Major Taylor’s London excursion

In the early 1900s there was no bigger cycling star than Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor. Cycling’s first black world champion, Taylor achieved success in the face of much discrimination, touring Europe, Australia and North America and winning in the world’s most famous velodromes, writes Giles Belbin

Major Taylor (Getty)

It is early August, 1903. The cycling correspondent for Sporting Life is making his way to the Three Nuns Hotel in Aldgate, notebook and pen safely stowed, pleased to have received an invitation to lunch with “a crowd of cycling celebrities”. 

On entering the hotel our correspondent finds his hosts and settles down to enjoy a lunch of steak and fried potatoes, “washed down with good old English bitter”. At the table is Victor Breyer, the manager of the Buffalo velodrome in Paris. Breyer is in town for a race meeting at the Memorial Grounds, Canning Town, and has brought with him a couple of French stars – the sprinter Charles Piard and ‘the paced wonder’ Henri Contenet – alongside the American sprinting sensation, Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor. 

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