While combing through the Guinness record books yesterday we noticed the following entry:
Trick cycling was introduced by Ancillotti (Italy) in 1868 and, in 1904, at the Barnum Bailey Circus, one of the Ancillotti Troupe did a world first, riding down a ramp which looped the loop. At the head of the loop was a 3.3 m (10 ft) gap across which the rider leapt while upside down on his bicycle.
Yeah, you read that right. An UPSIDE DOWN LOOP JUMP in 1904. This single act of awesomeness just made all "stunts" and slopestyle comps null and void.
Here's what we were able to dig up using the Google machine...
via www.CircusHistory.org - By 1905 Barnum & Bailey really sensed the value at the box office of the jumping bicycles and automobiles. Mr. Ugo Ancillotti added a brother and another ramp to his act for his second tour with the "Greatest Show on Earth". The 1905 Realm described Ancillotti's act as follows. "The construction of the apparatus consists of two inclines, or chutes, set wide apart, each at an angle of forty-five degrees. The continuity of one of these inclines is interrupted at about the middle of its length with a hiatus or opening, and at about the same place in the other incline is a break made by the loop the gap, which is the loop the loop with a section removed, leaving an open space. Near the extremities or breaks, over which the cyclists must leap before their feat is finished. Two iron-nerved artists - Les Freres Ancilliotti - start from the apices of these double inclines on staunch, specially constructed bicycles, and at a signal push their wheels from the 'rest' to a point where the decent begins and go coasting down the dangerous narrow way at lightning speed. One reaching the first gulf in the incline, takes a sudden turn upward and forward, seeming to soar away in space to a giddy height, clearing the forty-five-foot gulf and landing gracefully, but with a thundering thud, on the second section of the structure. From here without an instant's delay, acquiring additional speed, he continues on when he is again seen to shoot far up in the air, clearing another casm thirty feet wide, when suddenly striking the opposite side, or third section of the incline, he wheels down the hippodrome track.
The other rider, starting even with the first one, races down the incline, with even a more frightening momentum until reaching the loop with the gap, when, quick as light, and half circling the loop, flies across the deadly open space, while wheel and rider are upside down. By centrifugal force alone, the wheel and rider are propelled across the open gap in an inverted position, and striking the opposite of the open loop with a resounding thwack the finish of the broken circle is successfully accomplished amid silent wonder on the part of the spectators.
At the precise moment one brother is leaping the gap, in space in an inverted position, his body underneath the wheel, his head pointed to the ground, the other brother also in midair, is in the act of passing him while flying across the forty-five foot abyss. Both brothers are seen in this curious situation with not more than a few feet of space separating them. Both riders are seen in the air for a brief second of time, going the same direction, when, as a matter of fact, the exploit causes them to strike the earth at the end of the chutes and take opposite paths."
The act worked successfully during the New York 1905 Garden date, but a note in the route book of that season states that Ferdinand Ancillotti had a bad fall during the "loop the gap" act at the night show and sustained serious injuries at the opening under canvas in Brooklyn on April 24, 1905. This may well have been the final presentation of the act, as it is not listed in a program used by the show during early June dates in Ohio. Volo and his bicycle jump are listed, so he must have been placed back in the show with his 1904 routine.
So... who wants to try it?