Reg 'Sonny Boy' Fielding
One of the most talented and respected Canadian six-day racers of the 1930's was Reginald "Sonny Boy" Fielding, born in London, England on April 9th, 1909. Reggie moved to Toronto Ontario as a child, with his family.
During his career as a professional six-day racer Reggie participated in 62 six-day races that were held in every major city across North America.
On the All-Time Historical Six-Day Racer List (Jacq van Reijendam, Breda, NL. April 2005), Reggie Fielding is listed in 117th position out of 1434 racers. Throughout his career Fielding won 6 six-day events, came in second 4 times, third 7 times and fourth 4 times for a total of 60 points on the all-time list.
Fielding's victories included Toronto's first 6-day race in nineteen years in 1932 (there had been two 6-day races in 1912 & 1913 but for nearly 20 years the wooden saucer at the Mutual Street Arena was idle). In the 1932 Toronto 6-day race, Reggie won with William 'Torchy' Peden and later that year in October (again partnered with William 'Torchy' Peden) won in Montreal.
Reggie was a 'true north' Canadian six-day racer spending most of his professional career in Canada racing in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. He did travel to the USA to race but the majority of his professional career was racing six-days in Canada. Between 1929 and 1938 Fielding raced 16 times in Montreal, 10 starts in Toronto and twice in Vancouver. While Reggie was based in Toronto he loved the wooden saucer in Montreal. Albert Heaton, another Toronto racer has mentioned a unique aspect of the Montreal Forum track (Albert Heaton partnered with Reggie Fielding in the January 1937 Cleveland Six-day Bicycle Race). Heaton noted that after each 6-day event in Montreal the track was disassembled and placed in storage in the basement of the old Montreal Forum. During storage the main supports of the wooden frame would dry out which resulted in some warping of the boards. When the track was reassembled it was twisted and deformed sometimes. The six-day racers had to be careful to identify the bumps on the Montreal track. A common practice in track racing is ride the track in training before the start of the race noting the specific idiosyncrasies of the track.
Six-day racing has always been presented as international events, thus promoters sought to have Fielding partnered with Canadians. Over the years Reggie partnered with Henri Lepage of Montreal 6 times, 'Torchy' Peden of Victoria 4 times, Roy MacDonald of Ottawa 4 times, Freddy Zach originally from Switzerland but living in Verdun, Quebec 4 times, Lew Elder of Vancouver twice and Jules Audy of Montreal once.
Fielding was a colourful rider who displayed excellent bike handling skills. His pleasant personality was tempered with aggressive skilled riding especially in the sprints and the jams. For example, in the 1932 Toronto six-day race "Torchy" Peden and Reggie finished tied in laps ridden with Alfred 'Red Devil' Letourneur of France who was partnered with Henri Lepage from Montreal. However, Peden and Fielding had scored 216 sprint points more than Letourneur/Lepage with both teams having traveled 2,480miles (3968km) during the week.
One of Fielding's nicknames was 'smiley' and in most instances Reggie was pleasant and a real gentleman but when Reggie was pushed or treated unfairly he would stand his ground. A good example was the 1935 Oakland Six-Day Bicycle Race. Oakland across the bay from San Francisco had longed for the spectacle of a six-day bike race and the public was not to be denied. The first race ever held in Oakland was in 1935 at the Oakland Municipal Auditorium. During the race Fielding and Felix Lafenetre were involved in a mix-up that resembled a boxing match more than a cycle race. It all started when Fielding, who was teamed up with Jules Audy from Montreal, was being hooked and blocked by Felix Lafenetre of France. Fielding got so upset by this unsportsmanlike and dangerous riding that he followed Lafenetre back into the pits where the cabañas were located and a fist fight ensued.
Alan Ward a seasoned sports editor and reporter for the Oakland Tribune describes the altercation:
Fielding and Le Fenetre had been warned by the referee for rough sprint riding and then took the issue into their own hands, and started winging punches in front of the Frenchman's dugout when the latter dropped off for a rest and Fielding followed him.
Twice after they were separated, the rivals, glaring their dislike toward one another, broke loose from track attendants holding them back and renewed hostilities. Finally they were calmed sufficiently to resume the race, although additional outbreaks were anticipated at any moment.
Fielding's mouth was puffed from a left hook he was unable to duck, while the fellow in the opposite corner displayed a reddened area around his left eye.
Le Fenetre probably was responsible for the contributory flare-up. Leading the field in a sprint he deliberately rode high in an effort to keep Fielding behind him.
For the flagrant violation of association rules each combatant was fined $25 to be deducted from whatever purse may be accrued at the end of the six days.
(Alan Ward, Oakland Tribune June 10, 1935)
Reggie Fielding and Jules Audy went on to win the first ever six-day race in Oakland. Lafenetre and his partner Fred Wagner came in sixth.
Reggie was also a skilled rider in the three man six-day races, winning the Toronto Six-Day Race triple in the autumn of 1934 with partners Freddy Ottevaire (Usa) and Jimmy Walthour (Usa). Also, in December 1934 at the Minneapolis Six-Day Race, Fielding was again victorious partnering with Heinz Vopel (Ger) and the veteran Piet Van Kempen (Hol).
The six-day grind was a hard life. In 1934 Fielding raced 10 times and the next year 1935 he raced 12 times. In 1938, after ten years as a professional six-day racer and sixty professional six-day races, Fielding retired. He was 29 years old. The story goes that after he retired from professional bike racing Reggie stayed on in the sport advising and coaching younger riders. He could be seen on weekends at the Canadian National Exhibition track in Toronto guiding young riders in the skills of a bicycle racer.
References: The small image was acquired from the CyclingArchives website.