Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jack Hoobin - the Forgotten World Road Champion

We all rejoiced when Cadel Evans won the World Road Championship and why shouldn't we. It was an amazing effort by a true Champion. Newspapers across Australia announced  that we now had a World Road Champion, most proclaiming him as the first. Sure, we've had many World Track Champions but never a World Road Champion. But that's not the case - those knowledgeable in the sport know that our first World Road Title holder was Jack Hoobin, albeit during the time when there was a title for both Amateur and Professional cyclists.
As a racing cyclist back in the late 1960s, I was actually aware that Jack Hoobin was our very first World Road Title holder but was never aware of the circumstances leading up to his victory. These Australian Cyclist magazines on loan to me from Jae Omara of Omara Cycles has opened up new knowledge for me - hope this post does the same for you.

The cover of the magazine that segments have been reprinted below.
From the pages of Australian Cyclist December 1950.
"Those of our readers who have followed the cycling career of Jack Hoobin through these columns since he first flashed into prominence in 1946 would not have been terribly surprised at his world title because since that first open road race win in 1946, Jack has showed an aptitude for overcoming adversity and an  unconquerable spirit which has carried him into victory on more than one occasion.
In case some of you may have forgotten some of those incidents, let us skip briefly back through them - in fact let us go right back to the time when Jack first learnt to ride a cycle which was when he was four years of age on a small cycle with 12 inch wheels and solid tires (it's still in the proud possession of the Hoobin family).
Perhaps elder brother Ted Hoobin can be thanked for first attracting Jack's interest to cycle racing. Ted became champion of the Cheltenham club when 16, and Jack, accompanied by their father used to be a regular barracker for Ted.
Not yet into his teens young Jack decided to have a go in a juvenile 3 mile race and going flat out for the first 3 miles collapsed over the line exhausted but an easy victor. Jack still lays claim that the three-miler was the hardest race of his career.

Then followed a few more wins with Ormond juveniles, then a win on the board track when 17, and his enlistment in the army at 18 towards the end of World War II when stationed at Balcombe Camp, a distance of some 35 miles from his home, Jack use to ride home at night and back to the camp again at 6 am. Not only that, but he used to go AWL in order to race on Saturdays. 
1947 saw him make his debut on the mark of honour, and it was during this year that we saw the first glimpse of the real Hoobin.

Following fastest time honours in the VACU 50 mile and 75 mile Opens, Jack started in a 100 mile scratch race with a selected field.  Just after the halfway mark he rode away from the field but punctured 20 miles from the finish. Undaunted Jack continued to ride on the flat tyre and many followers still talk about how Hoobin rode up the notorious Wheelers Hill on the flat tyre whilst, a prominant rider in Jack Berry of Carnegie club in hot pursuit of Hoobin had to walk up.  Of course, Jack Hoobin won not only this event, but the following week, the "Sun" classic of 125 miles and one week later the Victorian 125 mile Championship with a brilliant sprint. In the Australian Championships that year he fell and sustained a broken wrist.
The following year immediately prior to his departure for the Olympic Games, he won first and fastest, fastest time, and fastest time again respectively in the first three open races of the season.
His sixth placing in the Games road race in face of terrific odds, mainly due to inexperience against the tough Continental cyclists; his 10th placing in the 1949 world championship race in Denmark in spite of illness, strange conditions in a strange country and a severe crop of boils; and his wins in many of the English road classics during his preparation for the 1950 title, in spite of falls and punctures and the teaming of the English riders against him; are all typical of that Hoobin determination to win at all costs. But to quote Jack again, "In Europe that is the only slogan the cyclists know to win at all costs".

Jack Hoobin gave a lot of credit to Alf Strom as a mentor and wrote the following in Australian Cyclist;

“Alf Strom apparently took a fancy to me and, in his blunt manner told me that if I did as he instructed me, the world title was mine. He packed me off to England in January to get 15,000 training miles into my legs by the end of May, have a couple of races, then return to Belgium. It was during this period when in London that Charlie McCaffrey and his wife gave me a second home and nothing was too much trouble for them.

On my return to Belgium, Alf instructed me on which races to ride in, where I could study the riders who would be my strongest opposition. He gave me strict instructions not to show my best form and on one occasion when I showed signs of rebelling against this latter order, for I was rearing to make a name for myself with a few wins, he threw a bucket of water at me, bucket and all. undoubtedly Strom is a tough man.
He packed me off to England again to compete in some track events to liven up my sprinting. Then back to Belgium for more roadwork and it was here that our plans were almost wrecked. Three days before the title race when competing in an event over the same course as the big race, I crashed into a car and wrecked my machine. I lost a lot of skin, and seemed to be one big bruise from head to toe.

