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First episode, taken from Rover and Wizard issue: April 19th 1969.

Thousands of people lined the approaches to Bournemouth to see the finish of the first day’s lap of the Tour of Britain cycle race. Thousands of necks were craned as the first bunch of competitors appeared from the direction of Christchurch. There were four of them together, pedaling like men possessed, hurling their light machines over the tarmac during these last minutes of the grueling eighty-five miles that they had covered that day. “Jack Jenkins is there!” shouted one enthusiast. “And I see Don Payne right beside him!” yelled another of the crowd, as the police checked the traffic from the side streets. Jack Jenkins, captain of the Pericles team, was indeed there, and so was his keenest rival, Don Payne, of the L.T.A. work team. They were racing neck and neck eager to win the Yellow Jersey which would be given to the day’s winner. Leaders of teams entered by Britain’s leading cycle manufacturers, these two owed their position in the race to the splendid co-operation that they had received from their team-mates. Teamwork at its best was what often won road races for these champion cyclists. They would have been the first to admit it, but now they were tussling it out between them, along with Bellenger, of Belgium, and Lognay, of Switzerland. The Yellow Jersey looked like going to one of these four. Down the hill at fully forty miles an hour they swept, then on to the last upgrade leading to the finishing point. There was a strong headwind blowing in from the sea. The faces of those four men showed the strain, for they had gone into the lead directly they had passed Southampton, and had been fighting it out ever since. All eyes were on the four leaders. Few noticed the lone rider who had just come whizzing down the hill, his head well over his handlebars. There was no lettering or manufacturer’s name across his jersey. Black shorts and a white jersey trimmed with black was what he wore. Long, lean with heavily muscled legs he was driving his all-black machine with a fierce intensity that shot him past the crowd like a black bullet. It was as if he had come from nowhere. Nobody knew who he was. Those who saw his face noted that it was entirely expressionless. His unblinking eyes stared just ahead of his wheel; his mouth was set in a firm line. A ripple ran the length of his body each time he drove, piston fashion at the pedals and shot his light machine forward.


“Who’s number seven?” asked many of the puzzled spectators. “Look! He’s catching up on the leaders. He’s going faster uphill than he did downhill!” The four leaders might have been standing still judging by the way this mystery rider overtook them. It was true that they were not expecting any further challenge from the rear, for when last they had checked they had been fives minutes ahead of anyone else. Jack Jenkins had the shock of his life when someone flashed past him on the outside when there was only half-mile to go. He had been saving himself for the last four hundred yards, intending then to make a decisive sprint. Now he called out his last reserves of strength and was after the unknown rider. Don Payne saw his rival begin to sprint, and met the challenge. The two foreigners did likewise. The bunched four shot forward as though suddenly jet-propelled, but that rider in the black-edged jersey was many lengths ahead of them. “He can’t be human!” panted Don Payne to himself as he saw the mystery man’s lead increasing. “He couldn’t go faster on a sprint track. A roar went up in the crowded square, and a thousand handkerchiefs and hats were waved in the air. Number 7, the unknown rider, was an easy first. To him would go the coveted Yellow Jersey and the bonus of one minute to be deducted from his total time. Jack Jenkins came second, and earned the thirty seconds bonus, while his old rival, Don Payne, earned a fifteen seconds bonus for third place. The rest of the field came streaming along the road from Christchurch. They had heard the roar, and knew that the race was over, but not until they reached the finishing post did they learn that the day’s honours had gone to Tom Tetford, an unknown rider who had entered unbacked by any team or organisation. His face was impassive as he accepted the congratulations of those around him. Instead of talking to him, he was staring down the road to Christchurch, along which would come the laggards in the race, and the procession of vans, service lorries, and cars which brought the friends, handlers, mechanics, and others attached to the competitors. “he’s a surly blighter!” muttered Jack Jenkins to his team-mate, Dick Pringle. “I tried to shake hands with him, but he looked right through me as though I wasn’t there. It’s peculiar that we didn’t notice him before. He must have been at the back all day. I don’t think I’ve ever set eyes on him before today.” Others were making similar remarks. All efforts to get a smile from the victor, or to get an appreciative glance from him in exchange for congratulations failed. One by one the competitors came in, and without exception they were amazed by the result. Since midday everyone had believed it lay between Jack Jenkins and Don Payne, with a threat of possible trouble from the Belgian, Bellenger. Nobody had foreseen that an unknown would shoot to the front at the last moment.


Those in the rear of the race told how Tetford had suddenly put on a superhuman sprint this side of Lyndhurst, and how he had shot away from them at a pace none of them could hold. They had believed it to be a mere flash in the pan, and that he would burn himself out within a mile or so, but here he was in Bournemouth, the winner of the coveted Yellow Jersey. “Don’t you ride for anyone?” Duke Horner, of the L.T.A., asked Tetford. “No!” replied the victor shortly, then he seemed to tense and his lips parted. He had seen something turn the distant bend. Duke Horner glanced in the same direction, and saw an all black motor caravan driven by a small man in a coat many sizes too large for him. Beside him sat a short, stout man whose oily skin and jet-black hair indicated that he was probably a foreigner. His eyes were deep-sunken in his pale face, and almost lost under his bushy eyebrows. The motor caravan stopped alongside Tom Tetford, and without a word to either of those in front, he lifted his racing cycle through the rear door and followed after it. The door slammed. The caravan moved on. “Well, I’ll be busted!” exclaimed Duke Horner to another of his team-mates. “Did you see that? Who was that oily looking blighter with the deep set eyes.” “That’s Tetford’s manager,” said someone else. “I saw them together at the start. They live in that caravan instead of going to hotels. I expect they’ve arranged to park it somewhere for the night.” “Queer sort of set-up!” observed Horner. “They didn’t even speak to one another. Tetford won the Yellow Jersey, yet his manager didn’t even congratulate him!” “Don’t worry about it,” advised his friend, linking arms. “It’s nothing to do with us. Tomorrow we’ll take good care Mister Mystery Tetford doesn’t get his nose to the front. Come and have a hot bath before you stiffen up.” Three or four local newspaper reporters and photographers barred their way and asked where they could find the winner, Duke Horner indicated the tail-end of the caravan as it turned the corner of the street. “He’s aboard that, but he doesn’t want to talk to anyone,” said Horner. “Standoffish is Tearaway Tetford!” “Tearaway Tetford!” exclaimed one of the reporters scribbling. “That’s a good name for him. There’s a site for caravans on some waste ground along the road. I reckon that’s where they’re bound. We’ll catch up with ‘em presently. Now tell me, did you see the accident at Harvant, when the Irishman got put out of the race?” It looked as though Horner and his team-mates would not get their hot bath just yet.




Over their evening meals the other competitors in the Tour of Britain indulged in a good deal of speculation about the lone rider who had carried off the day’s honours. Nobody seemed to know anything definite about the young victor. He appeared to be no more than twenty-one, and would have had a pleasant face but for that strangely intent stare of his and his lack of expression. Some of them remembered they had noticed that he had not even showed signs of strain during that last crazy spurt. His face might have been carved from a block of wood. Officials were looking up entry lists and verifying the fact that Tom Tetford had been the last competitor to enter the Tour of Britain. Beyond the fact that his manager’s name was Van Vonder, little more was known about Tetford. During the early evening a warning was sent round that the start in the morning would be half an hour later than arranged. It was something to do with police regulations, and the competitors did not grumble because it would mean half an hour extra in bed. After a satisfying supper, Jack Jenkins and Dick Pringle went for a walk along the undercliff. Returning inland just as it was getting dark, they passed the site that the newspaper reporter had mentioned and saw the black caravan standing in the middle of it. Lights shone from the windows, but the curtains were drawn. Jack Jenkins pulled up. “Tetford wasn’t around when they altered the time for tomorrow,” Jenkins said. “Maybe he hasn’t heard. Let’s call and give him the information.” Not sorry to have an excuse to have a few words with the mystery rider, Dick Pringle agreed, and they crossed the uneven ground and reached the caravan. In spite of the warmth of the evening, the doors and windows were all closed. Jack Jenkins reached up to knock on the door, then paused when a deep voice within declared: - “You will win! You will win! You will win! Nothing can tire you!” Jenkins looked at his friend in shocked surprise, then backed away, shaking his head. “I’m not going to bust in there! Something queer going on. Maybe they want to be left to themselves,” he muttered, and hurriedly made for the hotel where they were staying. He was not a nervous man, but for some reason, as he had stood outside the motor caravan, a sense of fear and foreboding had gripped him.


