Despite the post-war austerity, no expense was spared. There was an orchestra, roller racing, acrobats, trapeze artists and dancing girls. In a highlight of the evening, Fausto Coppi, on his first visit to Britain, took to the stage for a demonstration. Dressed in the celeste and blue of his Bianchi team and under dimmed lights, Il Campionissimo rode a snow white track bike on a special set of red, white and green rollers.
The rollers were mounted on a slowly revolving platform to ensure everyone got a complete view of the world’s most complete cyclist, with moving spotlights of continually changing colours illuminating his graceful figure. The crowd roared its appreciation.
Coppi’s show was followed by the finale of the evening: the presentation of prizes to the 12 fastest racers of the season just gone. A photograph shows them lined up in front of the orchestra, trophies in hand.
Standing out among the men in suits was a woman in a strapless fuscia ballgown with matching lace gloves and shoes. She was a shade under five feet tall with brown wavy hair, dimpled cheeks, and a toothy smile. She was Eileen Sheridan of the Coventry Cycling Club.
Sixty one years later, near enough to the day, Rouleur photographer Wig Worland and I are at the door of a pastel pink terraced house on the banks of the Thames in west London. It’s a sunny winter morning. A small model bicycle stands in the net curtained front window, next to a couple of pot plants. I ring the bell.
“There are days when Josh Hartman envisions his life without cycling.
He would likely still live in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, far beyond the borough’s creeping wave of gentrification. Perhaps he would string electrical wire, like his father, or attend a junior college like his high school classmates. Or perhaps his life would have followed a different path altogether. He might sell drugs, like some of his childhood friends, or sit in a jail cell.
“I would be a typical dummy from East New York,” Hartman says. “Most of my friends have been to jail, two are still locked up. That could be me.”
Hartman isn’t in jail on this chilly December afternoon; he’s in Colorado Springs in a rented house on the east side of town. Cycling brought him here. Hartman is the newest member of USA Cycling’s Olympic development squad for velodrome racing, and if he maintains his current trajectory, he will compete in the 2020 summer games in Tokyo and perhaps multiple Olympics beyond.”
Originally saw this article at Ride On!
With the price of Mutant stems these days…this will do!
On Saturday, April 28th, tens of thousands of fans descended on a large asphalt parking lot on the western edge of Brooklyn. The occasion: Red Hook Criterium #11. Some were there for the crashes, some for the skinsuit clad superheroes (and supervillains), but all were there for the party surrounding the raucous spectacle of fixed gear criterium racing. By the end of the night, many an athlete had left pieces of themselves on the brutal tarmac, especially once the skies opened and rain pelted the already-technical course with 10 laps to go in the men’s final. A select few left with the glory of a successful race.
Gone is the stoicism and pseudo-ego of a road race. Why isn’t the field tenser? The course is dark, soon to be saturated with rain from the storm cell currently hovering over Manhattan. No brakes, no freewheel. Maybe the whole concept is so absurd one simply has to be relaxed. Delusion? Maybe.
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