But here again experience of Strom and Arnold came to the fore, and they patched me up, and on the big day I was free from stiffness.
Incidentally my weight when racing in Australia was 10.4 but Strom had me fined down to 9.6 and I definitely felt better for it. (Jack is about 5'8" tall)
Strangely Alf was a nervous wreck on the day and stayed home while Roger and I journeyed to the start in Moorslede in his car. The rest you know."

From the October 1950 issue of Australian Cyclist - an excerpt from the article describing the last lap.

"These tactics broke up the field and on the final tour there were only 10 riders left with a chance - three Italians, Ferrari, Moresco and Piazza; one Frenchman Varnjo; Australian Hoobin; two Belgians Bastie and Desmet; one Hollander Roks; one Swiss Hutmacher; and the Luxembourg Blintz.

These riders kept close formation right up to the last and were making very fast time as the total time for the distance proved, for they rode the 174 miles (obviously a misprint as the race was actually 164 kms) in four hours 29 minutes and 24 seconds.
In the final sprint the Italians led out and the pace was a demon. When the barriers were reached near the finish, the two favourites Varnajo and Ferrari, were elbow to elbow with less than a furlong to go and they looked easy winners.
Then from the back came Hoobin, and like a jet plane he flashed past the leaders as if they were glued to the ground and the world championship was his!

What a scream from a few who knew who he was. The supporters of the French and Italian pair were going mad with joy then came this unknown to snatch victory in the last few yards. The roar of the crowd subsided as if a bomb had been dropped then came cheers from those who recognised Hoobin’s masterly performance.

Hoobin showed good sense in coming over to Belgium to stay with his friend Strom, the great six day rider, three weeks before the big race. He became acquainted with the circuit, and settled down in readiness for the big day. Strom no doubt had him well tutored on the dangers and the possibilities of the race.
Great homage was paid to the new champion of the world by the French people and the small band of Australians, Strom, Arnold, Reynolds and Patterson who witnessed the event. It was a great hour for the latter as the country’s cycling predominance was again established. Within a week two world championships have been taken by the irresistible Australians."

The other World Championship was taken by Sid Patterson in the Amateur Pursuit after being knocked out of the Sprint. He was the reining World Amateur Sprint title holder from the previous year. 

I was reading in Cycling Tips an excerpt of the 1956 Olympic Games road race where our Aussie riders were decimated by the opposition. John O'Sullivan said that the Aussies were totally outclassed. They had no idea of how Europeans raced, they had no experience.
So how astute was Jack Hoobin to enlist the help of such an experienced Aussie of Alf Strom. Surely this was the key factor in Hoobin's success.
How I wish I'd met the man when I had the opportunity when I was a young bloke.

Jack Hoobin - Cycling - Sport Australia hall of fame
Born in Victoria, Hoobin made Australia's 1948 London Olympic team after wins in the 125 mile Sun Classic (Victorian) and the Victorian championship. He was also placed second over ten miles in the 1948 Australian Amateur Track Championships and third in the five mile event. Despite a series of punctures, he finished sixth (the first Australian) in the 124 mile Olympic event at London's Great Windsor Park.

Hoobin returned to Europe in 1949 and 1950 to contest the world amateur road title but was plagued with illness and injuries. He did well to finish seventh in 1949.

In 1950 he tried again, under the coaching of Alf Strom, and performed the near impossible when he took out the title and beat the best amateurs in the grueling 175km race at Moorslede near Ypres, becoming the first Australian to win the world amateur road cycling championship. Hoobin overcame the blatant blocking tactics of the strong European teams to out sprint French champion Robert Varnajo and the 1947 world champion Ferrari of Italy in the upset of the decade.


One race we watched  c1950 was won by an Australian, Jack Hoobin, he was riding a borrowed bike using a single free wheel !! The same, or following year he won the Amateur World title, again I believe on a single-speed machine.  Jack Hoobin apparently became a well known political figure in Australia and, so I was told by a Museum in Australia, was due to open the Olympic Games in Sydney but passed away shortly before the ceremony,  I have an idea his wife did the opening instead.   He must have been quite a character. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How many Cycling Magazines were there?

As a young bloke when I first started racing in 1963, the first cycling magazine I bought was Australian Cyclist. There were others after the magazine folded and many before it. They are a wealth of cycling history.
At the time when I purchased AC it was published by Promoter Bill Long. Bill had his finger in many pies over the years. I remember my first encounter with Bill as a 14 or 15 year old. He gave us the opportunity to race at the Melbourne Olympic board track under the lights with all the big stars. We were billed as Melbourne Midgets and naturally we were on the early part of the program but we could sit there in the middle of the track amongst our heroes, many being among the Internationals that Long brought to Australia.

Australian Cyclist magazines spanning from March 1947 to January 1957.
But I digress. Recently I happen to mention to Jae Omara (Omara Cycles Black Rock) that I had a great collection of Australian Cyclist magazines but over the years and many moves I finished up giving them to a friend who in turn passed them on to another cycling enthusiast. I know they are in good hands today.

