The Once and Future Cyclist

The cyclists in their sports gear, look startlingly modern.

The French cyclists pose for the camera like something out of Gentlemen’s Quarterly.  They exude a cool nonchalance befitting their international fame and unbounded commitment to athleticism.  Léon Georget (1879-1949) wears a handlebar moustache (appropriate given the sport), a ribbed knit turtleneck with indecipherable lettering,* knit cycling shorts, and tasseled flats.  Victor Dupré gazes slightly off-camera, his toned bod appreciable through a layer of stretch.  His soft leather lace-ups are worn and dusty.  Surrounding the French champions are a few American men in ordinary clothing, their limbs clad in layers of dark, billowy wool.  Georget and Dupré were among the world’s top cyclists then.

The date is December 2nd, 1908, and the Frenchmen and other European cyclists fresh off the boat have been spirited away from New York to an open-air cycling track, where they will remain for several days.  The curving board track behind them identifies their location as Vailsburg, a well-known turn-of-the-century cycling venue in Newark, New Jersey.

The two-man French team and others are there to prepare for the six-day bike race scheduled to be held in Madison Square Garden the following week.  All thoughts are turned to Sunday night, when, at the stroke of midnight, the round-the-clock grind of the race will begin.

Image: from this source

* On January 2, 2019, a reader wrote in to say that Georget is wearing his jersey inside out
and that it bears the word “Alcyon,” the brand of his bike.