Friday, February 29, 2008

It is currently Black History Month for another 20 minutes or so. I had better hurry and post this quick before it is too late (good thing it's leap year). Thanks to Lynn Tolman of the Major Taylor Association and Seven Hills Wheelmen for bringing it to my attention.

When you to talk black history on a bicycle racing blog, you are likely talking about Major Taylor. Major Taylor was the world champion in several track events at the end of the 1800s when bike racing was as popular as baseball in the US. He was born in Indiana but moved to Worcester, Mass and lived there through the peak years of his career. That’s why they called him the Worcester Whirlwind. He was only the second African American world Champion in any sport and the first in cycling.

Major Taylor trained throughout the Worcester area but his legacy is especially tied to George Street. George Street is as close to vertical as any roadway gets in New England. At an average grade of something like 22% it is steeper than the Mount Washington Auto Road.

Every July the good folks at the Seven Hills Wheelmen and Barney’s Bicycles reenact Major Taylor’s quad busting workout routine and hold a time trial up George Street. The event, on July 27th this year, keeps the history of MajorTaylor alive and raises funds to place a statue of Major Taylor in Worcester. They have already named one of the busiest roads in the city after him and the statue is due to be unveiled on May 21. Check out the Major Taylor Association’s website for all the details - Three time Tour de France winner Greg LeMod is going to be there for the occasion.

I’ll be back for the fourth (or is it 5th?) year in a row to MC the George Street event in July. It is always one of the funnest events of the year for me, in part because of the variety of people that come to attempt the George Street Challenge. All types show up from USCF racers to club touring riders to bike messengers to old guys with long beards who think they can save the world by riding bikes instead of cars (I hope their right!). The best of them take less than 30 seconds to complete the hill from a standing start. They are usually the USCF racer types, but the bike messenger crew from Providence always has some top finishers on fixed gear single speed track/messenger bikes. These are people that you never see at a USCF race but they can fly. Not for nothing but, I would like to see what a Cat III racer could do in a alleycat race against the messenger crew . That might even make for some good television if you could get Versus to come film it.

I’ll have more about the Major Taylor George Street Challenge here as July approaches.

Happy leap day.