Vol 1 - No 1, March 1947
The very first editorial
Click to enlarge.
Anyway Jae told me he also had a collection that belonged to his "Pop" Les Omara. My father Jack and Les knew each other and raced occasionally on the same programs. Jae brought out this wonderful collection of magazines entrusted to me for my research on this Blog. The magazines include the very first Volume 1 - Number 1, published in March 1947.
Australian Cyclist was published by Wheel Publications at 503 Elizabeth St, Melbourne. A.B. Dawson was the Managing Editor. It sold for sixpence. Within a year, Dawson upped the price to 1/-. That's one shilling to young folk.

In October 1951 Bill Long took ownership with Stan Mullany continuing as the Feature Writer. Mullany was a font of cycling journalism although with a sense of humour that you would consider to be "Dad Jokes" these days. His humour was full of puns. I have actually been on the end of his sense of humour in a 1965 edition which I won't repeat here……..

An example of Stan's humour:
Wider powers are sought for Officials at ladies' meetings - Powers to suspend-her?
From that very first issue.
Preston Velodrome 1947 with amazing crowds all around the track I'm told from people who attended these meetings.
 During those early editions, there wasn't much of political correctness amongst the cartoon content. I'm not sure that things have changed much. All fairly harmless I guess.

Stan Mullany did however write a great introduction piece titled "These Made Wheel History" which included some gems.
I'd always heard rumours that we had a board track inside the Exhibition Buildings - I knew we had one somewhere prior to the one outside the Exhibition, possibly located within the old Olympic Park and known as the saucer track.
Mullany confirms the indoor Exhibition Board Track in the below excerpt.

Victoria had indoor racing.
How many times have we heard wheel enthusiasts ask if Australia is ever likely to stage an indoor bicycle racing as it is in vogue in America? Present day enthusiasts will learn with interest that Australian history has made in this regard when our first indoor solo six day race was held inside the Melbourne Exhibition Building on an eight laps to the mile track from April 25, 1897 four years after the LVW was formed.

Oldests Clubs in Victoria
In every State the question of which are the oldest clubs never seems to have been answered with any authenticity. Of Melbourne clubs functioning today under the original names we know that Richmond and Carlton were prominent units of amateur bodies of two centuries (1800/1900s) but it will surprise even hardened critics to learn that Fitzroy is the oldest of all present-day Metropolitan and that Northcote can go back to the 1880s.
Note: Today only Northcote survives
Of Victorian country clubs, the most traditional ones are Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Warrnambool. Yet all of these country clubs have survived

Sid Patterson, then our National Sprint Champion shares  the Malvern Star add with Oppy - Australia's Greatest Cyclist.
Battle of the Bike Builders. Max Rowley rode for Hartley.
Healing were another supporting advertiser in Australian Cyclist.
With two decades of Australia Cyclist magazines, I have a lot of reading to do and a lot more fodder for  "The Cycling Scrapbook". Hope you can join me.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

George R Broadbent - Father of Cycling

Who was George R Broadbent? 
Considered to be the father of Australian Cycling, Broadbent had a cycling career spanning from 1895 to 1903 but he didn't take up the sport competitively until he was 32 and retired at 40. George was born of English parents at Ashby near Geelong in 1863 and later moved to North Melbourne with his father George Adam Broadbent and mother Elizabeth. He went to school at nearby Errol Street.

George followed his father into cycling when the sport was in its infancy. In those early years George raced penny farthings and a little later the safety cycle with much success. He held Victorian and Australian long distance records in the late 1890s. Two records that are documented in Wikipedia include 203 miles on a penny farthing and 100 miles in 6 hours and 20 minutes on the new safety cycle.
These records would confirm that Broadbent was a rider of some endurance yet he also won the Australasian 5 mile championship in the 1893/1895 season and followed that up in the 1895/1896 season by winning the State 5 mile title.  These were track titles and one might assume that they were possibly have been conducted at the Royal Exhibition Buildings flat oval track.
He did however establish records on that track in May 1894 for all distances between 130 to 220 miles and times for between 8 and 12 hours.
This venue drew huge crowds as can be seen from the post card below.

1890 100 mile record

Americans Arthur Zimmerman (1895) and the Black Flash, Marshall "Major" Taylor (1902) both raced in Melbourne during the time of George Broadbent's career and if he didn't race against them, he would at least have seen them race at the Exhibition.

After establishing those records it would be assumed that George Broadbent would be in fine form for the very first Warrnambool Road Race that was conducted in 1895. Unfortunately not! It was won by A. Calder in 11h/44m/30s. Only seven riders completed the distance from twenty four starters. George Broadbent was third.

