By Graham Healy
At the start of the twentieth century six-day races were incredibly popular in the US and attracted many of the big names from cycling, both from North America and Europe.
Amongst those who would take part in the New York Six-Day was Ireland’s first World Champion, Harry Reynolds. The Dubliner was invited to take part in the 1907 edition of the race. He had retired a few years after his World Championship win in 1896, but had made a successful comeback.
Reynolds departed from Queenstown (Cobh) on the 1st of December aboard the Carmania and arrived just days before the race started. He would partner with the Englishman James Benyon, who had won the World Amateur Sprint Championships two years earlier. They weren’t the only high-profile Europeans to take part though, as amongst other big names were that year’s Tour de France winner Lucien Petit-Breton and Leon Georget who had numerous big wins. The great American rider, Bobby Walthour was also taking part.
Unfortunately, the race didn’t go to plan for Reynolds. A report from the time read as follows:
MAD 6-DAY RACE CLAIMS 2 VICTIMS
REYNOLDS AND BENYON COLLIDE IN TERRIFIC SPRINT
During a terrific sprint in the sixth hour of the international Six-day bicycle race, Harry Reynolds and James Benyon, the Irish-English team, in relieving each other collided and both were so painfully Injured that they were unable to continue. Reynolds suffered from a severe concussion of the left forearm and Benyon was bruised about the body and lower limbs.
The sprint was started by Breton, closely pressed by Fogler, and after a wild burst of speed Dupree, Benyon and Reynolds fell.
Grinding away around the saucershaped track at Madison Square Garden thirteen of the Sixteen teams of bicycle riders which started at 1 o’clock this morning in the annual six-day International race, continue on the track, maintaining an average speed of about twenty miles an hour.
Six-day races at the times were incredibly dangerous, with numerous riders dying on tracks or suffering serious injuries, so Reynolds and Benyon were lucky to escape relatively unhurt.
The New York six-day was won by the German-Dutch pairing of Walter Rütt and John Stol. Reynolds returned to Ireland after the race, and would not get another opportunity to take part in any of the races on the lucrative North American six-day circuit, as he retired soon afterwards, this time for good.