The Castleman / McAleer Duel of 1894

Kind of amusing to think of it now, with one city grown large and the other grown massively, but once upon a time there was quite a rivalry between Riverside and Los Angeles. Not unsurprisingly that rivalry extended to the cycling clubs "representing" each. On a hot September day in 1894 two riders engaged in a twenty-five mile two-wheeled duel, which would not only determine the faster of the two, but the dominance of each respective city. Casey Castleman, Riverside's fast man had accepted a challenge, made two months earlier, by Thomas McAleer of Los Angeles.

Honor was not the only prize awaiting the first across the line, so was a medal and $260, each rider posting $130 with the race referee, the total to be awarded to the winner. By all accounts a great crowd thronged the Los Angeles Athletic Park to witness the competition; orange and black, the colors of the Riverside Wheelmen, overflowed from the bleachers, while the grandstand was filled to capacity with spectators who made their allegiance known by their shots and yells for McAleer.

To warm up the crowd two preliminary races were held before the main event - the first was a Chinese race (yes there was such a thing back then; this was a time when anti-Chinese sentiment was at a peak, so I am not sure that to make of the phenomenon, but Chinese-only races were quite common whenever larger race meets were held). Two of the racers failed to show for the event which left Wong Nzui to ride solo, establishing a new Chinese one-mile paced record (2:41) for his effort. The second race was a match race between Charles Miller and Fred Magee - there is no indication who won, and by then everyone was intent upon the feature race anyway.

The Castleman / McAleer race was a paced competition with each rider choosing their own pacemakers. McAleer chose Phil Kitchen, W. M. Jenkins, Emil Ulbricht, W. A. Burke, F. G. Lacy, A. Griffin, J. J. Long, Fred Holbrook, T. R. Hall, Clyde Washburn, and C. Parks. Castleman believed that his men - Jimmie Cowan, Charles Cowan, G. Schmidt, L. W. Fox, D. E. Whitman and W. E. McCreary, though fewer in number, were up to the challenge. At 3:25 Castleman and McAleer were shoved from the tape by their handlers and the race was underway.

Kitchen took first pace-making duties for both men and was succeeded first by Ulbricht, then Burke and Jenkins. The first mile was run in 2:24, and the first two in 5:06. Every one of the early miles, up to the tenth, was raced a few seconds slower than the Pacific Coast records for each. In the tenth mile McAleer's rear tire blew out while he was rounding the north curve. As he waited for his replacement bike, Castleman took the opportunity to increase his pace while being led out by Louis Fox. Castleman gained an appreciable lead before McAleer was able to resume racing, but once back on the bike he began a steady and inexhorable pursuit which, after six more miles, allowed him to catch and pass his rival. Needless to say the crowd were all standing now and let loose with a roar the likes of which had never been heard in the stadium before.

The two racers continued to call upon new pace-setters which kept the race moving. When the gun fired at the one-hour mark, about twenty-three miles had been covered. Going into the final half lap, Kitchen and Ulbricht moved aside after pacing the race, and Burke took over once again. The pace was so hot going into the final turn that Castleman, attempting to pass on the outside, ran too wide and right off the track. Though he managed to correct himself, it was too late for the chase and he finished twenty feet behind McAleer who was carried around the track upon the shoulders of this friends and supporters. For their part, Castleman's supporters lodged a complaint, protesting that McAleer and Burke had forced their man from the track. Though W. A. Cowan vowed to take their complaint all the way to the National Racing Board in Chicago, the race referee ruled in favor of McAleer. When all was said and done no records were set, and McAleer led for all but laps eleven through fifteen.

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