The next day’s run was to be along the coast as far as Sidmouth, and then inland to Exeter. It would be a greater mileage than the first day’s race. Once again a large crowd turned out at midday to see the start. Thirty-six riders lined up for the signal, and behind them was the usual array of vehicles carrying those who ministered to their wants. Tearaway Tetford, as the morning papers had called him, was the last to take up his position. Until the very last moment he had remained in the caravan, shunning all visitors, refusing to pose for any photos. When he wheeled his machine up to the start there were murmurs in the crowd, for Tearaway Tetford looked as though he had not sleep a wink all night. He was pale, his eyes were sunken, and he walked slowly and stiffly. “We shan’t have much trouble with him today,” muttered the captain of the L.T.A. team. “It was just a flash in the pan. He burnt himself out in that one sprint.” While the preliminaries were being carried through, the black motor van drove off in the direction of Poole. Tearaway Tetford’s manager did not even trouble to see him start. The signal was given at last and the cyclists got away in a massed start, but there was no racing through the town. They were compelled to keep together until open roads were reached beyond Poole. Only then did the teams go into action, jockeying for position, trying to give their crack riders a chance to go ahead. In every village and hamlet little groups of onlookers turned out to cheer and wave. They looked especially for the wearer of the Yellow Jersey. They found him at the rear, pedaling along wearily as though beaten before he had started. Through Wareham swept the wheeled cavalcade, with some rider or other making an occasional sprint to try to improve his position. The roads were wet and there was danger of skids. Nobody took any risks. By the time Dorchester was reached, the leaders had again sorted themselves out. The Pericles and the L.T.A. teams had fought two or three duels with no definite result. They were on the whole very well matched.


The Belgian team was strong and well up in road-race tactics. His team-mates had agreed to give Bellenger a big chance this day, and he was saving himself for the right moment. At Dorchester the leaders were four minutes ahead of Tearaway Tetford, who was still plodding along at the tail-end of the procession. Not once did he lift his eyes to the cheering groups who recognised him. But at the bottom of the long hill up from Winterbourne Abbas the black caravan was standing. The long three-mile climb was chosen for that day’s hill-climbing “prime,” and officials were there with their stop-watches. To the astonishment of those who saw him, the wearer of the yellow Jersey jumped off his machine and went into the caravan. “He’s retiring already!” muttered someone, but thirty seconds later Tearaway Tetford was out again, a very different looking rider. Gone was his languidness. Gone was the dull look in his eyes. He seemed to be brimming with strength and confidence. He pedaled towards the hill at high speed, and as he passed the check-point at the bottom he increased his pace. Half a dozen competitors who were toiling up without much thought of entering for the “prime”-that is, to reach the top of this chosen hill first-were astonished to be suddenly passed by someone moving as rapidly as though they were standing still. Tearaway Tetford’s legs were going like steam pistons, and the fierceness of his thrust sent his machine along in a series of  lunging jerks. More of those who had got ahead of him were overtaken, and by the time he had reached the steepest part of the hill he was well up behind the leaders. On the hill he had made up all the time he had lost earlier in the race! Jenkins, Payne, and Bellenger, who were racing one another for the “prime,” heard the whirring of tyres on the wet road behind them and glanced back in surprise. What they saw caused them to redouble their efforts. There was the man in the Yellow Jersey almost on top of them. Once again the lone rider had come up from the rear in record time. Now he looked like taking the “prime.” Desperately the four leaders put out their utmost on the final stretch of the hill. Steeper and steeper became the gradient and one by one they slowed down. Not so Tearaway Tetford. He maintained the same high speed, never once slowing the revolutions of his pedals. Sweat poured down his face and bare arms, but this was the only sign he showed of strain. He shot over the top an easy winner of the “prime,” which meant he would be credited with extra points. The long slope down into Bridport lay ahead of him, the road dropping from more than seven hundred feet above sea level to less than one hundred. It was an ideal stretch for speed, and Tearaway Tetford went hurtling down it at an ever increasing speed. By the time all the leaders were over the top and were hurtling down the incline. A succession of whirring figures on two wheels flashed by the excited onlookers at the crossroads, but none moved as fast as Tearaway Tetford. None took the risks that he took. And then, when he was a full mile ahead of anyone else, no more than two miles out of Bridport, he leaned over too far on a corner and his wheel shot away from beneath him on the greasy road. It was a vicious skid and he could do nothing to save himself.


