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A Tribute to Paul Baulch

 

A Tribute to Paul Baulch

Paul Baulch - ‘Digger’

 

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 Paul came from London and was a prominent member of the Willesden Cycling Club where he remains the holder of a number of club records which he set in the 1950s. These include the 100 mile team time trial (1958). He had quite an unusual riding style which resulted in him being given the nickname of ‘Digger’.  He was such a successful time trialist at all distances that he was among the first UK rider to go under the hour in a 25 mile, medium gear event.1 He achieved this feat at the Calleva R.C. event on the 21st March 1954, two years after Stanley and Bernard Higginson (Halesowen A&CC) and Dave Keeler (Vegetarian C&AC) had all gone under the hour. He loved talking about the ‘old days’ and often waxed lyrical about his many rides in the Bath Road 100 events, which usually took place on the A4 trunk road.

 

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He did his national service with the RAF in the 1950s and cycled competitively for them. While he was stationed at Horsham St. Faiths in Norfolk, he entered many of the local time trials. At the time he was one of the best riders in the country, second only to Vick Gibbons. The youthful Denis Clarke, a junior member of the Attleborough Cycling Club, remembers being inspired by Paul when he turned out for their local events at which he often marshalled.

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After national service Paul spent much of his working life on the installation of refrigeration equipment for supermarkets and travelled the country widely for this. This eventually led him to set up home in the Leicester area, where he joined the Leicestershire Road Club. It was during this period that Denis renewed his acquaintance with him. Paul was a regular on the weekly run that met at the Durham Ox every Wednesday and went alternately to Redmile or Sedgebrook.   Denis joined this group, which comprised senior riders from every club in the area. It was essentially the ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ on wheels! Paul’s presence in this group features in “Always on a Wednesday”, a story written by Ratae member the late Curly Pattison and is well worth a read!

 

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This connection with the Ratae Road Club became formalised when Paul joined as a first claim member. He enjoyed the convivial atmosphere at the club and became very friendly with Keith Bentley. Keith remembers the cycling coach trips they took part in to follow the Tour de France. On one of them they had been on a ride with the other members of the party on a particularly hot day. Paul and Keith had set a fast pace by doing bit and bit and had dropped the others, having to wait quite a while for them to catch up.

 

On another occasion, however, the pair got lost in Grenoble. Fortunately a friendly English speaking local woman offered to help them find their hotel. She led them in her car, whilst they rode on the town’s excellent cycle path. They arrived very late at the hotel, exhausted but safe.

Grenoble also features in the unfortunate episode of Paul’s crash on the descent from Alpe d’Huez. He emerged from Grenoble Hospital swathed in bandages making Keith think that the accident would end his cycling activities for that trip. However, Paul would have none of it and continued to take part in the daily rides despite his bandages.

 

Having retired from work, as well as doing many of the classic climbs with the Bentley brothers, Paul completed the Lands End to John O’Groats challenge. He also gave his time to piloting a tandem for a blind friend on rides in the Leicestershire countryside.

He was very involved in Ratae club affairs, regularly attending the weekly club nights before they came to an end. He was the Club President from 2010 until 2013, and again in 2014/2015.2 Until very recently he was the principal organiser of marshals for the club’s time trials, such as the Gilmorton 10 where he always stationed himself at the left turn just before Bruntingthorpe Village.

In the latter years he had some health problems, which made him vulnerable to the Corona virus, which unfortunately contributed to his demise on 18 February 2021. He leaves his wife, Janet, two daughters and four grandchildren. His funeral was held at the Great Glen Crematorium on 23 March.

Notes

  1. In the early days of time trialling, medium gear events, i.e. those ridden with a maximum gear of 72 inches were very popular and the maximum allowed for junior riders.
  2. He only missed out in 2013/2014, when Keith Bentley stood in for him, because of the three year term limit for this role set by the club rules.

The contributions provided by Keith Bentley, Jo and Denis Clarke, Sadie Garratt, Bob Perrett and Peter Kott were edited into this tribute by Kevin Commons - 27th March 2021.

 

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Keith Bentley has also provided three photographs which he has asked to be added to this tribute.

 

The first two show Paul with Keith Bentley, Roger Bentley, Pete Fewkes and Don Arnold in the village of Borg D'Oisang prior to their ascent of Alp D'Huez.

 

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The third Image is that of Paul and Keith together, enjoying their day and ride around Lake Annecy.

 

 

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