William "Torchy" Peden was arguably Canada’s best cyclist. Born in Victoria B.C. in 1906, as a youth "Torchy" got his nickname because of his flaming red hair. Torchy was a natural athlete and competed in hockey, baseball and was a nationally ranked swimmer. As a young man of 20 years Peden concentrated on bicycle road racing and was a member of Canada’s cycling team at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, Peden afterwards won several important races in Europe as an amateur. In particular he won bicycling championships for the one and five mile distances.
In 1929, at 23 years old he turned professional and joined the Six-Day racing circuit, becoming well known in both North America and Europe. Many a Canadian youth would race his bike down the street claiming to be "Torchy" Peden. Torchy became a household name in North America and one of the highest paid sports figures in the world. At a time when hockey and baseball sports celebrities would be making less than $10,000, Peden annual earnings exceeded $50,000.
In his first year as a pro he won 24 of the 48 races that he entered both on and off the track. A large man, at 6’ 3", 220 pounds, he was a crowd favorite during the heyday of six-days madness. He won 38 of 126 races in his 19-year pro career between 1929 and 1948, a record that stood until 1965. In the 106 years of six-day racing, William "Torchy" Peden is ranked 11th in the historical classification of all six-day racers.
Known in racing circles for his exceptional strength and power as a six-day racer William "Torchy" Peden still holds the record for the most 6-day victories in one year; 10 in 1932.
|The 10 Victories of William Peden in 1932|
|Milwaukee 1 (USA)||with Polly Parrot (USA)|
|New York 1 (USA)||with Reggie MacNamara (Aus)|
|Montreal 1 (Can)||with Jules Audy (Can)|
|Toronto (Can)||with Reggie Fielding (Can)|
|Atlantic City (USA)||with Franco Giorgetti (It)|
|Montreal 2 (Can)||with Reggie Fielding (Can)|
|Chicago (USA)||with Jules Audy (Can)|
|Minneapolis (USA)||with Jules Audy (Can)|
|Milwaukee 2 (USA)||with Gus Rys (USA)|
|New York 2 (USA)||with Fred Spencer (USA)|
Torchy was also know as the boss of the track during six-day races and would liven the crowd by taking a pretty girls scarf or a gents hat and ride around a few laps hamming it up before returning the clothing to it owner.
William Peden did a lot to further the career of other Canadian six-day racers. Over the years he partnered with three Canadian six-day racers that had that special magic to win races. He won four races with Henri Lepage (Can) 1931 Montreal 1, Montreal 2, 1933 St Louis and Minneapolis. He won six 6-day races with his brother Douglas Peden (Can) 1937 Buffalo 1, Toronto, 1938 San Francisco, Montreal, 1939 New York 1 and Chicago II. But the partner Torchy was best known for winning with was the diminutive racer from Montreal, Jules Audy. When Jules Audy was partnered with Torchy Peden they were always the team to beat. Audy was small in stature just over 5’ 4" and weighed only 120 pounds. He had excellent bike handling skills and was known to be fast and shifty during the jams trying to gain a lap on his opponents. Peden and Audy were one of the most successful six-day racing teams in the history of the event coming in 13th with 9 victories: 1931 Minneapolis, 1932 Montreal, Minneapolis and Chicago, 1934, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Toronto and Milwaukee. Their last victory was in Louisville in 1937.
During that time Peden was sponsored by the Canada Cycle & Motor Company Limited the maker of C.C.M Bicycles in Weston Ontario, with branches in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. In the 1930s Torchy developed a reputation as the "King of Six-day Bicycle Racing," (de Koning, zesdaagse koning).
In 1929, Peden set a world speed record on a bicycle of 81mph (130.3km/h) that stood for 12 years and in 1931 he set a motor paced world speed record for one mile.
In the latter part of his six-day career Torchy raced with younger brother by ten years Douglas Peden. In May 1939 the Peden Brother won the second to last six-day event at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Mecca for six-day bicycle racing. Together the Peden brothers won 5 races.
In his six-day career Peden won 4 races at Madison Square Garden. In 1939, 1940, 1941, Torchy won the World’s Six-Day Championship.
Torchy also coached two Canadian Olympic Teams: 1932 and 1936.
Torchy Peden retired in 1948 and died in Chicago, Illinois on January 25, 1980 at the age of 73 years. He is a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. In Canadian Cyclist Top 100 of the 20th Century, William ‘Torchy’ Peden is ranked third behind Steve Bauer and Allison Sydor.