The Epic Vernon to Kelowna Bicycle Race of 1930

The banner photograph on the Lake Country Museum and Archives website shows the starting line-up of fifteen cyclists about to begin a grueling thirty-five mile race from Vernon to Kelowna. Three young Lake Country men participated: Lawrence (Larry) Evans and Harold Thomson of Oyama and Hugh Bernau of Winfield.

In Hugh Bernau’s recollection of the race he wrote: ‘[H]ighway 97 was unpaved and parts of this road from Kelowna to Vernon did not hold up for any length of time to traffic. Along Duck Lake was the worst, it soon became “washboard” and had a rather large number of holes! …I remember that I finished the course, but was a very weary young man at the finish. Remember that we had no speed gears in those days!”1

The Kelowna Courier and Okanagan Orchardist reported:

Arthur Clarke of East Kelowna led Larry Evans by a half mile at Reed’s Corner but Evans closed the gap entirely as they went into the final sprint. It was a game fight for the leadership that was only decided on the final straightaway down Bernard Avenue to the finish in front of the Post Office building…. It was a splendid finish, a brilliant win and a game loss, the two riders well deserving the cheers of the crowd.

Both boys finished in good condition, after a heavy trip facing headwinds all along the route, and the time of two hours, twenty-one minutes and thirty three seconds for the thirty-five miles of pedaling through, at times, a near gale, is a creditable performance.

It was Oyama’s big day, for twenty-two minutes later H. Thomson, leading the “B” class riders hove into view and pulled over the mark just three minutes ahead of Ralph Bean, of Kelowna…. The crowd had another thrill when the two remaining riders in the “C” class, or bantamweight division came in fast with Bert Longley one minute ahead of Orville Watson.2

The placements and times were:

  1. L. Evans, Oyama, “A” class, 2:21:33
  2. A. Clarke, Kelowna, “A” class, 2:21:36
  3. H. Thomson, Oyama, “B” class, 2:43:3
  4. R. Bean, Kelowna, “B” class 2:46:20
  5. J. Polecheck, Vernon, “B” class
  6. R. Schmidt, Vernon, “A” class
  7. R. Allen, Vernon, “A” class
  8. H. Bernau, Winfield, “A” class
  9. H. Nuyens, Vernon, “A” class
  10. B. Longley, Kelowna, “C” class 3:1:23
  11. O. Watson, Kelowna, “C” class 3:2:10
  12. A. Veal, Vernon, “B” class.
Winners of bicycle race

Winners of Vernon to Kelowna bicycle race, 1930. Click to enlarge.

The photo here is taken of the first and second place winners at the trophy presentation in Kelowna. Front row, l. to r.: Ralph Bean, Bert Longley, Larry Evans, Harold Thomson, Arthur Clarke, and Orville Watson.

The second annual (and last) race was held in 1931, this time racing from Kelowna to Vernon. Larry Evans repeated as winner (1:57:00), Harold Thomson was second (2:00:00), and Arthur Clarke was third (2:00:30). Kelowna riders took all three places in the under-17 “B” class.3

1Hugh Bernau, Climbing up the Ladder. Lake Country Heritage & Cultural Society.

2Kelowna Courier and Okanagan Orchardist, May 29, 1930.

3Kelowna Courier and Okanagan Orchardist, June 4, 1931.


  1. Sandra Harder

    Great Blog. That must have been a gruelling race. Our Dad (Harold Thomson) was pretty modest about all that. He told us stories about doing his delivery route (I think it was either milk or a newspaper) through Oyama but he emphasized how his dog rode on his back for some of it.

  2. Brian Evans

    Re: The 1930 bicycle race, I have the cup that my Dad won in front of me as I type this note. Like his friend Harold (whom he often spoke of), he was always fairly low-key about his prodigious effort.
    He did mention another athletic exploit about this time: he and his brother-in-law Tom Towgood traded the outboard motor boat that they had rented at regatta time for a row boat and entered and won the two-oared rowing race.
    In fact, I owe a lot to his athletics. He met my mother (Alice East) at a local track meet.
    (My thanks to John and Elaine Towgood of Oyama for bringing this blog to my attention).

    • Lake Country Museum

      Thanks for responding, Brian. It’s always good to hear from people who have been involved, one way or another, in our community. I hope you’ll subscribe to our Blog.


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