Interview: Dave Williams (Kuota UK/GSG)

With the Eddie Soens Memorial to be held on Saturday the 7th of March, the day before the race I went to visit a double winner of the event in the mid 90s, Dave Williams, boss at DHW Agencies, (KuotaUK/GSG/etc)

Interview: Dave Williams (Kuota UK/GSG)

With the Eddie Soens Memorial to be held on Saturday the 7th of March, the day before the race I went to visit a double winner of the event in the mid 90s, Dave Williams, boss at DHW Agencies, importer of Kuota bikes and custom GSG clothing among other brands.

Solo win for Dave Williams in 1996 at Aintree – see more history here

For as long as I have been involved in the sport, 21 years, the Eddie Soens Memorial has been part of the fabric of the sport. An early season race at an iconic location (Aintree) with big fields of riders containing the stars of the day. I started the interview with Dave by asking was the race when he was racing it, the same or similar as to how we know it now?

“It’s a local race for me so was always very close to my heart. I went to watch it a lot and wanted to aspire to doing well in it when I was a young rider. It’s a traditional event in the sport of cycling and an opportunity for regular guys and ladies to race with Olympians and so on. It’s a unique event for sure.”

The race is named after a former rider and coach, Eddie Soens who Dave knew well. Whilst a successful pre-war competitor, Eddie Soens will be remembered mostly for his unrivalled success as a coach, mentor and manager to a succession of National, Commonwealth and World champions over several decades in the cycling world.

Matt Illingworth wins in 1992 ahead of Chris Boardman and Dave Williams. Photo Paul J Wright

The names include Norman Sheil, John Geddes, Stan Brittain, Canadian Gordon Singleton and former TI Raleigh pro, Dave Lloyd. The British legend Barry Hoban who went on to win 8 stages in the Tour de France) was another rider, who in his early days, was helped by Eddie.”

One must not forget Harry Middleton with his leading time trial successes and the link with Dave and the race is numerous for Harry. The organiser in 2020 is Brian Rigby, part of the cycling club named after Harry; the Harry Middleton CC. Harry was another big personality in the sport of cycling who worked with the likes of Chris Boardman and today, Dave supplies the majority of the clothing to the Harry Middleton CC.

So Dave was pleased to see Brian take on the job of following on in the big footsteps of Ken Matthews and Carl Lawrenson to organise the event in memory of Eddie Soens.

“Eddie was a small guy who was larger than life” says Dave. “He used to look after a lot of local guys and was known for being a hard coach. I know he had big connections with a lot of trackies. When I was training, we’d often be on training rides through Bickerstaff and often see Eddie with Terry Tinsley or the McHughs behind his motorbike training. He was a good guy to know and whilst he never coached me, his door was always open to pop in to see him and his wife for a cup of tea and slice of cake.”

Cover boy – Dave on the cover of the Cycling Weekly magazine in 1995

Dave won the Eddie Soens Memorial two years in a row and was third another year as well which shows how much doing well in the race meant to him. Remembering his first win, Dave recalls being in the last group on the road to start, the Scratch group as it’s called. “I’d just come back from a race in Mexico, two weeks long, and so I came out of there feeling good which was nice to take to my local season opener.”

“During the race, I managed to make the front group of about seven riders which I think had five or six North Wirral Velo so I was out numbered but the group kept thinning down and I didn’t quite realise just how good the legs were until the laps to go started going down into single figures”.

The race says Dave, saw him sprint it out with another well known rider, Julian ‘Rambo’ Ramsbottom in what was quite a tight sprint for the line. “I think we’d both sprinted a lap too soon going through all the lapped riders and there was a mix up with the finish but I won the next sprint too” he explained.

1980, same place as every year but that crowd!

“The following year, (1996) I went there and I was away off the front with Rod Ellingworth (boss at Bahrain Mclaren nowadays) and Glen Holmes. Rod was a teammate and I took the initiative and made sure the big move at the end counted.”

The race this year, has 150 starters, and as far as I know, that is down to a restriction put in place by British Cycling. Back in the day however, Ken Matthews and an organiser of a race on the Isle of Man (Curwen Clegs) had a competition going as to who had the most riders in their race and so the Eddie Soens race would attract two to three hundred plus riders which added to the huge atmosphere.

Looking at the images from those days, the Eddie Soens Memorial certainly seems to have the same look as it did back then with the stands at Aintree in the background of the riders competing.

The Kuota Khan disc brake pro team bike

Fast forwarding to the present day and onto what Dave is doing is nowadays, we touched on what was new in his business with Kuota, GSG and so on. Dave explained that they are now doing a disc brake version of the Kuota Khan, their top of the range race bike, as used by Cofidis in 2019, and an option (disc brake) that is proving popular.

Dave added though that the rim brake version is still popular and so having both versions of the Kuota Khan enables the customers to choose between the two.

Dave also had his own bike there at the warehouse, the cutting-edge aero masterpiece, the Kuota Kougar  which he also let me photograph. “The bike is available in both disc brake and rim brake formats and I have a disc one” Dave explained.

The other bike which was in front of us as we spoke, was the Kathode, the electric bike that Kuota do and one that proves to be popular with customers wanting some assistance when pedalling on the road.

The other part of the business which is big for Dave is GSG clothing. Dave, who started out with Southport CC who now use GSG clothing, says of the Italian brand “This is massive for us as we’re doing a lot of club clothing and we have Dave McGowan and Maddie Scott concentrating a lot on that. It’s doing really well for us”.

Dave, Colin Sturgess and Maddie rocking the GSG clothing in Malta in 2019

“We have looked after a lot of teams over the years like the Metaltek Kuota one when Dan Fleeman won the CiCLE Classic for us. The clothing is coming on in leaps and bounds and we’re doing lots of aero stuff now, socks, skinsuits with nopinz pockets and we’re in the process of developing a jersey with some mesh on the rear pockets so the guys can slide the numbers into the race jersey rather than pinning them on and trashing the kit.”

Dave added finally that another of the brands he has is Spinergy (above) who are doing more and more wheels that are disc brake orientated and because of the growth in the disc brake bike market, full carbon wheels are proving a really great combo for riders.

My thanks to Dave and the team at DHW for their help and look forward to visiting them again.




Cycle Division’s Shop

Send your results as well as club, team & event news here

Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK