Kermode and Bomber: 26 April 1987
At the end of April 1987 Tayside experienced what could only be described as a minor heat wave. Temperatures soared to 27C and the Sunday run from the gates to Drumore, some high road on the way to Glen Isla, wherever that was. I just followed wheels or at least tried to. My Raleigh Equipe – The Flying Gate – didn’t help my naturally poor downhilling skills and I was dropped going down Tullybaccart (as I was in identical fashion the following evening, too!). I was upset and so far off the back going into Blairgowrie that I had no idea which way the large group had gone. I saw two riders up a street to the left so I followed them and it turned out to be the two guys who had been on the front of the large group. I think they were in Carnoustie CC colours and I didn’t know them, but they did wait for me and they saved the day in a way.
Those two turned out to be legends in the microcosm of Dundee cycling: Alan ‘Bomber’ Anderson and George Kermode (older brother of John). For some reason they were not the most popular guys in the bunch at the time and when they turned left in Blairgowrie the rest of the gang stealthily went straight on… Nice move!
Bomber had been so good before he even reached 20 years old that he was selected to ride for Scotland in the extremely tough international stage race – The Tour of Slovakia. This was a mountainous race full of drug-fuelled Eastern block riders, but Bomber hung on throughout. Unfortunately things didn’t work out too great afterwards with a lot of personal problems, much of it related to drink. He’d make regular come backs, buying the latest bike and allowing his natural class to shine very quickly before he’d disappear back into the world of rumours, selling his bike and typically buying a motorbike. He even joined the training group on his Yamaha 750cc machine some nights, taking his turn on the front, pacing boys back on, ripping Steve Crowe’s arm out of its socket when he tried to take a tow, etc.
Kermode was equally wild and also very talented although I don’t know how far he took it all. Both liked to mess about. Stories go that Kermode and Bomber rode the Sealink International stage race in England in the late 1970s or early 80s. Actually there’s another story regarding how Bomber shouldn’t even have been on the start-line due to a bizarre accident the previous week. Kermode and Bomber had taken the train through Fife one evening to ride the Kircaldy 10 mile time-trial. I don’t remember if they made it there or not, but for the return trip they bought a six-pack of beer and downed most of it before Dundee. Not wanting to waste the last can, Bomber hung it from his handlebars in a polythene bag. Back in Dundee and probably a little tipsy, they decided to ride up the Hilltown. The Hilltown does exactly what it says on the tin and no one sober would ride it unless they were paid (which is why 100+ professionals rode it as part of the Tour of Britain 1989 prologue – a prologue that Irishman ‘King’ Sean Kelly himself described as ‘insane’ and ‘the hardest prologue I’ve ever done’, though in an accent you wouldn’t understand).
While sprinting for the imaginary finish line outside the Three Barrels boozer, the beer can in the bag hanging from Bomber’s handlebars swung into the spokes and launched him spectacularly on to his head. He fractured his skull but decided to check himself out of hospital and go on down to the Sealink International anyway.
And why not? Barry Hoban was riding there! Eight times a stage winner in the Tour de France and married to Tommy Simpson’s widow, he’s one of the most successful riders Britain has ever produced. I actually met him myself one night at the end of a training race. He was staying with Jim Brewster. Anyway, legend has it that Bomber and Kermode hung around the great rider sniggering “Harry Boban! [sic]” for most of the race.
Kermode was also known for going on brutal attacks in road races, only to reappear screaming out of a bush wearing some scary mask as the peloton passed – a bit like a half-assed predecessor of the Devil in the Tour de France.
Back to April 1987 and I was just glad to have the company of these two guys. Half way along the high road to Dunkeld they stopped to poke a stick at an adder snake on the road… They left me behind on Tullybaccart but waited patiently at the top.
Over the next few years as I reached my own limited peak, it was a great honour to receive compliments from these two talented and generous guys.
[Note: actually since writing this I have the feeling that it was not Alan Anderson who was present that day but George’s brother John. If so, I apologise!]