To the horror of the onlookers he smashed into a stone wall and lay still. His bicycle finished up in the nearby ditch, undamaged. Jenkins, Payne, and the others saw people lifting the wearer of the Yellow Jersey as they raced by. They told themselves that was the last they would see of him that day, and hoped that his injuries were not serious. They knew they were taking the same risks themselves. Some cottagers carried the unconscious man into their home, and there his bleeding head was bathed and bandaged. The last of the competitors flashed by as this was being done, then came the procession of service vans and attendant vehicles. Foremost amongst these was the black caravan. It was the small driver in the outsize coat who spotted the black bicycle leaning against the cottage fence, and shouted incoherently as he applied the brakes. The stout manager scowled in the direction of the other’s finger, muttered something under his breath, and bounced down from the front seat to the road. He ran to the cottage gate and flung it open. “Is Tom Tetford here?” he demanded. “What’s happened to him?” In spite of his appearance and his name, there was no trace of foreign accent in Vonder’s speech. A stout woman told him that the cyclist had been knocked unconscious and that she had sent for the doctor. “A doctor?” exclaimed Van Vonder. “He does not want a doctor. I am his manager. Let me see him.” They showed him into the room were Tearaway Tetford lay on a couch. He was just beginning to stir and open his eyes. He was groaning a little at the pain in his head. Van Vonder pounced on him and ran fingers over the bump on his head, then he swung round at the gaping cottagers. “There is not much wrong with him—nothing that I cannot cure in two or three minutes,” said Vonder. “Get out of the room and leave us alone—please!” “What’s he going to do?” muttered the woman as she and her husband left the room. “That young fellow’s badly hurt. He can’t ride again.” “S-sh!” hissed her husband. “What are they doing in there? What’s that man saying over and over again? I wish the doctor would arrive and—” The door of the parlour was thrown open and out came Tearaway Tetford. His eyes were fixed straight ahead as though he was sleep-walking. The blood-stained bandage was still in place around his head, but his stride was firm and purposeful as he made for the gate and grabbed his racing cycle. Running out into the middle of the road, he vaulted on to the saddle and pedaled round the corner as if he were in for a sprint race. “I told you there was very little wrong with him,” muttered Van Vonder, following more slowly from the parlour. “He is quite able to continue the race. Thank you for your assistance.”




The head of the procession of racing cycles had almost reached Sidmouth. The last half-hour had been a fierce tussle for position between Pericles and the Belgian teams. Each had tried to baulk the other while letting their leaders go ahead. By a series of overlapping sprints, one man taking up the pacemaking after another, the Belgians had sought to wear down the Pericles men, who were doing all they could to nurse Jack Jenkins until the time when he would make his supreme effort. It was on the other side of Colyford that a Frenchman who had tyre trouble was passed in a flash by a madly-pedalling figure on an all-black cycle. He just had time to glimpse the Yellow Jersey worn by the cyclist, then he vanished round a bend in the road. “It is the unknown British rider, the one who won yesterday!” thought the startled Frenchman. “They said he was out of this race. What chance does he think he has of catching up now?” A little farther on the Italians and the Swiss had begun to jostle one another for position. Some of them were passing three abreast when an all-black cycle ridden by a figure in the Yellow Jersey hurtled past them down a steep hill. A little farther on a motorist emerging from a side road, hurriedly braked in time to avoid collision with a speeding cyclist in the Yellow Jersey, who scraped across his front bumper and disappeared down the road towards Sidford and Sidmouth. Three miles out of Sidmouth he came up with the L.T.A. team, which was just increasing pace with the intention of challenging the leaders. With them was John Cuthbert, of the Pericles team, who had strained a muscle and been obliged to drop back. It was he who heard the whirring of wheels coming up from the rear, and looked round before shouting: - “Thought someone said Tearaway Tetford was out of the race! Here he comes!” Hardly had he said this than Tearaway Tetford was level with the rear man, who sprinted to prevent the wearer of the Yellow Jersey from passing.


