Ed Kretz Wins The 200-Mile National Road Race Championship

West Coast entrant rides an Indian to the first National Championship of 1936, at Savannah

By E.c. Smith, Photography by Unknown

At 56 laps-just 5 laps from the finish-Kretz was out in front again, but apparently by about “no” seconds. He was given the hurry-up signal, and he hurried. Several other fellows were given the same signal. They all responded. By the time the 58th lap came up fans began going “screwy.” They knew that Kretz, Tancrede, Chasteen and Edwards were right in the same lap. Like the real veteran riders they were, they flashed over the line for another lap. The pits were jibberish. Fellows usually pretty sane were beginning to let go. Preparations were started to receive the finishers.

Up went the 59th lap. Necks stretched for favorites. Where was he? He sure was taking a helluva long time getting around. Had he spilled, or run out of gas or--? Time is a strange playmate at a time like that. The hands don’t go around fast enough. Pit men were trying to talk about something-anything-even to “How is your aunt ?”

Out onto the track walked the referee, a yellow flag in his hand. At his side was a chap with a huge blackboard with some rider’s number on it. Down the stretch came a blur. It took shape, a rider head down and going hard. The blackboard turned around and said No.11. He snapped past the flag, glanced at his pit and they signalled “Go.” As if he were not already going plenty strong!

In quick succession the flag was given Al Chasteen, Babe Tancrede and Ralph Edwards.

Again the worry about that last lap. But suddenly out of the bend came Kretz again. The referee walked out and waved the checkered flag. Again he waved it at Chasteen and at Tancrede. Their pits signalled a safety lap. Then came hasty checking. All eyes and ears were trained toward the checking stand. Referee Ellis was busy flagging other riders. The first ones were getting into the pits and were being surrounded by friends and workers.

Suddenly there was a hush. A noise at the speaker indicated the winners were decided. Then it boomed out, “The winner of the 200-mile national championship, Ed Kretz of Corona, California; second place, Babe Tancrede of Woonsocket R.I., and third, Al Chasteen of Oakland, California.” That was as far as the speaker got. All hell broke loose. Cameras were swept aside, long-suffering corns trod upon, Fritzie Baer was talking French-Red Armstrong couldn’t talk at all and was using his hands-Harry Pelton was smoking the wrong end of his cigar and Tancrede, Kretz and Chasteen were shaking hands and giving each other praise.

Kretz won for himself the reputation of being a good clean sportsman. Everyone was glad to see him win, regardless of the make of machine they were pulling for. In fact Bill Harley sounded the keynote of general attitude when he congratulated Kretz, told him he rode a wonderful race and that he deserved to win. Part way through the race we saw Bill near the one bad turn in the course. He asked “Who is that number eleven?” He then added, “The way he rides this bad turn he is going to be hard to beat.” There was nothing wild about the way Kretz handled his machine. He just seemed to know that he had control. And how he did push it. It is a tribute to the machine that it stood the test of the 200 miles at such a pace.

The Savannah event was well handled from beginning to end and everyone, including the contestants seemed to be satisfied. On Sunday night when Referee George Ellis presented the championship medals and the prize money there wasn’t a dissenting argument. Each of the riders in the money was given a hand. The rest of the evening was spent in friendly horseplay and hob-nobbing about the highlights of the race.

By E.c. Smith
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