Hard to believe but this week I picked up a bundle of old Australian Cyclist magazines from Jae Omara of Omara Cycles/Corsair Cafe. Amongst these magazines was a tribute to George Broadbent by Stan Mullany - a contributor to the magazine for as long as I can remember.

He introduced his tribute with the following words;
After 60 years continuous association George Broadbent and his life long friend, his bicycle must part on medical advice. This grand old man of Australian cycling leaves in his wake a priceless legacy of service that richly entitles him to have his name kept evergreen in Australian cycling annals with the fitting title "Father of Australian Cycling".
Mullany continued;
My phone rings and then - hello is that you Stan? - what do you think they won't let me ride my bicycle any more.
Hope you can read the rest of this. click on the image for a larger view
Click on image for larger view

Broadbent was also a foundation Councillor of the League of Victorian Wheelmen which was established in October 1887. I remember walking into the LVW when the office was in North Melbourne, Victoria St, just around the corner from Errol St from where the Father of Australian Cycling grew up.

Initially with his love of cycling he became a member of the Eureka Bicycle Club which was formed in Hotham (later Nth Melbourne) in 1882 and became its Chairman in 1884. If this was not enough of his efforts to Cycling he was also a major motivator behind the Victorian Touring cycling boom which no doubt inspired his map publishing interests. Another role he filled was as handicapper for Melbourne Amateur Wheelers when they ran the early Australs and later as a handicapper for the LVW.
No wonder they called him the Father of Australian Cycling - he left a great legacy behind that many of our current cyclists would unfortunately have no knowledge.

George's competitive cycling career came to an end in 1903 to concentrate on his map publishing business when his interests were drawn more towards motoring. In 1898 he had purchased a steam driven vehicle and travelled much of Victoria writing articles for the Argus newspaper for both cycling and touring. Around the time of his retirement he attended a meeting that established the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. His contributions as a Founding Member rewarded him his RACV Life Membership.

George and Elizabeth Broadbent had three sons and seven daughters. Their second son Robert Arthur followed his father's passion for the bike and represented Australia at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games but that's another story for the future.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Connections through Communication

What does that mean?
Connections through Communication!

Its amazing when you are researching a subject or persons and paths cross. One such subject was Paddy Hehir. Who was Paddy Hehir you may well ask?
Paddy's name came up when I was researching the origins of my motor pace bike or stayer as they were known in Europe. Stayer bikes with cyclists on huge gears pedalling furiously behind the big motors travelling at 60 mph on large oval tracks - here in Australia it was at the motordrome in the 30s.

Anyway my stayer frame had a large "i" bronzed to the head. I thought it was an Ideal but later I was told it may have been an Ixion so I researched Ixion bikes. From there I found that Ixion bikes were connected to a racing cyclist in those early years by the name of Paddy Hehir. Paddy wasn't too shabby as a racing cyclist in fact he rode against, and with the best of his era.
The only known photo of Paddy Hehir I could find in my research.
Patrick O'Sullivan Hehir was an Australian cycling champion. He participated in the 1912 UCI Track Cycling World Championships at the Newark Velodrome. He won the American Derby event in 1912.[1] In 1910 Frank L. Kramer beat Hehir in the one-mile open professional event.[2] (Wikipedia)

Paddy made his career by riding the sixes in Australia and the USA and from 19 of the gruelling events he participated in from 1909 to 1915 he actually had 7 wins and 5 seconds - not a bad effort. So why don't we know much about Paddy O'Sullivan Hehir?

Two wins were with Alf Goulet in 1911 but that was after the pair teamed up at Madison Square Garden in 1910 for a fourth place.Three of those victories were in the USA with Peter Drobach at Buffalo, Newark and Indianapolis. After returning to Australia in 1911, Paddy and Alf teamed up for two Six wins. One in Melbourne, the other in Sydney.

Newark Velodrome

Poor old Paddy suffered from Cadel Evan's misfortunes of breaking collar bones and in one season he had a trifector.
The Referee journal of 1913 and 1914 published his letters about his six day races in the USA. In the April 1913 edition he stated that his win at the Buffalo Six Day was a fairly easy victory. He was invited to team with Goulet in Paris but found the financial rewards more enticing on the American circuit and had an easier time earning it.

Goulet and Hehir win the Six in Sydney - 1912

His January 1914 contribution to the "Referee" under the title of "Paddy Hehir Returns - Fortunes and Misfortunes of an American Racing Season" he tells of his three broken collar bones in one season.
He talks of Reggie McNamara, Spears, and Alf Grenda - all Australians making their name on the American Circuit.
Another article in the New York Times echoed the headline "Kramer's Sprint Wins" with the sub-title "Champion defeats Hehir on the Newark Velodrome". Kramer, a world sprint champion may have had Paddy's measure in the sprint match but our Irish/Australian beat Kramer in the 1/2 mile handicap on the same night, but had to take second again to Kramer in the one mile handicap.
The Ixion Track Bike

Paddy returned home and founded Ixion Bicycles with his partner a chap by the name of Blair at St Kilda in Melbourne. It was back then that a young Rupe Bates (Bates Cycles) learnt his trade working at Ixion. This is where the Connections through Communications comes about. Only last weekend I was talking to Leo Bates who bought a bike shop from another bike shop owner, Pop Storran in Thornbury. Pop's brand was Ideal, the name on my stayer frame. I asked Leo Bates about the bike, Pop and conversation got around to my earlier thoughts that the bike was an Ixion and the fact that it may have been connected to Paddy O'Sullivan Hehir.

