Category Archives: Bicycle racing
Billy Brady (Boxing, bike racing. Born, San Francisco, CA, June 19, 1863; died, New York, NY, Jan. 6, 1950.) A successful Broadway producer and sports promoter, Billy Brady was also a theatre operator and the only man to manage two heavyweight champions. Brady promoted bike racing champion Major Taylor and managed both James J. Corbett and James J. Jeffries when they were heavyweight titlists. He also operated the Playhouse Theatre in New York and produced over 260 plays (many starring his wife, actress Grace George (1879-1961)). Brady was nearly wiped out by the 1929 stock market crash but was saved by his production of Elmer Rice’s Street Scene, the 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It ran 601 performances before going on tour.
John M. Chapman (Bicycle racing. Born, College Park, GA, 1877; died, Santa Monica, CA, Mar. 20, 1947.) During the era when bike racing was a major sport indoors and outdoors in the U.S., John M. Chapman was the sport’s leading promoter for 30 years (1907-37). He was the operator of the New York and Newark (N.J.) Velodromes, where outdoor racing was staged at night. The New York oval was destroyed by fire Aug. 4, 1930, and the 20,000-seat plant at 225th Street and Broadway was never rebuilt. Chapman was president of the National Cycling Association, the U.S. pro racing circuit, for over 20 years. From 1915-37, he was the promoter of the annual six-day international races at Madison Square Garden, which he increased from one per year to two in 1920.
Franco Georgetti (Bicycle racing. Born, Bovisio Mombello, Italy, Oct. 3, 1902; died, Rome, Italy, Mar. 18, 1983.) Over a period of nearly 15 years, one of the most popular and consistent of the six-day bicycle race riders in Madison Square Garden was Franco Georgetti. The rugged Italian won eight of the 144-hour grinds with five different partners from 1926 to 1935. One of Georgetti’s first partners was the legendary Alfred Goullet with whom he finished fourth in the Mar. 1924 race at the second Garden on Madison Square. But his most profitable pairings were with Reggie McNamara and Gerard Debaets. Partnering with McNamara, Georgetti won the Mar. 1926 and Mar. 1927 six-day events. In 1927, the team had to scramble home in a wild finish with three teams only one lap behind after 2,340.9 miles. Georgetti finished fourth with McNamara in Dec. 1927, and then began his flourishing combination with Belgium’s Debaets. In their first pairing, Georgetti and Debaets won the Mar. 1928 race (2,162.9 miles). That victory started a string of four successive Garden six-days in which Georgetti was on the winning team. With Debaets unavailable, Georgetti won his fourth win in a row in Dec. 1929. He won for the seventh time in Dec. 1930, as part of an all-Italian team with Paul Brocardo in another wild finish. That team logged 2,666.9 miles in the six days, the most ever for a Georgetti team. His eighth and final career win at the Garden came in Mar. 1935 with Alf Letourner of France as his partner.
Alfred Goullet (Bicycle racing. Born, Emu, Australia, Apr. 5, 1891; died, Toms River, NJ, Mar. 11, 1995.) Alf Goullet was one of the first great stars of the six-day bike racing circuit, emerging before the First World War and becoming a dominant force for more than a decade. Goullet won his first six-day race at Madison Square Garden in 1913 and won a record eight of them in 11 seasons through 1923. In 1914, he not only won for the second straight year, but, with partner Alf Grenda, set an all-time mileage record of 2,759.2 around the Garden boards. He also partnered with Grenda for his last Garden win in Mar. 1923. His eight New York victories came with six partners. All of his wins came in the second Madison Square Garden, located at 26th Street and Madison Avenue, but he did race in the third Garden at 49th and Eighth Avenue in 1925. Like most of his contemporaries, Goullet also raced and did sprints at other facilities through the years. In 1920, he set a world record for time in the 1,500 meters (1.49 4/5) at the Newark Velodrome.
Marcus Hurley (Basketball, bicycle racing. Born, New York, NY, Dec. 22, 1883; died, New York, NY, Mar. 28, 1941.) Marcus L. Hurley was one of the most celebrated and versatile athletes of his time. Hurley was an outstanding basketball player in the game’s primitive years, earning what was considered all-America recognition three times (1905-07) while playing at Columbia. In 1904, Hurley won the world amateur sprint cycling championship at London. The same year, a chaotic Olympiad was held at St. Louis, where it became a sideshow spread out over nearly five months for the World’s Fair held there that summer. While there were no official cycling events, Hurley won three gold medals in various exhibition events, which some considered part of the Olympics, although they are not now recognized by the I.O.C.
