As anyone over about the age of fifty will no doubt remember, the structure of cycling was once decidedly different to what it is today. Around the world the Amateur and Pro ranks were run as two distinctly – and often fiercely – separate entities, a situation that lead to no end of friction and controversy (typically in the lead-up to an Olympic Games) until UCI regulation changes in 1993 paved the way for professionals and amateurs to compete together in ‘open’ races at all levels of the sport. Atlanta in 1996 was the first time professional riders were openly allowed to race at the Olympics, for example.
But looking back, just how big was the divide between amateur and pro cycling? Well, I heard a curious story from a lovely bloke by the name of Steve over a post-ride coffee this morning. It was the 1960s and he was at a major country track carnival in Bathurst with his dad, also a keen rider in his day. With large, high quality fields the pros and amateurs competed happily enough on the same track, albeit in alternating races. However despite this seeming collegiality, the divisions between the two groups were still very real.
“For one thing, I remember the pros and amateurs both had their own starters,” recalls Steve. “But the best part was they even insisted on using different types of caps in the starting gun!”