All of us at British Cycling were deeply saddened by the news of Stuart Benstead’s passing on Wednesday morning.
Over the last eight decades there is barely a role that Stuart Benstead hasn’t filled in the British cycling scene, from facility chairman to commissaire, event director to regional board president, and everything in between.
Stuart’s involvement in the sport began while he was still racing, and was convinced to set up his own race – the Archer RC road race – which took place over 52 consecutive years from 1956 – 2007. The race soon gained a reputation for being one of the toughest and most hard-fought on the circuit, with previous winners including Paul Sherwen, Chris Newton and Roger Hammond to name just three. The race also provided a solid grounding for some of Britain’s stars of the future, including Sir Bradley Wiggins and David Millar.
Stuart’s prowess for event organisation led him to take on a number of key and often unpaid roles in the following years, including Director of Cycling for the European Youth Olympics in Bath, the world cup cyclo-cross at Crystal Palace, and the national track championships in Leicester, while at a more local level he spent 18 years organising the Tuesday series of road races at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit.
However, Stuart’s contribution to events stretches far beyond that of organiser, and he has regularly been involved as a commissaire (for road, track and cyclo-cross), coach, first aider and team manager – the latter in conjunction with British Cycling national team coaches at stage races and track events in France, Holland and Belgium.
Stuart has also been heavily involved in the sport’s administration, as President of the British Cycling Central region for 11 years, member of the British Cycling National Executive Committee for 11 years and 21 years as Chairman of the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. Through this work he has been instrumental in ushering in a new era of professionalism for the sport, helping to take it to a much wider audience and laying the foundations for the current and unprecedented period of British success.
The growth of the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit facility will almost certainly be Stuart’s greatest legacy. Having already raised £740,000 for a new clubroom on the site, he was recently seeking to raise a further £1.5 million to construct an open-air velodrome at the venue. Hundreds of young people ride at the facility each week, and through Stuart’s guidance it will provide a welcome environment for aspiring riders for years to come.
We owe an unending debt of gratitude to Stuart for his tireless contribution to our sport throughout his life, and the thoughts of everybody – both at British Cycling and in the wider cycling community – are with his family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.
Stuart Benstead, born 3 July 1932, died 5 June 2019.