WELSH CYCLING LEGEND BILL OWEN HONOURED WITH AN MBE

Bill Owen (centre) is inducted into the British Cycling Hall of Fame this year.(Picture: British Cycling)

GWENT'S Bill Owen has been recognised for over fifty years service to cycling in Wales with an MBE in the New Year's Honours List that has been announced today (Friday).

Owen has served as president and chairman of the Welsh Cycling Union - now called Welsh Cycling - which is the governing body of the sport in the Principality.

He was also one of the longest serving directors of the national governing body of British Cycling from 2002 when membership was 10,000 until 2015 which saw membership rise to over 100,000. He has been honoured several times by them including being inducted into the British Cycling Hall of Fame this year, plus previously gaining their Gold Badge of Honour.

Owen said he was pleasantly surprised to have been honoured with an MBE from Buckingham Palace.

He said: "It was a very pleasant and humbling surprise and a double celebration coming as it does on our Golden Wedding Anniversary.

"My whole life has been overcoming adversaries, none more so than in my sport of cycling. Nothing is more satisfying in life than to make things happen especially as cycling has not always been regarded as cool. 

"Being part of British Cycling during its mammoth rise in popularity and its International sporting performance is something to look back with a sense of pride.”.

Owen has been the backbone of cycling for longer than anyone can really remember. He was Welsh Road Race champion in 1963 but cut short his competitive career when he retired early to set up his own construction business.

He married his wife Brenda on New Year's Eve 1966, with the couple celebrating their golden wedding anniversary this weekend (Saturday December 31).

Owen turned his hand to cycling administration and race organisation after founding his own club when his children, David and Alun, wanted to ride bikes but could not find a club nearby.

He turned his hand to administration within cycling and became a board member and then chairman of the Welsh Cycling Union.

In 1996 he staged the inaugural National Championships in Abergavenny when the sport went open and again the following year in Blaenau Gwent but, famously, burnt all the race infrastructure he used for that event because it turned into something 'from the Wild West with people driving cars at the volunteer marshals because the roads were shut just for a cycle race'.

However, when Cardiff came calling in 2001, he organised the Nationals there - and two years later, organised for two consecutive years the Championship centered at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport bringing Women’s racing on par and alongside the Elite Men.

In 2005, he brought the first - and so far only - staging of the Women's World Cup to the UK, again at the Celtic Manor. 

Two years later, he brought major cycling back to Wales by launching the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling with the National Road Race Championships, won by Tour de France stage victor David Millar, as its' centerpiece.

The Festival of Cycling has, since, been an integral part of the Welsh sporting calendar and, in 2014, partnered by Monmouthshire County Council, an enormous crowd of around 40,000 attended the last Nationals to be staged in Abergavenny and Wales.

But it has not all been good times, as sport is 90 per cent disappointment. The Abergavenny International Festival of Cycling, which brought riders from 15 countries to the Welsh town, caused Owen more grief than any other competition he had organised in his life.

However, from terrible problems came Owen's greatest triumph and those 2009 Nationals in Monmouthshire which did not just feature Wiggins and Froome but also Tour de France sprint legend Mark Cavendish and Wales' own current Team Sky star Geraint Thomas.

Owen's regards one of the most satisfaction times in the behind-the-scenes world of business in cycling was when he was chairman of the Welsh Cycling Union - now called simply Welsh Cycling - and being instrumental bringing an Olympic-sized indoor velodrome to Wales in 2003.

It was only the second velodrome of its kind in the UK - Manchester was the other to be built for that city hosting of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

And the Wales National Velodrome has hosted the pre-Olympic British Cycling camps before all of the last four Games.

Owen is not putting his feet up. He is busy organising and getting entries into the 2017 Abergavenny Festival of Cycling in June next year which will include competitive elite and junior races and the Iron Mountain Sportif mass participation ride for the general public.

Owen added: "To be awarded the best organised event by British Cycling for the Abergavenny Festival in 2013 and then again in 2015 is rewarding for the town and its people, the volunteers and my family who have supported me in building up the event to where it is now.".

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