The hardest fought match race of my career, Agen France

vendredi 1er décembre 2023, par velovi

The Fastest Bicycle Rider In the World, an autobiography by Marshall W. « Major » Taylor, Wormley publishing Company, Worcester, 1928

Just three weeks to a day from the date of the Copenhagen fiasco Elleggarde and I hooked up in our revenge match race at Agen. It proved to be the hardest match race that I ever competed in Elleggarde was determined to wipe out the stain of his fluke victory over me in Copenhagen, while I was out to prove that I would have led him home in that race only for the accident to my tire, had he been sportsman enough to ride it over again after I had been painfully hurt in the last lap.
The Agen track was a beautiful course, built of concrete and measured three laps to the mile. Ideal racing weather greeted Elleggarde and I as we went to the starting line, while the immense throng gathered about the track gave us a rousing reception. It was apparent that all hands wanted the better man to win this momentous race and I knew that the French bicycle enthusiasts would acclaim the winner regardless of whom he proved to be, provided he won the race on merit alone.
The first heat was paced by single riders—which was just to my liking. However, I was greatly surprised when Elleggarde led me home in this dash by six or eight inches in a manner that left no doubt in the minds of all who saw the race as to who was who. After a brief rest we came out for the second heat which was unpaced. This time Elleggarde appeared to be more confident and determined than I had ever seen him before. I decided to ride a different style of race this time and we fought it out for a full lap, neck and neck, with a heart-breaking finish down the home stretch and right over the tape. I had just about the same advantage over Elleggarde in this heat that he had on me in our first heat, not more than half a foot. There was great excitement.

Then came the most trying test of all, the one that would tell the story, and settle for all time the question of supremacy between Elleggarde and myself. Incidentally, I felt positive that this heat would decide two matches simultaneously—my race with Elleggarde in Copenhagen as well as the current one and judging from the way he rode this race in Agen he must have felt the same way. It was a grudge fight and there was no friendly hand-shaking either before or after our heats on this track. The enormous throng was cheering frantically as we came out.
In this third heat I allowed Elleggarde to take the lead for the first two laps. Then I suddenly jumped past him just coming up to the bell on the last lap. After taking command of the situation I eased up a trifle until he challenged me, then I made my final jump for the tape. He had me timed just about right. It was any- body’s race down the back stretch, around the turn, down the home stretch and right over the finish line. It was a savage fight but I had the advantage again by about six or eight inches. The cheering was deafening. I can never forget it.
We were nearly exhausted at the close of this heat despite the fact that we were both in perfect physical condition. Judging from the physical expression on Elleggarde’s face, and from subsequent events this race must have settled for all time any hope he might have had of ever defeating me in a single man-to-man race. As a matter of fact we met a number of times after that gruelling race but I never again experienced a great deal of difficulty in defeating him. It is apparent to me now that my victory over Elleggarde on the Agen track on that eventful day broke his morale as far as I personally was concerned. The outcome of this great match proved that it was the hardest match race that I ever won.

Soon after my races with Elleggarde I jumped to Berlin where I defeated the champions of four countries in a five-cornered international match race at 1ooo meters. It was arranged that we would ride three heats, winner to be determined on a point basis.
The field included Momo, the Italian champion, Elleggarde, champion of Denmark, Protin, Champion of Austria, Arend and Huber, the premier sprinters of Germany, and myself.
From Berlin I next went to Leipzig where I won a three-cornered match race over Willie Arend, champion of Germany, and Huber, the former champion of Germany. At Antwerp I defeated Grognia, the champion of Belgium, Momo, the Italian champion and Protin, the champion of Austria, in a four-cornered international match race. At Toulouse I scored another victory over Van den Born, the former champion of Belgium, and Cornelli, the former champion of Italy.
In a match against the tandem team composed of Grognia and Prevost at Bordeaux I was defeated, but won out against Lambrecht and Legarde, another tandem team in Lyons. On this same occasion I won the 1000-meter handicap event from a field of stars which included Lambrecht, Legarde, Grognia, Prevost, Marteles, Van den Born, Cornelli and others. At Geneva I rode my final engagement of that season and defeated Gougoltz and Henneburn another famous tandem team.
My first European tour had proven even more successful than the trip made by Arthur Augustus Zimmerman, my famous predecessor, when he was champion of America. All told I competed in 16 cities, most of them being the capitals of European countries, and was successful against the champions and leading riders of six countries. I was defeated in only two single man-to-man match races, Jacquelin and Elleggarde turning the tricks as has been explained. Incidentally, my first invasion of Europe, in 1901, netted me 42 firsts, 11 seconds, 3 thirds, and I fourth prize.

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