufacturer Claud Butler and was testing the boundaries of amateurism. The cycling world expected that Harris would take three titles in the 1948 Summer Olympics: the sprint, the tandem sprint and the kilometre time trial, but three months before the London Games, he fractured two vertebrae in a road accident. After hospitalisation, with a few weeks remaining to the games, training, competing and winning, he fell in a ten-mile (16 km) race at Fallowfield and fractured his . Completing the rest of his preparation in a plaster cast, he had to be satisfied with two silvers, being beaten by Italy’s Mario Ghella in the final of the sprint, and partnering Alan Bannister to second place in the tandem sprint (timetable constraints meant Harris’s place in the kilometre was taken by another rider, Tommy Godwin, who won a bronze medal). Two weeks later, he claimed a bronze medal in the 1948 world championships sprint in Amsterdam. He was named sportsman of the year by a poll in in 1949, winning by 7,000 votes over the soccer player, Billy Liddell.The Bicycle, UK, 1 February 1950, p13

Professional career

On his return from Amsterdam, Harris turned professional under sponsorship of the Raleigh bicycle company and in 1949 won the world professional sprint championship in Copenhagen – a victory he repeated the following two years in Belgium and Milan. He then won a fourth and final world professional title in Cologne in 1954. He was soon earning £12,000 a year as one of the nation’s most recognised sportsmen. He won the Sports Journalists’ Association’s accolade of Sportsman of the Year in 1950, and was runner-up in 1949 and 1951.

He retired in 1957 to devote himself to business interests, none of which suited his tastes or abilities. He managed Fallowfield Stadium, renamed the Harris Stadium; he was involved in various abortive ventures associated with Raleigh; and he started a ‘Reg Harris’ bicycle manufacturing business in Macclesfield which lasted three years before folding. He then worked in sales promotion for the ‘Gannex’ raincoat company, before working for two plastic foam producers. In the 1960s he owned and managed The Reg Harris Petrol & Motor Service Station on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury Village Manchester which is now the site of the Shell Petrol Station on the corner of Grange Road.

In 1971, he returned to racing, winning a bronze medal in the British championship in Birmingham after hardly any preparation. With more training behind him, he approached the British championship in Leicester in 1974 in more confident mood, and beat Trevor Bull to win the title at the age of 54. In 1975, he returned to Leicester, but was narrowly beaten by Bull in the final and had to settle for the silver medal. He continued to cycle almost to his death.

Notes

Early life

Reginald Hargreaves was born in the hamlet of Birtle, near Bury, Lancashire, the son of a musician who died when he was six. His mother remarried and Reginald took the name of his stepfather, a textile worker called Harris.

Reg Harris left school without qualifications and his first job was as an apprentice motor mechanic in Bury. During this period, at the age of 14, he bought his first bicycle, and entered a roller-racing competition organised by the Hercules bicycle manufacturing company.