Lee Valley VeloPark Abercrombie Road,

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park,

London, E20 3AB

Friday 18 April 2014

Organised and Promoted on behalf of The SOUTHERN COUNTIES CYCLING UNION

The title ‘The Good Friday Meeting’, ‘SCCU Good Friday Meeting’, ‘Herne Hill Good Friday Meeting’ , The Good Friday Meeting - Herne Hill’and any derivations thereof are the property of the SCCU.

Commercial Rights to the Meeting remain the property of the SCCU at all times and cannot be assigned by or implied to be owned by any other body or person without the written consent of the SCCU. This includes advertising and trading rights at or during the Meeting.








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The Good Friday Meeting Story

The world famous Good Friday Meetings took shape in January 1903 when a small group of enthusiasts persuaded their sceptical colleagues of the Southern Counties Cycling Union that the Union should promote a meeting at Herne Hill on the coming Good Friday.  A guarantee fund was set up but with the meeting turning out an unqualified success this was not required, in fact a useful profit was made.   The track was booked for following year and the almost unbroken series of meetings has continued to the present day.

Within a few years of their commencement, capacity crowds were being thrilled and entertained by the top British amateur riders of the day and leading Continental professional sprinters.  In the years up to WW1 three British World Champions, Leon Meredith, Vic Johnson and Bill Bailey, were frequent competitors and together with continental riders like V. Dupre, the pro World Champion, meetings were taking on an international flavour.  

SCCU stalwart Joe Stapley managed to keep the series going throughout the 1914-18 war. Disguised as the United Services Sports the meagre entry was confined to members of the Forces.  With the return of Peace the standard of racing was soon back to top world-class level.  Bill Bailey was still there, but as a pro’ now, and we had another World Champion, H.T. ‘Tiny’ Johnson.  The 1920’s saw the four famous Wyld brothers led by Harry and Percy who could see off any combination in a pursuit.  Tandem paced races became a feature of programmes and the great Frank Southall proved difficult to beat.  One foreign rider popular with the Herne Hill supporters in the 1930’s was the young German Toni Merkens who won a ‘Counties trophy outright in the popular 5 miles Point-to-Point.

With Herne Hill was being used for military purposes during the 1939-45 war the meeting was moved to Paddington.  1941 saw the nation with its back to the wall with daily air raids on London and that year became the first blank date on the ‘Counties calender.  Then the Government ‘suspended Good Friday’ so the meeting was held on Easter Monday. Although nowhere on the scale of pre-war events these wartime meetings maintained the continuity of a great occasion.  

Under the guiding hand of promoter Jim Wallace the 20 years following the war saw the Good Friday meetings, now back at Herne Hill, reach a peak of international prestige.  In 1948 a sponsorship was negotiated with the “News of the World” that enabled Wallace to engage champion amateur sprinters from the principal cycling nations and match them in a ‘Champion of Champions’ sprint.  And what a galaxy of World and Olympic Champions were seen in action.  Sadly when this event was first staged in 1948 one of our greatest sprinters Reg Harris, then current World Champion, was seriously injured in a car crash en route to the track.  He appeared in later years riding as a professional.

In 1948 Wallace introduced another event, one that gave him particular pleasure.  He invited comparatively unknown riders to compete in the ‘White Hope Sprint’ in the belief that they would be the future champions.  How right he was as the winners through the years were to prove.

From the 1960’s to 80’s track racing declined in popularity with road racing proving more attractive.  Capacity crowds became a thing of the past except on the occasions when top professional roadmen made an appearance at the Meeting.  The rise in the number of British professionals and the relaxation of rules allowing pros and amateurs to complete against each other assisted promoters who followed Wallace in their selection of competitors for events.

With the resurgence of interest in track racing, and the advent of sponsorship for individual events during the latter part of the century, the current promoters were once again able to invite World class riders like Michael Hubner, Florian Rousseau, Arnaud Tournant, Jens Feidler, Graeme Obree and Frederic Magne to the Hill.  Young riders such as Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Bradley Wiggins have all guested at the meeting before greater commitments precluded them from coming.

In 2011, after two years suffering from bad weather, the ‘Counties took the bold step to take the meeting to Manchester, but although the meeting was a brilliant exhibition of track racing at its best, the local supporters were not ready for it and it proved an expensive financial misjudgement.  The meeting returned to Herne Hill, working around the dilapidated infrastructure and ongoing remodelling of the track centre.

For 2014, with extensive groundworks still ‘’a work in progress’’ and the buildings still unusable, the emergence of the nearby newly opened Lee Valley VeloPark velodrome proved to be too good an opportunity to miss and the SCCU negotiated to relocate into the modern era. Whether the latest gamble proved to be successful time alone will tell…….