Hugh Porter MBE (born Wolverhampton, England, 27 January 1940) is one of Britain's greatest former professional cyclists, winning four world titles in the individual pursuit as well as a Commonwealth Games gold medal in 1966. He is now a commentator on cycling events, working most notably for the BBC.
- 1 Personal life
- 2 Cycling career
- 3 Commentary work
- 4 Honours
- 5 References
- 6 Sources
Porter was born and raised in Wolverhampton and educated at the city's St Peter's Collegiate School. His father, Joe, was a cyclist and at 10, Hugh was taken to the Halesowen Velodrome to watch British sprint world champion Reg Harris.
Aged 16, Porter began racing as a junior for Wolverhampton Wheelers cycling club, finishing third in his first road race. He also became a regular competitor in weekly track league meetings at Wolverhampton’s Aldersley Stadium cycle track.
As a senior, he won his first race in July 1958 and by the end of the season another victory and other high placings led to a first-category licence for the 1959 season. First was the highest of three classes dependent on racing successes. Six victories came that season on the road, along with a gold medal on the track as part of his club's team pursuit squad at the national track championships at the Fallowfield Stadium, Manchester. He also won the Midlands title in the individual pursuit, but remained focused on developing as a road racer.
In the early 1960s he represented Great Britain in the Tour of Czechoslovakia in 1961 (26th overall) and in the Tour of Ireland. He also finished second that year in the season-long Star Trophy points competition assessed by results in set races through a season, and 17th in his first ride in the Tour of Britain. A year later he was 20th in the same event, and earned selection for the 1962 world championships in Italy to ride both the road race and team time trial events. However, over-exertion in the time trial led to a poor performance in the road race.
First national track title
Porter still dabbled in track racing and in 1963 performed well in the individual pursuit at Aldersley Stadium's Easter international meeting, before winning the final 10-mile scratch race. Encouraged, Porter began to consider contesting the national individual pursuit championship. In the meantime, he also raced in the national 25-mile individual time trial championship in Gloucestershire, finishing second. The individual pursuit championship was decided at Fallowfield Stadium; Porter was the fastest qualifier and, although headed in the early stages of the final, soon eased into the lead to beat Harry Jackson and win his first individual national title. Porter then travelled to the Rocourt velodrome, near Liège in Belgium, for the 1963 world championship, where he reached the semi-final, to be pipped by 0.18 seconds by Belgian Jean Walschaerts for a place in the final. He won the third-place ride-off to take a bronze medal.
1964 was dominated by thoughts of the Olympic Games in Tokyo where Porter was already selected to ride the pursuit, though he still defended his British championship, emerging victorious at Herne Hill and shaving almost a second off the championship record. He also tested himself in the national 10-mile time-trial championship, finishing second, and was a member of the Wolverhampton Wheelers squad which won the national team pursuit title. However, while Porter qualified fifth fastest in Tokyo, he was suffering from a cold and was eliminated at the quarter-final stage, and went home without a medal, but he did meet his future wife, fellow Olympian and swimmer Anita Lonsbrough whom he married in Huddersfield on 17 June 1965.
While Porter retained his British individual pursuit title and won several road races, 1965 was otherwise not memorable. He was defeated in the quarter-finals of the world pursuit championship in Spain (a timetable change meant he almost missed the contest, and, without his normal pre-race routine, he was narrowly defeated by Colombian Martin Rodriguez in the fastest race of the event).
However, 1966 proved more successful. Porter began with 12 successive road race victories, and won a pursuit match in the Good Friday meeting at Herne Hill. He then rode the Tour of Britain, winning one stage, finishing second on three other stages, taking ninth place overall and second place in the points classification. His road victories assured him of victory in the season-long Star Trophy series. Without any further track races, he travelled to Jamaica for the 1966 Commonwealth Games, where he set a games record in qualifying for the semi-final of the individual pursuit, and then beat Australian Jan Bylsma in the final to take the gold medal.
