MAJOR TAYLOR BIKE ON DISPLAY AT WORLD TRACK CYCLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Lynne Tolman, email@example.com, 508-831-0301
Lee Callans, AEG Communications, 310-630-2095 or 213-742-7306
U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, www.usbhof.com, 732-356-7016
Major Taylor's bicycle
Photo courtesy of Randy Williams
CARSON, Calif. – Major Taylor’s bicycle is on display at the ADT Event Center velodrome for the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, taking place March 24-27, 2005, at The Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles.
The vintage Peugeot bicycle is on loan to The Home Depot Center from the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Bridgewater, N.J.
The bike belonged to 1899 world cycling champion Marshall W. "Major" Taylor (1878-1932), who was the first African-American athlete to become an international sports superstar. A decade before boxer Jack Johnson and half a century before baseball player Jackie Robinson, Taylor challenged society’s attitudes about race and won competitions, fans and respect. Facing closed doors and open hostility with quiet dignity, Taylor fought racial prejudice on and off the bike to become "The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World," as he titled his autobiography. He was the second black world champion in any sport, after bantamweight boxer George Dixon.
The Peugeot on display at The Home Depot Center is one of several bikes that Taylor brought home from his seasons racing in Paris in 1901-03 and 1907-09, according to cycling historian Peter J. Nye, author of "Hearts of Lions: The Story of American Bicycle Racing" and a member of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame advisory board. The bicycle was made at a factory run by the brothers Armand and Eugene Peugeot in Valentigney, France. Taylor likely raced on the Peugeot on outdoor tracks such as the Buffalo Velodrome in the Paris suburb of Neuilly and Parc des Princes in western Paris, Nye said. (In the United States, Taylor raced under contract for Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works of Fitchburg, Mass., in 1900 and 1901; Iver Johnson bikes were distinguished by an added underslung top tube for extra stiffness.)
With assistance from the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame and the Major Taylor Association, Inc., in Taylor’s adopted hometown of Worcester, Mass., The Home Depot Center has created a display showcasing the bike along with pictures and text about the life and legacy of Indiana native Major Taylor, also known as "the Worcester Whirlwind." The Major Taylor Association is raising money for a permanent monument to Taylor in Worcester.
The Peugeot bicycle was donated to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame by Joe Cote of Townsend, Mass., who grew up in Worcester. Cote acquired the bike from a Worcester collector who had bought Taylor’s collection in the late 1920s when Taylor moved from Worcester to Chicago and needed cash, Nye said. The Hall of Fame inducted Major Taylor into its pantheon of cycling greats in 1989.
The 2005 World Track Cycling Championships will feature some 200 cyclists from more than 40 countries competing in 15 title contests for individuals and teams. It is the third time in the 118-year history of the track cycling worlds that the United States has been host to the event. The last time was in 1986 at the outdoor 7-Eleven Velodrome in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"The World Track Cycling Championships are arguably the oldest world championship competition in sport," said Roger Young, director of the 2,450-seat ADT Event Center indoor velodrome, which opened in 2004. "Boxing’s world title has been around as long, but cycling’s single event per year is as rich with history and drama, and from Major Taylor at the turn of the century to Jimmy Walthour in the ’30s, Jack Heid in the ’50s, to modern heroes like Mark Gorski, Connie Paraskevin-Young and Mike McCarthy, the U.S. has written a good deal of that history."
"Major Taylor is an important part of cycling history both here in the United States and internationally, so it is fitting that we honor him with the display of his bike and memorabilia at the most prestigious event in track cycling – the World Championships," said Bill Peterson, managing director of The Home Depot Center.
In addition to the velodrome, The Home Depot Center has venues for soccer, rugby, lacrosse, tennis, track & field, softball, baseball, beach volleyball, basketball and other sports as well as concerts. The $150 million, privately financed complex is operated by AEG on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, Calif.
Update (November 2009): Major Taylor's Peugeot bicycle is back at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, in the Hall's new home in Davis, Calif., where the organization is sharing space with the California Bicycle Museum.