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Graham Paul Webb
Graham Webb was a British racing cyclist who won the world amateur road race championship in 1967.
Graham was brought up at 58 Leamington Road, Sparkbrook, and later moved into 2/66 Leamington Road. There is nothing left now of the houses and a school (Nelson Mandela) has since been built.
Graham started riding the bike at the age of 8 - in Graham's words " I was born (13 January 1944) and bred in a back street slum of Birmingham. My mother was left a war widow with 5 children, three boys and two girls, I was the youngest. I was constantly very very ill and was given the last rites twice as a child, but I'm a fighter and survived. At the age of eight I learnt to ride a bike and managed to buy one for 9 pence, this was my saviour. I was never out of the saddle as I felt that I was born for cycling and that it helped me get stronger and stronger every day."
Graham's First Race
When he entered his first race at 16, a 25-mile solo ride against the clock, he turned up unaware of what he was supposed to do. Both shy and not understanding why competitors were starting separately instead of together, he waited until someone called him. When someone did, he was late for his time slot and the extra time was added as a penalty.
"I'd got a T-shirt and a pair of cut-off jeans and some tennis pumps," he said. "I was watching them get into this racing gear and eventually I got fed up with all these blokes changing and I thought 'When's this race going to start?' It should have started at six o'clock and these blokes were still getting changed. I didn't know it was every minute a bloke off!"
The Race Begins
In 1963 he rode the World Team Time Trial in Belgium, 3 years later was National Pursuit Champion and finished 9th in the World Championships in Germany.
The year after, 1967 is the year everyone remembers and after racing the usual Easter Track meets without any training (he worked 16-hour days in the winter to get the finances to race abroad) he moved to Holland. After racing in the World pursuit that year he rode that eventful Road Race, the same day that Beryl Burton won her Road Race title - 2 World Road Champions in the same day for Britain!
After a winter season including a win in the Ghent Amateur six day he turned pro for Mercier but after health problems had to retire the year after. He did not touch the bike for over 16 years and when he did return started winning again and in 1988 and 1989 won four Belgian 'Open' track championships, twice Madison, once sprint champion and once Omnium champion, and was East Flemish road champion.
The Last British Amateur Champion
Replying to a journalist's shouted comment that the last British amateur world road champion had been Dave Marsh 45 years earlier, Webb retorted: "And they'll have to wait another 45 years before another British rider wins." (Interview, Procycling March 2007). His prediction came true and will now remain true because not only did no British man win a world road race championship in the following 45 years but none will now win the amateur championship because rules separating amateurs from professionals have been scrapped.
Graham leads an enjoyable life now in Belgium, involved in the Flemish School of Cycling where his two grandsons train, he has been decorated twice by the Belgian King and is feted wherever he goes but feels a little upset that his home country has not recognised his achievements.
Graham received two silver medals at the World Masters Championships, Manchester 2004. Graham says that this is most likely his last sporting feat as in 2005 his aorta split open while he was training for the 2005 Masters Olympics in Canada.
British Cycling have invited Graham as a guest of honour at the 2012 London Olympics where he hopes to be on the Mall for the finish of the Olympic Road Race.
Watch a short video featuring footage of Graham cycling:
Graham has been inducted into British Cycling's first ever Hall of Fame