Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Major Taylor - What's Your Wild Rabbit?

At the end of the 19th Century, bicycle racing was arguably the most popular sport in America, and without a doubt, the greatest athlete of the day was Marshall "Major" Taylor - a man who battled against the odds to become a multi-record holder and World Champion. Most recently, Major Taylor has become the subject of a really cool advertisement for Hennessy, the latest installment in what has become known as their "Wild Rabbit" campaign series featuring the slogan "Never Stop. Never Settle."

At the start of the 20th century, he may have been the most famous athlete in the world.
Earlier installments in the ad campaign have featured race car driver Malcolm Campbell, who broke numerous land speed records in the 1920s and '30s, boxer Manny Pacquaio, and the Piccard's - father Auguste (first person to reach the stratosphere) and son Jacques (first to reach the deepest depths of the ocean).

The latest spot, which seems almost more like a mini movie than a commercial, features Major Taylor who had attained such a level of prowess that one could argue that his toughest competition was himself.

The ad opens with a race in a packed velodrome where we see Taylor destroying the competition. The pace is exciting, and the filming puts us right into the mix.

Then, as Taylor makes it to the front of the pack, he finds himself alone . . .

The velodrome and the cheering crowds fade away. . .

Then the scene alters and he's transported into an increasingly dark and ominous dream sequence.

By the end of the spot, Taylor is brought back into reality, but I won't reveal the cool twist - you'll just have to watch it for yourself.

There are three versions of the commercial - at 30 sec., 60 sec., and 90 sec. I have the full 90-sec version linked below. In addition, there is an interesting little "making of" (Making Major) video that might be worth watching.

It's a beautifully shot and executed piece of commercial cinema - Enjoy!


  1. I love it!

    Major Taylor may well have been the most dominant athlete in his sport, ever. Somehow I think even Eddy Mercx, Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil never attained Taylor's level of dominance.

  2. I remember reading reports of six day indoor track races where the riders had to breathe clouds of smoke deep into their lungs. Sadly it seemed to be all they could do through the winter to earn a crust...

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  4. Dreary muzak but good camerawork. Taylor was a superb athlete and a decent man, treated as badly as can be imagined by a number of his rivals. And now, decades after his death (as a pauper), he's used to sell hard liquor for a "luxury" conglomerate (headed by some fellow who's among the ten richest people in the world). Would Taylor have been happy about this? Will drinking this booze inspire excellence?

    1. Major Taylor was "a teetotaler who deplored the use of tobacco and would not race on the Sabbath."

      Using his image to sell booze is a disgrace.

  5. >"Then, as Taylor makes it to the front of the pack, he finds himself alone . . ."

    Yes, because he just aggressively swept down the track to wipe out the front wheel of an opponent who was holding their line on a straightaway. Clever to time it with the start of the bell lap, too; it's difficult for a disrupted bunch sprint to reorganize and chase when there's only 15 seconds left in the race.
    Of course, that maneuver would probably have been met with disqualification, and possibly even a lengthy suspension from racing.

    A bizarre depiction, if well-shot.

    1. Well, even the bits that are meant to look realistic are mostly fictional. (One obvious anachronism: The real Major Taylor retired from competitive cycling in 1910, well before radio broadcasting started.) The real Major Taylor was on the receiving end of fouls, some very nasty: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Taylor#Racism_in_cycling

    2. First off - it's a fictionalized scene, and it's edited to intensify the action. I've watched that over and over - even trying to slow it down. I just don't see the foul you're seeing. Are you suggesting they depicted Major Taylor clipping another rider's wheel? Ummm . . . I really don't think so. Did they inadvertently depict a foul - considering the way it's edited, you can't say for certain one way or another. Ultimately - it's just a cool (and fictionalized!) vision.

    3. >"Are you suggesting they depicted Major Taylor clipping another rider's wheel?"

      The clip is very clear and unambiguous. At the 15-second mark, there are several frames which depict Taylor's white rear tire slamming the guy's black front tire from the side, followed by a pretty clean view of the crash from the front.

      The five seconds prior to crash also depict circumstances which make it very clear that it's Taylor's fault.
      At the 10-second mark, the leader is moving down the track to the red line, where he stays.
      To go around him, Taylor is moving up to the Stayer's line at about the 11-second mark.
      At 13 seconds, we get a shot which clearly show the former race leader still holding steady at roughly the red line.
      At 14 seconds, we see Taylor moving down the track. At this moment, he *does* look to his left to check where the person he just passed is. But for some reason, rather than hold his own line because he hasn't cleared the guy's wheel, he keeps moving down the track.
      At 15 seconds, we see a shot of Taylor's rear wheel overlapping the front wheel of the just-passed rider. Then the video switches to a view from the front, showing that the other guy is *still* alongside the red line at the time of the crash, and that Taylor is now in the sprinter's lane, below the guy's former line.

      Sure, it's fictionalized, but that doesn't mean it doesn't look ridiculous. It's like depicting a runningback get a touchdown by ripping a safety's helmet off by the facemask and throwing it at a chasing linebacker.

    4. You are spending way too much time with this.

  6. >"You are spending way too much time with this."

    I haven't spent very much time with it at all. I'm not doing any clever investigative work, just laying out point-by-point what happens in the video, in response to your comment that you couldn't see what I was talking about.