Born in Wolverhampton - the home of Wearwell - in 1909, at his father’s Boarding House on Broad Street (which would later become his Bike shop), Stallard became a member of the Wolverhampton Wheelers Cycling Club and a keen competitor in cycle races. He went on to compete for Great Britain in International races during the 1930s, including three World Championships from 1933-35.
Up until 1932, Stallard only rode in time trials. Lone racing against the clock was something of a British speciality, and was coincidentally also the manner in which the Olympic road race was conducted. However, soon after the 32 Olympics in Los Angeles there was an announcement that henceforth the Olympics would be run as a massed-start event, a form of racing which had been banned in Britain since the 19th century and at which British riders therefore had no experience.
In response, the National Cyclists’ Union (NCU) permitted massed-start races on tracks, and later circuits such as airfields, which were closed to traffic, but did not allow such races to be held on open roads. Having raced on open roads in France, Germany, and even the Isle of Man, Stallard felt that races on car circuits and airfields were merely a shadow of the real thing, and was disappointed by the NCU’s unwillingness to allow massed road racing.
When war broke out in 1939, the introduction of petrol rationing saw a vast decrease in the amount of road traffic. Stallard insisted that if there were few or no other road users, then massed road racing was unlikely to raise any objections. In December 1941, he wrote to A.P. Chamberlain of the NCU:
It is amazing to think that this is the only country in Europe where this form of sport is not permitted... There seems to be the mistaken idea that it would be necessary to close the roads. This, of course, is entirely wrong... There would be no better time than now to introduce this form of racing to the roads, what with the decreased amount of motor traffic and the important part that the cycle is playing in wartime transport.
Though Chamberlain was unimpressed with his protests, Stallard continued to voice his displeasure, complaining that the airfields and car circuits, which were the only places permitted by the NCU to hold massed racing, had been taken by the Army and RAF. On Easter Monday 1942 he called a meeting at the foot of the Long Mynd hill in Shropshire, and announced his plan for a 59-mile race from Llangollen to Wolverhampton. He gained sponsorship from Wolverhampton’s Express and Star newspaper, offering any profits to the papers’ Forces Comfort Fund, and recruited 40 riders to take part.
Percy Stallard with Miss London whist fellow cyclist Ernie Clements looks on during the 1945 Brighton to Glasgow marathon.
Ironically, Stallard was later expelled from the BLRC, due to his criticism of the standard of race organisation. When the BLRC agreed to merge with the NCU to form the British Cycling Federation, Stallard branded the move as treason by “just three people [who] were allowed to destroy the BLRC”, and until his death viewed the BCF as merely a reincarnation of the National Cyclists’ Union.