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Iddo Robert 'Snowy' Munro
EDITOR: One of our members, Jean Munro, told me that the following story was on the Internet. I contacted the writer, David Halford, asking his permission to use his article, which he did and so I am able to bring you this story of a Munro, famous in the sport of cycling.
The early chapters of Australian cycle racing history tell of the adventures and exploits of some remarkable riders - few of whom have equalled the commitment and foresight shown by one of Coburg's life-long members, Iddo "Snowy" Munro.
Of his long list of successes between 1906 and 1909, none stand out quite like his great ride in the 'Warrnambool', when he put up a then world record for 165 miles (264km) and became the 1909 Australasian Road Champion. Thousands of spectators had lined Flemington Road in Melbourne to see how many of the record 548 entries would make it to the finish. First home was W.Knaggs with the 21 year old Munro riding his 88 inch fixed gear (52x16) Coburg-built 'Thistle', fastest time in 7hr.12min.51sec. After the finish of the race Sir Albert Spicer greeted Munro with the following words, 'You have beaten a world record. You have learned to keep your body in subjection. You have shown pluck, nerve and endurance. I hope that those good qualities, which you have cultivated so early will benefit you in life, and that yours will be a prosperous life.'
It was "Snowy's" desire to further the status of Australian cycling overseas that led to the
formation of Australia's first team for the Tour de France in 1914. He captained that team, which included Don Kirkham, Charlie Snell, George Bell, and Charlie Piercey - the latter two being club mates at the Coburg Cycling Club. Initially riding as a professionals for the Paris-based Gladiator Cycles & Clement Tyre team, their first major Classic was Milan-San Remo where Munro finished 26th, finishing 10 minutes after the winner Agostini. One week later in April, Munro and the team were hitting the pave in Paris-Roubaix, Piercey breaking a wheel, Kirkham breaking his bike and "Snowy" finishing in 37th place, 7 minutes behind the 1914 winner Crubelandt. Barely two weeks later, their Tour de France preparation continued with a start in the two-week Tour of Belgium, followed by Paris-Bruxelles and Paris-Nancy.
Of the Australians that left looking for Tour glory, only "Snowy" and Don Kirkham gained selection for a Tour team (Phebus-Dunlop). The 1914 event, the last to be held before 1919, consisted of 143 starters riding 5,380km over fifteen stages. Both riders putting up a very respectable showing with their best stage finishes being Perpignan- Marseilles where they finished 4th and 5th respectively. "Snowy" went on to cross the finish line of the last stage into Paris in 10th position. In the Overall Classification Munro finished 20th with Kirkham three places better in 17th - a very creditable and honourable attempt at the big event, reported the promoting newspaper L'Auto. Incidentally, the winner was Phillipe Thys, winner also in 1913 and again in 1920.
Even when his riding career over and he was busy founding and running his successful taxi business (Embassy Taxis), "Snowy" always stayed in close contact with his club and the bikes. He was a keen advocate for the official introduction of derailleur gears and one of the movers and shakers behind the introduction of the Herald Sun Tour. "Snowy" dedicated his life to the progress of cycling, and over the years his influence is reflected in the long-term success of cycling in Australia.
© David Halford : The Australian Cyclist September 1949
Snowy Munro being invested by Sir Albert Spicer 1909. Google image