It was then that Leo exclaimed, "I remember Paddy, he worked with us down at Clifton Hill at Rupe's bike building factory". Could Rupe have repaid the favour to Paddy in later years for giving him his introduction the the bike business. This is all conjecture on my part and the truth is most probably lost in time now that so many years have passed.

Maybe someone out there may know more about Paddy - certainly Leo Bates knew very little of his amazing racing career in the world of Madison and Six Day racing in that magical era in the early part of the 1900s.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

W.K. (Bill) Moritz

Sorry that this post comes almost a month after the Billy Guyatt post - W.K. Moritz was a fascinating cycling personality to research and one wonders where to stop before publishing on "The Cycling Scrapbook".
I hope you enjoy the read but maybe grab a cup of coffee or a glass of red before you start.
(Research credits at the bottom of the post)

The 1930s had many great stars in the sport of cycling such as Hubert Opperman, Fatty Lamb and Ossie Nicholson.
The track had Cecil Walker at his best in the USA but during the mid and late 1930s, a new breed of cyclist was entering the domain of the establishment. Bill Moritz, Keith Thurgood and Deane Toseland were all from South Australia and were part of that new breed. As the huge oval tracks were being replaced by steeply banked board tracks in Melbourne and Sydney, these three were among the young riders to dominate track racing as well as the road.

Born at Torrensville, suburb of Adelaide, March 19, 1916.  Attended Christian Brothers College, Adelaide.  Joined Payneham Cycling Club as junior aged 14.y.o.   At age of 17 won 25 mile road championship of South Australia.  
From H.’Curly’ Grivell’s ‘Australian Cycling in the Golden Days’ (published circa 1950). Supplied by Ken Mansell

Having great success in his home town of Adelaide, Moritz ventured to the mecca of cycling in Melbourne. At the time of his arrival from South Australia, the big meetings were being held at the Olympic Park Motordrome and the Exhibition oval track. As a 19 year old he showed promise in a 50 km scratch race at the Motordrome despite taking a tumble in the closing stages.

Moritz won the 25 kilo scratch race at Olympic Park on Saturday night under almost the same conditions as when he was victorious in the 50 kilo cycling Derby on the same track early in the season.  Crashing on Saturday night in the last two laps, he rose, partly stunned, ran for one lap with his damaged cycle, and then with the permission of the referee of the LVW, completed the last lap on a borrowed machine – the victor. 

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, February 19, 1936. Supplied by Ken Mansell

It was 1935 at the age of 19 he made his mark on the national scene. By 1936 he was the scratch marker with a field of 150 riders in the Austral Wheel Race at the Motordrome. The previous Austral was held in 1929 and after a hiatus of six years, there were two stagings of the race in the same year. The gaps were too great for Moritz to make up distance on the outmarkers but his compatriot from South Australia, Keith Thurgood riding from 100 yards took the win. This would not be the first time that a fellow South Australian would take success from Moritz in the classics. The 1936 Austral marked the demise of the Olympic Park Motordrome. It proved to expensive to maintain and was falling into disrepair. Promoter Jack Campbell had built a new board track at the site of the old Exhibition oval track and this would become the mecca of track cycling in Melbourne.

Moritz seemed to have a preference for the steeply banked board track and proved this for the second Austral Wheel Race within the same year. Again the scratch marker, Bill Moritz was outsmarted by the limit rider, 19 year old Harry Webb who held out for the win with Moritz taking second place. Second place was beginning to become a habit for Bill. The Austral would never see his name on the Austral Wheelrace honour board.

He was however successful in the longer European style scratch races (Point Score). It was not uncommon for Moritz to clear out from the field to take a lap on the field and on one night at the Exhibition, not content with one lap on the field, he took a second against a field that included Cecil Walker, import Franz Deulberg and locals, Clinton Beasley, and fellow South Australian Deane Toseland.
Not content for that win, he did the same the following racing night at the Exhibition boards against a cracker field.
The Healing boys with Moritz second from the left.
As a road rider he was also a scratch man. He took fastest time in the League of Victorian Wheelman sanctioned Melbourne to Bendigo but unfortunately he had to settle for another second place with an outmarker able to hold out for the win. The scratch bunch did lose Hubert Opperman due to gear malfunction. With Oppy's ability to suffer, maybe the scratchmen may have got up.

