Mlle Serpolette at Aix les Bains and Avignon

When Mademoiselle Serpolette and her tour manager Monsieur Ullmo arrived in Australian in April 1898, no time was wasted in spruiking Serpolette's racing pedigree to the hungry colonial media. The following extract is from an April 1898 column by the West Australian's cycling correspondent "Pedal":

With the assistance of M. Porta, who acted as interpreter, I was enabled yesterday to glean from the lady some of her performances on the wheel... Four years ago, when, but 16 years of age, Mademoiselle Serpolette made her debut on the racing path in an amateur race at Aix les Bains, and was successful in annexing the event. She repeated the performance at Avignon a week or two later, and her riding being of such a high order she was engaged to ride in London at the Olympian (sic) track.

While no mention of Serpolette has yet been found "four years ago" (1894), the French sporting magazine Le Veloce-Sport does mention our rider in the races that took place there on August 25, 1895:

Dames, 4,000 metres: 1er Mlle Marie Paul en 6 m. 43 s. 2/5, 2e Mlle Serpolette, 3e Mlle Dinard, 4e Mlle Clarisse Darcy.

Unfortunately there is no entry list, nor description of the women's racing, but Serpolette's second place - not "annexing the event" in the normal parlance - is likely the result referred to in the Australian interview for Serpolette's debut race. Indeed there was cycle racing at Avignon "a week or two later" (two weeks in fact), and on September 8, 1895 Serpolette was again among the results:

Dames, 2,000 metres: 1er Mlle Cannac, 2e Mlle Marie Paul, 3e Mlle Henri, 4e Mlle Serpolette. Temps : 4 m. 37 s.

Serpolette also rode in the "tandems mixte" (mixed tandem - usually man on the front, lady on the rear) event where she finished third, riding with M. Cannac - let's guess the brother of Mlle Cannac who was riding in the women's event. This participation would have been important for her future in cycling: mixed tandem races were a highlight of the professional racing at Olympia which began in December 1895 and no doubt the promoters were interested in young women who were, possibly in order, attractive, proficient on a bicycle, and brave enough to hang on to the back of a tandem racing at high speed on a velodrome.

We note that racing was back at Aix le Bains the following week (15 September), and finishing second in the mixed tandem race was the pair Reynier-Serpolo, possibly our Serpolette treated poorly by the reporter and/or type setters.

So again we find evidence of the Australian version of Serpolette's cycling pedigree being "slightly inflated" rather than "invented". instead of "annexing" her debut race at Aix les Bains she finished second, and her fourth place two weeks later at Avignon was not exactly "repeating the performance". However what is clear is that her riding was good enough to earn her a trip to London at the end of the year to compete in the nightly races at the indoor velodrome at Olympia.

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