Mandy Jones was the winner of the women’s elite road race the last time the UCI World Championships came to British shores in 1982.
She’s often dubbed the accidental world champion because of the way she escaped the attentions of her rivals and rode to a solo victory at Goodwood.
But there was nothing accidental about the win in her mind – it was her aim to win on home soil and she did it in great style.
She had trained hard in the lead-up – her partner at the time was pro-cyclist Ian Greenhalgh – and was determined to put the disappointment of ‘messing up’ in the world team pursuit just the week before.
And she knew exactly when she had to make her move.
Chatting to Allez! Allez! CC on the eve of the World Championships, Jones – now Bishop – takes up the story…
She said: “From the get-go I made sure I was right up at the front and I did get away, first of all with one of the Dutch girls on lap two of four and we got caught going up the climb at the end of the third lap and that’s when Maria Canins and Sandra Schumacher were going away from bunch on the lefthand side of the road.
“I was on the righthand side and I realised I had to get across to them so I got back on the back going past the finish line. I had to recover a bit because I’d been away so I had to grit my teeth, get on the back, get by breath back a bit. Once it went through the finish line you went to the right and it levelled out a bit, just below where the horse racing circuit is.
“You carry on and it’s a right-hand turn and I think it’s called Pilley Green Corner where it starts the descent and I went around the corner first, realised I had a gap and put my head down because I had caught them napping.
“But that’s what you do in road racing – you grab the opportunities where you can. I only realised when I watched the footage that when I was away they’d actually done the same and got away on that climb, they just rolled away from the bunch.
“When you get to there you only had nine miles to go so there was no way I was going to let anyone get away; it just wasn’t an opportunity you’d want to give someone.
“I just grit my teeth and was just seeing how it worked out but by that point, you’re around the circuit on the downhill on the motor racing circuit and then back on the climb but based on how they had been climbing, there was no way I could wait until that final climb.”
Back in the early 1980s, the women’s calendar wasn’t what it was today. Most of Bishop’s races were time trials – 10, 25 and 50-miles – the odd women’s road race and races against the men.
But the training she did was revolutionary for the era – hard, long rides similar to what this year’s winner Annemiek van Vleuten.
Bishop trained with Greenhalgh who would be out training for pro events. And the roads just over the Pennines from her home in Greater Manchester provided the perfect training ground.
She said: “I was riding a lot out in the Dales, out in Malham and Settle, and we’d come back to places where you probably wouldn’t go now because it’s too busy.
“There are lots of hard climbs – if you’re going out doing five hours a day on that terrain it makes you. We’d do winter club runs but they’d be 100 miles, 120 miles on a Sunday – we’d be out all day, in all weather.
“It means that you get so used to being in those conditions that it doesn’t bother you. I hated getting wet, having said that!
“The thought of coming home to a hot cup of tea and shower and egg and chips – as my mum used to make me – was what kept me going!”
She certainly kept going after finding her self out alone on that day in 1982 and then the time-trialling kicked in.
Bishop had always been strong in the TT, hoovering up wins for much of her career, and that kind of mindset kicked in.
But how much of an opportunity did Jones get to enjoy the moment?
She said: “Because I was away on my own, and I had enough of a gap, I was fortunate that I knew before I crossed the line. I had time to think that I was OK and I could put my hand up. It was like ‘yes, I’d done it’ to start with because of all the hard work and the training and the disappointments and things that had gone wrong.
“There are all these different things behind the scenes and you hope that on the day that you’re fit, everything is working properly and you don’t have any mechanical problems and nobody knocks you off.
“After you’ve realised you’ve won it, you go into a cloud and it’s a bit surreal. You’ve got people hugging you and my parents were around the course watching. Eventually, my mum made it up to the finishing line – I’m not sure where she’d been watching – but I’d already been presented with the medal before I got to see her.
“It was quite funny, I was being interviewed by Hugh Porter on the barrier and I heard this voice shouting ‘Mandy! Hiya love’ right in the middle of the interview. She wasn’t bothered that I was being interviewed – she just wanted to give me a hug!”
Nowadays, Bishop – runs online bike shop Fawkes Cycles with husband Nigel, himself a former racer who was a yellow jersey holder in the Milk Race in the 1980s.
A replica rainbow jersey takes pride of place alongside Nigel’s yellow jersey in their office, although she admits the real jersey needs reframing and medals are stored away in a box.
She said: “There’s not really room for them at home – I don’t have a nice ‘den’ to put them which would be nice.
“I’ve got all my jerseys and medals but they’re in a box which is a shame because there are some nice ones and you do wonder why they’re stuck in a cupboard!”
The women’s sport may have moved on a lot since Bishop was plying her trade but, as van Vleuten proved today, the pure spectacle of a solo victory still provides plenty of excitement.
Does Bishop regret not being a racer in the modern era?
“There’s always more you wish you could achieve but unfortunately injury put paid to my career. I had a bit of time off because I needed to and then had my son and came back and I actually felt stronger than I did in my early 20s.
“I always felt there was more there but I am where I am and there’s nothing I could have done at the time.
“Women’s racing was what it was at the time and I have no regrets that it was a different era. If I was 20 years old and racing now then it would be great but things evolve over time. They get so much but cycling, in general, gets so much more coverage now.
“We want equality with the men but at least because they’ve ended up getting more coverage then so have the women’s racing has got more. The more it gets, the more people want more so that means there are more races.
“The women riding today might not appreciate the amount of coverage they get but we’d have been overjoyed.”