The Melbourne to Bendigo was a precursor to the 1939 Warrnambool and once again it was a strong scratch bunch of Oppy, Moritz, Angus, Thurgood and Toseland. The Argus Newspaper picked Bill Moritz as the favorite due to his good form in the Melbourne to Bendigo.
There was a field of 247 starters and one of those was to have a mishap 50 yards from the start. Oppy had the misfortune to fall early and after 15 miles of chasing the strong pace set up by the scratch men, he retired with no hope of catching.

As it was with the scorching pace, the scratchmen did get up with the three South Australians, Moritz, Thurgood and Toseland left to fight out the finish for the winning garland. It was Moritz that was once again the bridesmaid with Deane Toseland adding his name to the record books for 1939.
The time of the race was 8 hours and 18 minutes, 16 seconds with only 25% of the 247 starters finishing the race. The day's conditions proved to be one of the toughest for many years.

The road season came to an end with the Warrnambool and a new track season at the Exhibition Board Track began. The record books show that Bill Moritz had another successful season. Again he took out the 5 mile scratch race in November by lapping the field, then in January he won the International 5 mile and the following weekend the ANA Gold Stakes being the crowd pleasing final race for the night.
These fields boasted of some of our best locals as well as International riders from England, USA, Germany and France. Syd Cozens from England was one, and Nino Borsari from Italy.

Bill Moritz (SA) to the left - Ted Easton (QLD) to the right.
The two combined to win the 100 Empire Teams Race at the Exhibition Board Track.
It was the 50 km Pro Teams Championship of Australia during the 1939 season at the Exhibition Board Track that Moritz, teamed with Stan McPhee took the title against the classy field. He also won the Empire 100 km Team Race with Queenslander Ted Easton. Bill Moritz seemed to be a natural with the endurance events yet he was able to break the track furlong (220 yds) record, lowering it by 1/10th to 11.9 secs in a training session in preparation for the Australian Sprint Title.

This was possibly one of the last meetings held at the Exhibition Board Track before Jack Campbell relocated to Nth Essendon. Note at the bottom of the program that the following Saturday night's racing featured the 50 kms British Empire Teams Race that Moritz and Easton won.
The last event for the night's program was the featured 5 Mile Pro International Scratch Race. This program from my collection shows in pencil the placings with Moritz the winner. Tassie Johnson was second. Many riders from our old Pro days probably earned a fine or two from Tassie in his days of being Chief Referee at most meetings in the 60/70s.
The following track season saw Promoter Jack Campbell move the boards out to North Essendon. Bureaucracy and the state government demanded the change, whether it was due to locals complaining about the noise of the rattling boards or crowds of 10,000 spectators was unknown but Jack Campbell had a limited amount of time to demolish the board track after the end of the 1939 season. The boards were dismantled and the track was reconstructed just near the North Essendon station and there it remained for the next 16 years until the 1956 Olympic Games. Within that time the events of Melbourne track cycling was run under the management of Jack Campbell until 1952 when Ted Waterford took over as owner and promoter of track cycling at the North Essendon Board Track.

1940 and the Exhibition Boards finds a new home just outside the Railway Station at North Essendon.

Moritz did compete at the relocated board track during the 1940 season and there was also talk of him going to America and England to further his cycling career. Just prior to the end of the 1939 track season he became engaged to Miss Mary Slattery and it might be presumed that they were to marry before taking off overseas. Whether this happened or not is not clear however war was looming in Europe and Bill Moritz was one of those that signed up for duty. He never returned. As was a tail gunner, his plane was shot down over the English Channel.

W.K. (‘Bill’) Moritz, the greatest racing cyclist in the Southern Hemisphere.  A real wizard of the wheel, Moritz, by his amazing speed and generalship, capped brilliant achievements in each of the seven years since his entry into the sport by winning all of the major events in Australia and New Zealand during the last two path (sic?) racing seasons.  He is equally versatile on the road, having won fastest time in the historic Goulburn to Sydney 129 miles road  race, and the Australian 100 miles road championship two years in succession in the annual Healing Midlands Tour.  Moritz, who always rides a Healing bicycle, is a cyclist who has indisputably won the leading place among the foremost Australian wheelmen.   
Supplied by Ken Mansell from a Healing advertisement. 

Research Credits
Ken Mansell - History & Heritage Committee (Cycling Victoria)
TROVE Newspapers - National Library of Australia (the www)
Personal collection of programs of L.D Sims
And of course the memories of my 92 year young father, Jack Sims who rode at both the Exhibition and Nth Essendon Boards.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bill Moritz

It's been much too long since my last post on Billy Guyatt. There's a reason, I've been holding back due to further research. Since my last post I had a call from a rather well known photographer in the world of cycling during the 60s and 70s. His name is Ray Bowles and many of us have photos of ourselves in our scrapbooks that Ray took. I know I have a few.

