Friday Throwback: Remembering Goullet the King, the most incredible cycling hero you've never heard of

The inscription on the photo says, simply, "Goullet" and in 1920s America that's all that was needed to identify a national champion. 

Australian Alf Goullet taught himself, building a cycle track on his father's land, using the family horse to flatten the grass in to a course.  Spotted by professional cycling talent scouts, he moved to America aged just 19, and never looked back.  Goullet arrived at the height of America's track cycling boom, with his local 12,500 seat velodrome in Newark selling out twice a week.

He went on to win 15 six day races, more than 600 races over the duration of his career and scalped a host of world records.  To give you an idea of how popular a racer he became, at the peak of his career he earned more than the $20,000 paid to Babe Ruth in the year he hit 54 home runs for the Yankees. 

Every big race would exhaust him, but he'd always want to get back on his bike and do it again.  Writing about his first six day race he said: "My knees were sore, I was suffering from stomach trouble, my hands were so numb I couldn't open them wide enough to button my collar for a month, and my eyes were so irritated I couldn't, for a long time, stand smoke in a room."  And still he cycled.

They called him "Goullet the King" and his name was synonymous with the biggest cycling races at Madison Square Gardens, where he was inducted to the Hall of Fame.  But tastes changed, and as track cycling became less popular and velodromes across America faded and closed, so too did the memories of the stars of those tracks.

But Goullet didn't forget cycling.  In 1982, aged 91, he was lobbying his local city council to build a new cycling track to give the young people of Newark something to do.  

He died in 1995, aged 103 years old. 

This is just one story from our ongoing series of Friday Throwbacks, exploring the best cycling history online.  Be sure never to miss a post from ibikelondon blog; you can follow us on Twitter here or join the conversation our Facebook page.

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