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.


Rhodesia said...

I have never worked out how to balance a bike on rollers for training!! I like my trainer that does not fall over and the bike is held solid :-) Great post Diane

leon sims said...

D - Indoor trainers are good when the weather is bad but there's nothing better that to enjoy the surroundings on a good day out on a bike.

Anonymous said...

Great story, note that Stan McPhee owned and ran a bike shop in Warrnambool for many years, he died about 10 years ago, and yes, I do have. Stan McPhee frame tucked in a corner of the shed. Bob

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
leon sims said...

Bob - we should do a post on Warrnambool cycling sometime.

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