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April 12, 1952

Sixteen five-man teams pedaled from New Haven to Poughkeepsie in the first Yale to Vassar bike relay marathon. Inspired by a Yale man’s boast that he could beat another Yalie in a bike race to Vassar, the event drew campus-wide attention, and a crew from LIFE magazine captured the excitement in over a dozen photographs in an April 28 article entitled “Beer and Bikes from Yale to Vassar—Men from Eli Guzzle and Pedal 77 Miles to See Girl Friends.”

In The Miscellany News “Pency Pyfels ’52” (probably contributing editors Penny Wells ’52 and Nancy Pyfer ’52) caught the excitement as the racers drew near: “The welcomers crowded Taylor Gate and the highway. When standing room gave out, eager girls hung out of the windows of Stack III, climbed on shoulders or scaled trees…Blue and white pennants floated from the windows. Two drum majorettes defied the winter weather in their brief but snappy costumes. Peg Monroe looked very official in her jail-striped jacket. ‘Purity’ and ‘Wisdom’ were on hand to uphold the college seal by confiscating empty beer cans. Several beauties, decked out with crepe paper, became daisies for a day. Dapper ‘Matthew Vassar’s Brew’ (aged since ’62) escorted ‘Miss Brew of ’52.’ And the music maker raised her bugle to herald the winners.”

Race rules required that a team member consume a quart of beer at the end of each leg before the next rider could depart, thus allowing a team’s faster imbibers to compensate for its slower pedalers. Although LIFE reported that one contestant, a dean’s list student, became lost before reaching the Yale Bowl, another injured his arm and hip when he lost control of his bike coming downhill and a third found his machine frozen in high gear shortly after the race began, accidents, injuries and calamities on the course were few. “With 90 dates waiting for them at the finish line,” the magazine observed, “most of the Yale men doggedly stuck to their wheels.” Of the colorfully named teams—“Maidenform Five,” “Quart Quintet,” “Lavender Hill Mob”—the “Under Sextet” team won when Steve Hutchcraft ’52 crossed the finish line at Taylor Gate.

The event, organized for 1952 by Margaret Monroe ’52, was an annual fixture through 1957.

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