Frank L. Kramer (Bicycle racing. Born, Evansville, Ind., Nov. 20, 1880; died, East Orange, N.J., Oct. 8, 1958.) During the first decade of the 20th century, Frank Louis Kramer was the world’s highest-paid athlete, earning more than $25,000 per year. Nicknamed “Big Steve” by his competitors, Kramer was the national pro U.S. sprint cycling champion 18 times in 21 years. Son of Louis Kramer, a world champion gymnast, he won his first race in 1896 at the Waverly track in Newark, N.J., and was the L.A.W. amateur champion in 1898. Kramer won the pro sprint title from Major Taylor (q.v.) in 1901, eventually losing it to Fred Spencer (q.v.). In between, he held it from 1901-16, again in 1918, and regained it in 1921. Kramer won the world sprint championship when the competition was staged in Newark in 1912. On July 6, 1922, he equaled the world sprint record (15.4 seconds for 1/16th of a mile) at the Newark Velodrome and announced his retirement to become chairman of the board of control of the National Cycling Association.
Pop Kugler (Bicycle racing. Born, Somerville, NJ, June 4, 1900; died, Winter Garden, FL, Oct. 24, 1991.) Frederick William Kugler, Jr., was successfully able to tap into New Jersey’s long history of bicycle racing by founding what became a major annual event. Kugler operated a bicycle shop in his hometown and, in 1940, started the Tour of Somerville, which, with a few disruptions, has grown into an extravaganza divided into several classifications. The major men’s open competition is named for Kugler.
Alf Letourner (Bicycle racing. Born, Amiens, France, July 25, 1907; died, Paris, France, Jan. 4, 1975.) One of the most popular of the European riders to appear regularly in the six-day bicycle race competition at Madison Square Garden, Alfred Letourner was also one of the most successful. Letourner, who defied superstition by usually wearing No. 13, first rode in the Garden at age 20 on a team that finished sixth in the Mar. 1928 event, but he was subsequently to win six times in the Garden. He also accomplished the somewhat unusual feat of sweeping both the spring and fall six-days twice in the Garden, as well as recording other wins in the six-day circuit in Detroit and Chicago. His first Garden win came in Mar. 1931, when he partnered with Marcel Guimbretiere, and the pair came back to complete the sweep in December. In 1933, Letourner completed his second sweep by winning both Garden races in the same calendar year in a somewhat unorthodox fashion. He was on the winning team in the March race with Gerard Debaets and paired with Torchy Peden in December. One year after that triumph, Letourner was back in the winner’s circle in Dec. 1934, when he was reunited with Debaets. In March 1935, he notched his sixth Garden victory, this time teamed with Franco Georgetti. That put Letourner on the winning team for the fourth time in five races over the Garden boards. Letourner continued to compete and was a major rider until the onset of World War II in 1939 ended Garden six-day racing.
Reggie McNamara (Bicycle racing. Born, Grenfell, New South Wales, Australia, 1887; died, Newark, NJ, October 1971.) Though born in Australia, Reggie McNamara became an American citizen early in his racing career in this country. McNamara was also one of the great stars in bike racing in an era when there were plenty of competitors. The years between the wars were the high noon of bicycle racing, and rugged European teams were a major feature on the U.S. circuit. McNamara set his first world record at the Newark Velodrome in 1915, and by 1920 held five world records for unpaced speed at various distances. But it was in the six-day bike events at Madison Square Garden that McNamara made his reputation. He won seven of them with six different partners between 1918 and 1932. He accomplished this despite a series of injuries that included four broken collarbones, 12 cracked ribs and a pair of skull fractures sustained in a variety of collisions and crashes. From a mileage standpoint, his best victory in the Garden was 1918, when he logged 2,447.0 miles, but his finest season was 1926, when he won the six-day grind in both March and December in the Garden, a rare feat.
Torchy Peden (Bicycle racing. Born, Victoria, B.C., Apr. 16, 1906; died, Northbrook, IL, Jan. 26, 1980.) A writer once said that William John Peden led the pack at a bicycle race “like a torch.” Indeed, Peden was known throughout his career as “Torchy,” although perhaps it was for his torch-like shock of red hair. Peden was one of the most popular of all riders in the six-day bike races at Madison Square Garden, where he debuted in 1929. He won four of the Garden races. In addition to the U.S. and his native Canada, Peden raced in England, Scotland, France, Germany, Poland, and Denmark during his career, which ended with his retirement in 1948. He is officially credited with 123 race titles, unofficially with 15 more, and won 34 other six-days besides his four Garden wins. His first Garden win came in Mar. 1932, paired with the great Reggie McNamara, and his second completed a sweep for that year in December when he partnered with Freddie Spencer. In 1933, Peden won the December race with Alf Letourner. In 1936, he and Bobby Thomas missed winning the December event on points with 2,499.7 miles to tie for the lead. Peden’s final victory in the Garden was perhaps his most satisfying. He won the May 1939 race teamed with his brother Doug. An outstanding competitive swimmer, Peden soon became known as the “King of the Six Days” in bike racing. A physical training instructor for the R.C.A.F. in World War II, he became a U.S. citizen in 1952.