First professional steps
In early 1967 Porter turned professional, riding for the Condor Mackeson team. The step up to the professional ranks meant that in the individual pursuit he was now racing 5,000m instead of 4,000m, but in his first test at the distance, he emerged victorious, beating Dave Bonner to win the professional title in Leicester. Porter was then selected to race in the world professional pursuit event in Amsterdam. Porter qualified for the final, but, unsettled by a puncture to his opponent, Timeon Groen, that forced a re-run, he was beaten by two seconds. Nonetheless, his silver medal led to contracts from track promoters, including an invitation to ride the London six-day race – his first. He crashed on the fourth day, breaking his collar bone, and missed contracts for other six-day races. However, he recovered and spent much of the winter track-racing in Belgium, finishing the Antwerp six-day before returning to England for the start of the 1968 road season.
Porter began 1968 with a time-trial stage victory and second place overall in a three-day race in Bournemouth, plus two stage wins and sixth overall in the Tour of the West. He was then selected for the British team to ride the Tour de France. Having retained his British pursuit title, he was expected to do well in the prologue time trial – and finished seventh of 120 starters. However, an injury returned and he abandoned on the third stage – a retirement that allowed him to concentrate on the world championship in Rome in late August.
He was the fastest qualifier, and recorded his fastest time of the championship in the quarter final, beating Siegfried Adler, then holder of the world professional indoor Hour record. In the final, Porter faced Ole Ritter, later holder of the outdoor hour record, of Denmark and beat him by eight seconds to win his first world title, an achievement that merited the Bidlake Memorial Prize for 1968.
From 1967 until his retirement from professional racing in 1973, Porter was world professional champion in the 5,000m individual pursuit a record four times, second place on two occasions and taking bronze on the other. The sequence ran:
- 1967 - Amsterdam - silver
- 1968 – Rome – gold
- 1969 – Antwerp – silver
- 1970 – Leicester – gold
- 1971 – Varese, Italy - bronze
- 1972 – Marseille - gold
- 1973 – San Sebastián - gold
Porter continued to race on the road in summer and in winter six-day races and he also won cyclo-cross events.
Porter is a TV commentator and public-address commentator at events. He has often worked for BBC Sport and has voiced the Olympic and Commonwealth Games (track and road), World Championships (track and road) and World Cup track meetings.
He commentated on the 2009 Tour of Britain for ITV4, while also public-address commentator. Porter kept referring to the 'stage announcer', which was himself. Porter is a regular at Manchester and Newport velodromes. He is the voice of the Revolution series at Manchester.
In recent years, Hugh has joined forces with British Swimming and is now "the voice of British Swimming", commentating at all the major events throughout the year.
The Golden Book
Order of the British Empire
Porter was presented with an award for Outstanding Contribution to Cycling at the World Track Championships in Manchester in March 2008.
Porter was made Freeman of the City of Wolverhampton in 2009 and there is a road named after him in Aldersley, Wolverhampton ("Hugh Porter Way" which leads to Aldersley Leisure Village, where Porter's old club, Wolverhampton Wheelers CC, is based and uses the velodrome).
Porter is honorary patron of Halesowen Athletic and Cycling Club.
- Wielrennen Belgium - Profile of Hugh Porter
- Halesowen Cycling
- Andy Jones (6 March 2008). "STAFFORDSHIRE AND SHROPSHIRE WITH HUGH PORTER". Cycling Weekly. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
- Nigel Ringland (12 August 2008). "No chance to relax in the Water Cube - The Beijing Olympics". Irish News (Belfast). Retrieved 17 August 2008.
- "Chris Boardman’s shock as BBC drops ‘voice of cycling’ Hugh Porter". Evening Standard. 4 March 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- Feature on BBC Sport coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics
- The Golden Book of Cycling - Hugh Porter, 1972
- "50 Cycling Heroes Named in British Cycling's Hall of Fame". British Cycling. 17 December 2009.
- MR HUGH PORTER – CITATION FOR THE CONFERMENT OF THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY OF WOLVERHAMPTON Wolverhampton City Council
- Hugh Porter Given Freedom of the City (Wolverhampton) British Cycling, 2 May 2009
- Porter, H. (1973) Champion on Two Wheels (London: Robert Hale & Co, ISBN 0-7091-5091-1)