12 August 1926: When the 80 riders, the cream of all anklers in Canada, go to the post in the 33rd annual Dunlop Trophy handicap race Saturday morning at 10:30 o'clock, the favourite to win the first prize will be none other than Lea Gault, star Ottawa rider, in spite of the fact that he is up against strong competition from outside cities. In a time trial over the Dunlop course on the Metcalfe Road, Gault was many seconds faster than the record for the Dunlop made last year by Lew Elder of Toronto. Gault has not been beaten in any race over one mile, either here or out of town, for more than a year. He has won everything from two to a hundred miles since the middle of last summer, and his friends predict that his winning streak will continue.
(Ottawa Citizen 08/12/1926)
When the Dunlop Trophy race, co-sponsored by the Dunlop Rubber Goods Co. of Canada and Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd., moved from Toronto to Ottawa in 1926, the favourite to win the event was a local boy by the name of William Leaburn Gault. Better known as Lea, the 21 year-old Gault did not disappoint his many freinds and fans when he emerged victorious that August in North America's oldest and most prestigious bicycle race. As was customary the winner not only had their name engraved on the venerable Dunlop trophy, but also received a complimentary cycle from Canada Cycle & Motor Co. Ltd.
George Braden, General Manager & Vice-President of CCM at the time, was extremely anxious to get the young Gault off the BSA he had been riding and onto the wooden-wheeled CCM Flyer for the upcoming Canadian Championships to be held in September of that year on the dirt track of the Exhibition Grounds in Toronto.
As fate (and Braden) would have it Gault received his Flyer just in time for the Canadian All-Round Championship, a gruelling one day event composed of races of a quarter, a half, one, two and five miles. The riders were given points according to their finish in each of the races and the overall winner was the cyclist who accumulated the largest total.
The day didn't start well for Gault.
"I went down on the night train, got something to eat and then rode out to the track and started riding. I got in a crash, broke my front wheel and nearly ruined myself," recalled Gault who had no spare parts with him and figured he was done for the day. It was then that Gault experienced what he calls "the camaraderie with many wonderful characters" that marked his days in racing.
"There was a big fellow there by the name of Norm Webster (a fellow racer on a CCM Flyer) and he came over and fixed my bike for me. He was a former Canadian champion and he was that kind of guy. He put me back in."
Looking to return the favour, Gault offered to serve as a pacer for Webster in the five mile event, a race that Gault hadn't planned to enter.
"We hung back and there were different crashes and we rode around them and then he told me to go up front. So I took him up to the front. He told me to go and I disappeared. I was so far ahead. I thought I was on the wrong lap," remembered Gault. "I won the race and there was nobody near me."
That victory gave Gault the championship and the following day the Toronto Star reported that "the Ottawa lad rode two brilliant races to win the half-mile and five mile titles from the best of the local brigade." (Toronto Star 09/03/1926)
Gault maintained his championship form and two years later was training for Canada's Olympic team when a spill ended his chances of earning a berth on the team.
"I was just going to be sensible and take it easy, you know. But it was such a nice day, I opened up. I hit a frost bump and my hand slipped off the handle bar. I went down and broke my collar bone. I was going to go to the Olympic trials. Thought I was all set."
The Dunlop Trophy race won by Gault in Ottawa would be the last ever staged in Canada as concern grew for the safety of the riders who were now forced to share the roads with the motor car.
"I tangled with a tough sergeant of the OPP for staging racing events on the public highways without consent," recalled Gault. "In a way his interference may have come at a good time, as I was becoming concerned about the safety of riders sprinting for the finish."
At the conclusion of his competitive career, Gault turned to coaching and guided George Turner to the All-Round championship and a spot on the British Empire and Olympic teams. He also sat on the executive of the Canadian Wheelman Association for whom he served on the Canadian Sports Advisory Council (Sports Federation of canada).
Since 1975 the Ottawa Bicycle Club has awarded the Lea Gault trophy to its "Rider of the Year."
Throughout the years Lea Gault kept the CCM Flyer he had received for winning the 1926 Dunlop trophy race and continued to ride it well into his seventies though he limited his riding to Sunday mornings on the Ottawa Parkway where he didn't have to stop.
"I still have the old racing bicycle without any brakes and just one speed. It doesn't do to go riding around the city with all the stop signs," laughed Gault who passed away in 1996 at the age of 92.
Lea Gault's CCM Flyer now resides with his son Robert, in Robert's home in rural Eastern Ontario, a few miles west of Ottawa. It is as it was when his dad dominated Canada's cycle racing scene in the mid-twenties. I thank Robert for the opportunity to see the bike and for providing me with the photos and much of the information included above.