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In the first quarter of the 20th century bicycle racing was one of the favorite summer sports. As early as 1910 motor-paced bicycle races were advertised at the Melrose Bicycle Track in Providence. A decade later the Rhode Island Amusement Co. purchased a portion of the old Caleb S. Mann farm (formerly the Howard farm) situated on Reservoir Ave. in back of the popular Sandy Fenner Tavern at the corner of Reservoir and Park Aves., and there they built a cycledrome where the old farm homestead had stood.
In April 1921 the Cranston City Times announced that bicycle motor-paced and motor cycle races had been licensed for the season at the new cycledrome and fans would be treated to a great exhibition of pace following.
The year was a great success and the Company renewed its license for 1922, beginning the season in May and providing amateur and professional races twice a week until the season's closing in September.
Heats varied in length from 5 to lO to l5 miles for amatuers, and local riders entered their"Steeds". Clarence Elsmtrom of Auburn was a local favorite and often proved to be a winner.
Riders were very particular about their bikes: had to have the seats adjusted to just the right height and were quite superstitious, it was said, if a blown tire or other accident forced them to choose another wheel to resume the race.
Racing required not only great stamina for long grinds but the ability to spurt furiously when the rider caught his opponent napping and could thus gain a cherished lead.
Vincent Madonna of Providence had both these qualities and, as undisputed champion of motor bike riders, was called the "Babe Ruth of Bicycle Riding".
In 1923 Manager Turville was granted a series of licenses at the Cycledrome and brought the coveted Race of Nations to Cranston— a 50 mile motor-paced race. Six nations participated; Australia, France, Belgium, Italy, Norway and America.
The same year the World's Best Quartet of Sprinters was offered, the only time these great riders were to appear collectively in New England. Reserved seats ran from 75 cents to two dollars and a half. Oval seats at fifty-five cents were also available.
The Final Interstate Championship, with a field of 25 riders, paced by the fastest professionals, rode a distance of 5 miles, ending the season in 1923.
With such offering the season of 1924 was opened with great anticipation of thrills to come, but on July 9, 1924 the Cranston News announced that the Cranston Cycledrome gathering place for bicycle fans twice a week for the last three years, was to be demolished in the Fall. The Providence Real Estate Improvement Co. had purchased the site with plans to plat the land immediately.
Manager Turville was transferred to the Providence Drome on North Main St. and the sport of professional bicycle racing grew into one of the busiest and most successful of professional sports, with tracks (called saucers) in various cities.
The Providence track was known as the fastest in the country and much better times were turned in there than in any other city where the fame was established. It was a sport that kept the spectator on edge all the evening. But exciting as it was, it had its day and gave way to auto racing in the 1930s.
Cranston's short participation in the sport is a pleasant memory; the demolition of the great Cycledrome a sad one.
In 1931 Harry Sandager, a local Auburn man, established the Cranston Ford Agency and built his new salesroom and garage on this historic site.
Today we bring you these brief memories of 721 Reservoir Ave. lest it be forgotten that it once was an important landmark of our city, though but for a very short time.