Ray invited me for a chat to introduce me to the History and Heritage Committee of Cycling Victoria. Having only recently started the "CYCLING SCRAPBOOK" Blog, it was perfect timing on Ray's part. The Committee have done a fantastic job of collecting an enormous amount of memorabilia which is being collated and filed for future reference.

So, getting back to why I haven't posted for awhile! I started researching South Australian cyclist Bill Moritz and was fascinated by his exploits and as I read more, I discovered more about him, as a rider, as a person and his involvement in World War II - he never came back home. I hope to post the much too short history of W. K. Moritz soon.

Bill Moritz (Left) at the Nth Essendon Board Track
If you have any info of Bill Moritz - send it to me via leonsims@optusnet.com.au

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Billy Guyatt

One of Billy Guyatt's greatest triumphs came towards the very end of his career but I'm probably starting this post from the wrong end. Billy Guyatt showed his potential very early as a junior rider.
He and his brother Herb grew up in the Gippsland town of Sale. Their father Jim Guyatt was a cyclist and I guess this is where their passion for the bike grew from.

Billy as a 11 year old actually borrowed a bike and rode out to watch his father compete at a local 32 mile Gippsland race. Riding beside his father and asking how he was going showed Mr Guyatt that he had a son with some future potential. This was 1931. It would seem that young Billy Guyatt had a desire to succeed and that passion for success would be part of his persona during his life time - both in sport and later in business.

Success didn't always come easy though. Guyatt's cycling life did have its ups and downs. Starting his racing career as an amateur, he accepted a small cash prize and Mr Guyatt had to argue his son's case to ensure that he could continue as an amateur so that he may compete in both state and national competition during the pre-war years. Like many cyclists of the pre-war period, their careers endured a hiatus that put a stop to their progress and possible successes.

In 1935 at 15 years old he won the Victorian junior road championship held on the Albert Park Lake circuit. During the pre-war period the lake was a mecca for training. At 16 years of age Guyatt won several track championships in Brisbane and was hoping to represent Australia for the 1936 Empire Games being held in Sydney but Dunc Gray beat him in the National Sprint Title. Missing selection, Guyatt turned professional at 17 years old. From that day he forged an illustrious career as one of Australia's most versatile track riders of his day.
Prior to WWII the mecca of track racing in Melbourne was the Exhibition Board Track situated beside the Exhibition Buildings close to where the current Melbourne Museum now stands. Many imports who came from France, Italy and America raced there during their off season and Guyatt was matched against all of them with success. Later the Exhibition Board track was transported to North Essendon where Guyatt continued racing.
Trips overseas to gain a World Title were unsuccessful for Guyatt due to poorly prepared trips and sickness on arrival in Europe. The war intervened in his career as it did for many of our sporting greats. Guyatt did continue racing after the war however there were younger men on their way up. One of of them during the late 1940s was Sid Patterson. From what I've researched, there was an attempt to match the two however such was the age difference, it may be considered that Guyatt had too much to lose.
He did however race well and had two Sydney 6-day wins in 1941 with Ray Brooking and 1942 with his great competitor Jack Walsh.

During the 1950s, Billy Guyatt was coming towards the end of his career, he was in his 30s and although still a clever technician, his pace was dropping away. After a short retirement from racing Guyatt came back to ride the 1954 Warrnambool Road Race. Considered a sprinter, this 165 mile road race would seem an impossible task for the ageing sprinter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sitting at a lunch this week, I got talking to old cyclists who knew Billy Guyatt and they had many stories to tell me. One of them, Gordon Jennings claims that Guyatt was accosted by a group of Roadies who claimed that Guyatt was just a soft Trackie. Further discussion ended in a quite substantial amount of a wager being struck with Guyatt claiming he would win the 1954 Warrnambool Road Race. Gordon Jennings claims that both the wager and the winnings of the prestigious race, he was able to start his electrical retail business. History proves that he won the event. Billy Guyatt was given the handicap time of 27 minutes before the scratch men and the papers of the day considered him a favourite. That particular year was not an easy one - in fact due to headwinds all the way to Warrnambool, it was one of the slowest in contemporary times. It took Guyatt 8 hours and 24 minutes to win the 1954 Warrnambool. Most probably due to his success in winning Australia's oldest classic road race, Guyatt was lured back to the North Essendon Velodrome for the beginning of the season. This season was to be his last as he hung up his wheels at the end of the summer to concentrate on his business life.