Tetford promptly put on another spurt, cut in ahead of his challenger and almost put him in the ditch. Then he went after the rest of the team. Meaning glances passed between them, and they spread out, each man taking turns to try to run Tetford to exhaustion point. But these tactics didn’t work. One by one he passed them, and caught up with the tail of the Pericles team, who were being held back by the tactics of the Belgians, who had put Bellenger in front. Jack Jenkins glimpsed the dead-white face under the blood-stained bandage, and nearly fell off his cycle. He had seen those cottagers lifting the unconscious Tetford, and if ever he had seen a man completely knocked out of a race it had been then. Yet here was Tearaway Tetford challenging the leaders! There was now only a mile to go into Sidmouth, and everyone was recklessly thrusting for openings. Two of the Belgians collided and went down in a tangle, Jack Jenkins seized the chance to shoot past and get within thirty yards of Bellenger, who was showing signs of tiring. Realising that he might yet be beaten, the Belgian forced another sprint. The two other Belgians barred Tetford’s way. For a moment it looked as though he would ride straight into them, then he made a sudden swerve, bumped over up the grass verge at the side of the road. Shot past them, and down on to the road on the other side. Ahead of him there were now only Bellenger and Jenkins. Bellenger and Jenkins were riding neck and neck. First one would get a little ahead, then the other. They were both fully extended, but neither would give in. To win today would mean a bonus of five minutes on their time, as well as the honour of wearing the Yellow Jersey. People at the side of the road cheered madly when they saw Tetford coming up so rapidly. Once again he made the others appear to be moving slowly. There was something inhuman about the way he drove that machine along. Surely no ordinary human being could be capable of such a fast sprint at the end of such a grueling race! Bellenger was cracking. Just before they reached the Sidmouth check-point Jack Jenkins went ahead of him. Tearaway Tetford was then only three lengths behind and for the moment he did not press any harder. They swung north again in the centre of the town, through cheering crowds. There was still fifteen miles to go to Exeter, and over hilly roads. Only the superbly fit could hope to keep up this dizzy pace. Jack Jenkins wished he had not sprinted so soon, then realised that if he had not done so Tetford would have gone ahead of him. On to the main Exeter road at last and they were again heading straight into the west wind. Jack Jenkins felt his heart pounding under the strain. Slowly but surely Tetford was forging ahead. Each drive at the pedals sent Tearaway Tetford a few inches further than Jenkins moved. Neither gradient nor traffic slowed the wearer of the Yellow Jersey. He was like a robot.


There were shouts from the rear, but Jenkins did not look round. It was Don Payne of the L.T.A. making his bid for leadership. Jenkins and he fought it out over the next five miles, but the L.T.A. man was the fresher. It was he who had tailed Tetford all through Parrington and down into Clyst Vale, but he did not catch the wearer of the Yellow Jersey. A dog ran across the road right under the front of the leader’s wheel as he entered the city, but he did not even swerve. His wheel must have touched its tail as it leapt for its life, and for a moment it looked as though he was off. Somehow he retained his balance, straightened from a speed wobble, and shot down the final straight at a speed which brought gasps from the throats of those on the pavements. Into the cleared square, where the police formed a cordon round the finishing line, shot the wearer of the Yellow Jersey, and a great shout went up for the second time in succession Tearaway Tetford, the unknown rider from nowhere, secured the honours for the day’s run. Somehow he braked to a standstill, dropped his feet, shut his eyes—and dropped in a dead faint.


THE YELLOW JERSEY - 14 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1403 – 1416 (1953)

THE YELLOW JERSEY – (Reprint) 14 episodes appeared in Rover and Wizard issues 413 April 19th 1969 – 444 July 19th 1969

ENTITLED: WHO IS STONEFACE? – When the story made its appearance in The Hotspur - 1959


 © D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2005