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U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame Inducts Karen Bliss, George Banker, and Sean Petty

By Peter Joffre Nye

Author Peter Joffre Nye's latest work is his biography of Albert Champion, The Fast Times of Albert Champion: From Record-Setting Racer to Dashing Tycoon, An Untold Story of Speed, Success, and Betrayal (Prometheus Books). It is available in hardcover and Kindle eBook.

Champion (1878-1927) was an incredible man, as a bicycle racer he was winner of Paris-Roubaix and set more than a hundred world records. He went on to found both the Champion Spark Plug Company and General Motors Division AC Delco Systems.

Just click on the Amazon link to the right to get your copy of this terrific book.

Also on this site is Mr. Nye's story of one of cycling's toughest-ever racers, Reggie McNamara. McNamara won over 700 races and was one of the greatest-ever six-day racers. Oh, and there's more! Nye's story of Joseph Magnani, the Illinois rider who challenged Coppi and Bartali.

Enjoy!


U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame announces three 2019 inductees

Davis, CA (November 2, 2019)—Two bike racers and an indispensable contributor to the sport were recognized in the 33rd annual U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame inductions before an audience of 100 family members, previous inductees, USA Cycling staff, and others.

Karen Bliss of Quakertown, PA, won more than 300 road and track races on four continents between the early 1980s through the 1990s, including seven national road and track championships. She was inducted in the Modern Road & Track Competitor category.

Bliss grew up as a competitive swimmer and played field hockey until 1983 when she joined Penn State University’s cycling club. She developed through the U.S. Cycling Federation and rode on the national teams from 1987 to 1998.

Karen Bliss

Karen Bliss winning the 1998 Tour of Somerville. Photo coutesey Karen Bliss.

Over the inductions weekend, she was joined by former teammates such as Susan DiBiase and Hall of Famer Jeannie Golay. Bliss’s voice grew so hoarse from talking, she sounded like Marlon Brando in The Godfather. As a result, DiBiase, Golay, and her sisters on wheels alternated telling anecdotes of their times together.

“We traveled from race to race, staying overnight at the homes of friends, sometimes friends of friends,” Golay recounted. “When we won cash, we drove to the next race. When we were paid with checks, we waited around till the checks cleared and left for the next race.”

George Banker of Pittsburgh, America’s first world professional champion sprinter, was inducted in the Veteran Road & Track Competitor category. Like Tour de France winner and Hall of Famer Greg LeMond, Banker’s best racing took place France and around Europe.

After his successful 1893 domestic season, in which he won a national amateur sprint championship among 47 victories on tracks in the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Upper Midwest, he looked to turn pro, which was discouraged by the League of American Wheelmen, this country’s governing body. In early 1894 he shipped out with Hall of Famer Arthur Zimmerman and a half-dozen riders seeking to race professionally in France.

George Banker

George A. Banker: Photo courtesy of Hearts of Lions Second Edition by Peter Joffre Nye

Banker wore his Pittsburgh Athletic Club jersey and the Stars & Stripes wrapped around his waist as he won the 1894 Grand Prix de Paris, which catapulted him to fame on the Continent. He kept racing in the same kit for the next five years, competing in 80 events a year and became a crowd favorite for his sharp speed.

In 1895 in Cologne Germany, at the inaugural world sprint championships for professionals, Banker won, but the final results were tossed out. The finals were re-run in Paris, where he finished second. He continued competing in venues around Europe and in French colonies in North Africa. At the 1898 worlds in Vienna, Austria, he won the sprint championship. Banker continued racing till he returned as conquering hero to Pittsburgh. He opened one of the city’s first automobile dealerships.

Sean Petty of Dallas was inducted in the Contributor to the Sport category. “Growing up a husky kid in Texas, I had no idea of the sport,” he said. “This is a beautiful sport and it took me around the world.”

In 1985 after college he joined the Southland Corporation, owner of the 7-Eleven convenient store chain, which sponsored cycling teams for men, women, and juniors, on the road and tracks. Petty promoted and managed the teams, including the new 7-Eleven professional cycling team that rocked the staid European cycling establishment. “The 7-Eleven men’s team won two stages of the 1985 Giro d’Italia,” he said. “That led to an invitation to ride in the 1986 Tour de France.”

Sean Petty

Sean Petty. Photo courtesy of John Pierce of Photosport International

Petty rose to manage programs that sent U.S. cycling teams to 51 world championships and five Olympics. He serves as a volunteer member for cycling organizations, including USA Cycling, the Union Cycliste Internationale, and Bicycle Colorado. In 2015 he served as race director for the USA Pro Challenge women’s race; since 2017 he served as race director for the women’s Colorado Classics.

Sean Petty and Karen Bliss

Sean Petty and Karen Bliss at the their inductions to the Hall of Fame.

The new inductees boost the total to 133 U.S. men and women into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.