[CR]Open championships, Toni Merkens

(Example: Racing:Beryl Burton)

To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
From: "Toni Theilmeier" <Toni.Theilmeier@t-online.de>
Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2004 21:21:36 +0200
Subject: [CR]Open championships, Toni Merkens

Hi Mick, there was this funny thing about open championships in cycle racing, which still is practised today in some areas, that a track would try to attract racers and spectators alike by floating a cup which would have some spectacular title, like the Golden Wheel (Berlin, pre-WWI, later ubiquitous) or some such thing. This would sometimes be referred to as a championship, so racers who actually were not nationals of the country in which the race would be held could become those champions.

However, the "genuine" champions of their countries would be those winning races (or series) organised by the cycling federations of their relative countries and not by some commercial agent.

Toni Merkens to me (born 1961) always serves as an example of what really counts in cycling: friendship, comradeship in a non-military sense. He seems to have conquered the hearts of many Britons during the thirties, much as Albert Richter conquered the hearts of the French, and that during a time when German politics and "public" opinion would not exactly encourage such ongoings. In fact, cycle racing as such was not a sport liked by the German fascists who were much more engine orientated.

Tragically, Merkens was conscripted and died from wounds sustained in action, if I remember correctly on the Eastern front. I have a 1946 "Cycling" clipping somewhere, can´t lay my hands on it at the moment. Just the man who did so much for the mutual understanding of European peoples would be killed in the war. Richter, who refused to use the fascist way of greeting and to fire his Jewish manager, was killed by the Gestapo.

I used to believe that if you wanted to become a real cyclist, you need to build your own bike, ride it and then write about it in some form. Now I think there´s more to it, and Richter and Merkens had it all.


Toni Theilmeier, Belm, Germany