Monday, January 24, 2005
Madison Square Garden has resided in three locations: Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street (1879-1925), Eighth Avenue and 50th Street (1925-1968), and Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street (1968-present). As befitting the era, the 1925-1968 Madison Square Garden’s inaugural event was a 6-day bike race spanning November 30, 1925-December 5, 1925. Judging from the daily reports in the New York Times, the event was quite a barn-burner. The race came down to the wire, with a team of young Belgians Gerard Debaets and Alphonse Goosens lapping the field in the closing minutes snatching victory from 6-day ironman Reggie McNamara (45 years old!) and his young, Italian partner Franco Georgetti.
And the photo? Depicted is Alphonse Goosens (left) with his trainer on the first evening of racing. Goosens is taking a moment to recover from his facial wounds suffered during the event’s first crash. However, for Goosens and his partner, this was only the beginning of their suffering. From the December 6, 1925 New York Times:
The victory of Debaets and Goosens was the triumph of youth, experience, gameness, and courage, combined with riding skill and speed. The Belgians emerged from the race with the marks of battle - as many a fighter has left the ring and many a football player has left the gridiron. Last Thursday night Debaets was stretched out unconscious on the track flat, and was out of the race for an hour.Within an hour of last night’s finish, the game little Belgian was on his track cot after a nasty spill in a terrific jam, his right shoulder and right hip injured as he crashed to the track in a smash-up which many thought would eliminate the team from the grind. He was painfully hurt, but he gritted his teeth and mounted again after a short respite. When the great test came he was found ready and he responded in thrilling manner.
Goosens started the race banged up. He was the victim of the first spill in the race. He went through the grind with his face battered out of shape and discolored. He finished that way and with the added pain of several minor spills of which he was the victim.
They made an exciting spectacle, these Belgians, Debaets with his fresh show of crimson through his short-sleeved undershirt, his legs and arms bleeding and raw, and Goosens with his eyes discolored and blazing after six days of painful riding, his elbows and arms barked and stripped of skin and his face patches of raw red from falling. But, like his wonderful little partner, his courage remained unshaken.
They wouldn’t quit…
It was a notable triumph for Goosens, a signal victory for Debaets. Goosens won his first (six-day) race in five starts. He finished second in one previous grind, third twice, and sixth once. Debaets, a 21 year old youngster, road cycling champion of Belgium, was making his first six-day race appearance.
Debaets and Goosens covered 2,294 miles during the six days of racing. That’s quite a few laps of a 1/10 mile velodrome! Approximately 150,000 tickets were sold over the course of the six day event to spectators clamoring to witness the daily morning, afternoon, and night sessions.