When They Cycled In A Theatre
On the twenty-seventh of October 1927 at nine in the evening, the good folk of the village of Lloseta were able to witness a bizarre cycling race. It was bizarre in that it wasn't a race that actually went anywhere. This was because the race was indoors. The bikes didn't move as such.
Lloseta provides a case study of cultural innovation in Majorca. Stuck in the middle of the island, away from Palma and from the resorts, it is mainly known for its shoe industry and for cement - the Cemex plant is closing down. It also has a theatre, which in itself is nothing unusual, but has acquired a reputation for dynamic and different events. The "Nits Cubiques" of concerts allied to art and local cuisine are an example. The concerts tend not be any old concert, as bands which appear - all things being relative - are often big names.
The theatre was once a sort of gym. It had fallen into a state of abandonment before being acquired by the town hall and, backed by local initiative, turned into the flourishing theatre it has become. Prior to its sporting function, the theatre had been a cinema - Cine Novedades. Remarkably perhaps for a small place in the island's centre, Lloseta used to have two cinemas. The Novedades came along in the early 1930s. Some ten years before it was to open, there was another cinema, or strictly speaking a theatre-cinema. Smaller than the Novedades, this was the Sala Victoria, and with an echo of the sporting connection that the Novedades was to gain as a gym, it had been the Victoria to which the villagers had been invited in October 1927.
The programme for that event explained that the audience could see bike races just like at a velodrome. The big difference of course was that they didn't move. The races unveiled a grand development - the American Home Trainer, a static bike on rollers.
There is a badly faded, black and white image to publicise this event. Cyclists in cycling gear on these machines. To the right of the image, it seems, is one Alfonsina Strada. Alfonsina was Italian and, astonishingly enough for a rolling-out of an immobile bike on rollers in a small Majorcan municipality, Alfonsina was also European champion - on a moving bike. At that time, she was the only woman to have taken part in the 3,800 kilometre Giro d'Italia.
Other cycling stars taking part were Italian sprinter Carlos Mesori and another Italian, Arturo Ferrario, who had won two stages of the Giro in 1924. There were also local riders from Lloseta. As to who won these races, there is unfortunately no information, but Alfonsina had undoubtedly been the star attraction. By October 1927 she was already known in Majorca, having competed at the Llucmajor and Manacor velodromes. In April 1928, amidst great anticipation, she took part in two events at El Tirador, the old velodrome in Palma which is now becoming part of the city's urban forest.
The Home Trainer races weren't as daft as they might sound. Firstly, there were the attractions of genuine cycling names of the era. Secondly, Lloseta was something of a hotbed for cycling. In later years, the village was to provide Miquel Martorell, who competed for Spain at the 1960 Olympics and who won two Spanish championships. One can't be certain of the family connection, but a Jaime Martorell had been on the 1927 bill.
As important was the extent to which the popularisation of sport and culture (cinema, theatre) went hand in hand in the early decades of the last century. By 1922, which was when the Lloseta theatre-cinema opened, there were a number of cinemas in Majorca, and in the following year, there was to be the founding in Lloseta of the band of music, the football club and the cycling club. Of sport on the island, cycling was every bit as popular as football, and cycling was clearly associated with the world of culture. The origins of the Club Pollença, for example, were as Club Ciclista Pollencin.
The poster for the October 1927 event announced "Grand Cycling Races in the Theatre". As such, the link between cycling and culture couldn't have been any clearer.
Back to list