Billy Guyatt wins the 1954 Warrnambool. Bill Long, cycling promoter and editor of Australian Cyclist magazine  stands to the back on the left. 
Another two people I sat with during that lunch this week was Ian Browne and Tony Marchant, winners of the 1956 Olympic gold for the Tandem in Melbourne. Billy Guyatt was their mentor and motivator at the Games. Ian Browne had some fond memories, some he hinted at with a glint in the eye, yet to be told.
Browne told me that Guyatt sold electrical products for companies such as Electrolux and found a good market in the country selling to country housewives. His success in cycling transferred into his business life (and possibly his social life) with becoming the best salesman within the company.

Guyatt did come back for one last season after his 54' Warrnambool win to the North Essendon board track.
Seen here with Hughie Cram at training.
Guyatt with open arms greet the 1956 Tandem Olympic Gold Medallists, Browne and Marchant.
Browne told me that after he and Marchant had reached the finals, Guyatt took them down under the track for a motivational and tactical talk before the finals. It must have worked because the gold medal was theirs for the taking.

An excerpt from Wikipedia
One of the reasons behind Australia's return to form had been the return of Guyatt to a mentoring role. Guyatt had assisted them at the national championships, but they were assigned to another coach at the Olympics. Guyatt was regarded as a marketing-style motivator and he attempted to give Browne and Marchant a psychological boost. Equipped with their new machines, Browne and Marchant employed a tactical trick devised by Guyatt. The Australian staff had noticed that the Czechoslovaks had always made their final burst from a certain point from the finish. During the final, Australian team manager Bill Young stood at the said point as the Australian led out. When Browne came to the point, he pulled upwards and pre-emptively blocked the expected Czechoslovakian attack. This helped to stifle the attack and Australia went on to win the gold medal.

Ian Browne related to me that after the win, Guyatt said to him, "Go and give your mum a kiss, she's up there on the fence."
Avery Brundage, then president of the IOC had to wait until Browne gave his mum a kiss under orders from Guyatt.

The "Old Bikies" lunch is certainly one that I hope to return to for more tales that I can share with you on future posts.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Velodromes and Museums in France

I guess since my kid-days, I've always had a passion for cars and bikes - push bikes that is!

Strangely enough on our travels to Europe, well France and Italy really, I've always searched out Motor Museums and Velodromes.
There's a site that documents much of the velodromes world wide and I've marked them on my Google Earth. Many of these have been contributed by Barry Langley. How did you manage this Barry???
Check out "World Velodromes on www.juniorvelo.com - its an old site but full of info still.

Anyway back to the story - before leaving on a trip, I'd just quietly note the velodromes in the areas we would be travelling without telling Sue (the Wife). As we would be travelling through some regional town in France, I'd say - I need to drive down this road, I have a feeling that there might just be a velodrome nearby.

To this day, Sue believes I can sniff out a velodrome anywhere in the world!!!!!

The photos below are from the Chatellerault Car and Bike Museum south of Chinon in the Loire.
Although predominantly cars and motor bikes, there some fine examples of pushies as well.

Chatellerault Car and Bike Museum

These are from another museum in the east Loire - Valency.

In LYON somewhere in a back laneway
Seen in Lyon opposite the restaurant where we had lunch.

These books sparked off my Velodrome search - it mentiond the one in Senlis, north of Paris. It was our first stop - I told Sue that it had a very historic cathedral, and it did but it also had the Senlis velodrome that was mentioned in Greg Moody's first book, Two Wheels.

The Velodrome in Dijon. It was in a very sad state when I was there in 2009.
I heard that it was to be demolished. When there I discovered a bunch ride that started just outside the walls of the Velodrome. There were quite a few of these velodromes in France in a sad state.
Velodromes are all over France but many over the years have fallen into disrepair. Like track racing all over the world it seems to be a poor cousin to road racing. Yet back in the days of Merckx, the roadies would keep supple by riding the winter sixes. Here's some of the velodromes that I've encountered on our trips to France.
Like this one in Senlis, north of Paris. I'd read the cycling novels by Greg Moody about an American cyclist that was in this team for the Tour de France. A bit of a Sam Spade murder thriller. More about that another day.

This velodrome is in Auxerre and looked to be abandoned as well.
One track that is in constant use these days is in Paris and named after Jacques Anquetil.
On our various trips, I've had the opportunity to ride the velodrome with my friend Michel Briat.
Michel came to Australia for the World Masters Track Championships in Sydney and eventually won his world stripes at Manchester recently.
The velodrome at Vincennes Paris is 500 metres and was the site of the finish of the Tour de France when Eddy Merckx won all of his five victories.
Merckx riding a victory lap with Poulidor and Lopez-Carril after his 5th TdF win at Vincennce Velodrome.
It was the site of the TdF finish from 1968 to 1974.
Vincennes Velodrome named after Jacques Anquetil was built in 1894 and used for the summer Olympic in Paris for the 1900 and 1924 Games. After our last visit to Paris in 2012, it has be fully rebuilt rather than resurfaced to ensure that this historic venue is used for many more years to come.