New Mural on Cherry Creek Trail Honors Major Taylor, the First Black World Cycling Champion

A cyclist passes the new mural of Major Taylor, the first African American to win a world cycling championship in 1899. Photo: Andy Bosselman
A cyclist passes the new mural of Major Taylor, the first African American to win a world cycling championship in 1899. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Marshall "Major" Taylor in 1907. Photo: National Library of France
Marshall “Major” Taylor in 1907. Photo: National Library of France via Wikimedia Commons.

A new mural on the Cherry Creek Trail honors Major Taylor, a cyclist whose integrity and grit helped him overcome racial prejudice to become the first African-American to win a world cycling championship in 1899. Members of the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Denver were on hand yesterday to watch its installation.

“He lived his life as an example,” said Darrell D. West, the president of the club. Taylor was known for his strong character, rejecting alcohol and drugs and responding with grace to racist taunting, being banned from competitions and physical assault, said West. “It’s a story of an unsung hero.”  

Taylor, who earned the nickname “The Black Cyclone,” started competing in six-day races in 1896, when he was 18, and later turned to sprint races. He set several world records before winning the gold medal in the men’s one-mile sprint in 1899, which made him the world champion. 

Artist Jonny Pucci paints the mural Thursday afternoon.
Artist Jonny Pucci paints the mural Thursday afternoon.

The story inspired Jonny Pucci, the artist behind the mural, who grew up in Denver and wants more people to learn about the athlete. 

“I’ve always wanted to do something on Major Taylor,” he said. “He’s one of the greatest cyclists in the world and nobody knows anything about him.” 

Taylor has become better known since last year when ESPN and Hennessy released a television commercial and a short film about his life. West expressed frustration about the booze brand clinging to Taylor’s glory, preferring the athlete to instead be remembered for overcoming adversity through hard work and clean living.  

Johnny Barideaux, Alton Dillard, Darrell D. West, and Rodney Barnes of the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Denver pose for a photo with artist Jonny Pucci.
Johnny Barideaux, Alton Dillard, Darrell D. West, and Rodney Barnes of the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Denver pose for a photo with artist Jonny Pucci.

“He’s a great example for youth,” said West, who started the Denver chapter of the Major Taylor Cycling Club in 2011 to help children develop a habit riding bikes.  

“Most have bikes, but the chain came off or the tires are flat and they don’t know how to fix it,” he said. Volunteers from the organization started going into libraries to teach kids “A.B.C.” bike repairs, or how to air up tires, fix the brakes and repair the cranks and chain. “We spent money out of our pockets to teach them to repair the bikes on their own.” 

Since, the club has expanded to also host adult group rides.

Pucci finished the piece, which is located on the Cherry Creek Trail between Speer Boulevard and 15th Street (map), on Thursday afternoon.

It is the first of four murals that will be installed this summer on the Cherry Creek Trail, according to Mary Valdez, who runs the Denver Urban Arts Fund. With a budget of $100,000, the graffiti prevention program commissioned 26 murals to be installed across Denver this summer, she said. The new works will add to the city’s collection of more than 300 murals.

Drone video courtesy Cain Costin, Elevated Exposure Photography

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