Like many bike-racing obsessed teenagers, the walls of my room were adorned with colorful images of great riders and epic races. Legends from across the Atlantic, grand tour winners and spring-classics hard men, cols and cobbles, thundering field sprints ...all of it very mysterious and entrancing to this fledgling early-teen cyclist. Of course I was also in awe of the US stars--the George Mounts and the John Howards--but it didn't take me long to figure out the cycling world's pecking order. I knew the very best racers weren't in Berkeley or Boulder.
No, for Dave Stoller and me, it was the Italians, French, Belgians, and Dutch that we were obsessed with.
But Cinzano never came to Stockton so the closest I could get to the Euro stars were the 24"-x-36" glossy pictures on my walls. How many hours did I stare at those posters, wondering to myself in the dead of winter, "If I stay on the rollers another 30 minutes, can I be a winner too?" "Maybe just one more set of squats and my quads would look like that" They weren't life-size on my wall, but of course they were larger than life in my mind. Other kids had posters of Reggie Jackson, Van Halen, and Farrah Fawcett ...I had Eddy Merckx, Bernard Thevenet, and Roger DeVlaemink.
You johnny-come-lately fans of bike racing have no idea what it was like 30 years ago. No cyclingnews.com, no OLN/Versus, no streaming internet video, NO BLOGS. Maybe you would get TdF top-3 buried in the back of a big paper like the SF Chronicle or the LA Times, but then only if it was a slow day for Major League Baseball. Mostly you just waited for your mid-August issue of VeloNews for tour coverage. A couple pages in black-and-white. I'm telling you this so you might better understand why those large colorful posters of bike racing held such power over me...
...which might also explain why I still have many of them now, 30 years later, on the walls in my bike room, where I can stare at them doing squats or riding the rollers.
So today when I was out futzing around with my bikes I had the idea to see if any blog readers could possibly identify some of the riders in the posters. Kind of a history test. Obviously any cyclist could recognize the big stars. In fact, if you are a cyclist reading this blog and can't recognize Eddy Merckx in his prime, then go away and never come back!! ...Just kiddin'
But since most people could identify the big names, instead I'll show you some wall hangings with lower-level riders, or riders before they were stars. A few of these should be easy; others I'd be amazed if anybody knows. If you want to play, send me your answers or put them in a comment. If you know someone who's been around for awhile, point them here and see if they can get some right. Maybe I'll even give a prize to the best history student! So let's begin, and you can click on the pictures to get a larger size image.
#1 - In case you cannot tell, this is a Euro field sprint. I have no idea what race it is. One rider jumps right out at me, but I can't pull any other names out of the gray matter. Can you?
And speaking of gray matter, don't you just cringe at the notion of 40 mph field sprints like that with no helmets?!?
#2 - I think this is an easy one, at least the front rider, but perhaps not. You tell me. Bonus points for naming both riders. This was one of two large posters listing the NCNCA calendar for 1981.
#3 - This is the other one from that calendar pair.
#4 - Believe it or not, there was a 7-day stage race held in the hills between Santa Cruz and San Jose, California. It was a pretty big deal regionally. This race-ad poster shows one of the favored riders. He had a very colorful history. Who is it? Bonus points if you can describe a really bizarre incident that occurred in the race involving this rider.
#5 - A really old ad for the track national championships. I'd be shocked if anyone can name any of these riders. I'd have to do some research to confirm your answers anyway. Note that our governing body back then was the ABLA (Amateur Bicycling League of America) and it became the USCF a year or two later!
#6 - Not really a poster, just a full-page magazine picture that I ripped out and stapled to my wall (and kept for 30+ years). This guy was one of my many idols when I was a wee junior, and to this day I can remember a few of the tidbits of expert advice he gave me in very casual passing.
#7 - Another race ad, albeit for a local crit in NorCal. I know at least 4 and maybe 6 riders in this picture. Very few people on earth would be able name them, although there's a slim possibility one is lurking on this blog. He is in the picture. One of the riders should be known to everyone.
#8 - And finally, another race ad, but this one for two events in Santa Barbara. The artsy effect of the picture makes it even more difficult to identify them. A hint: everyone in this picture was a NorCal rider, and all were very good. One still goes to the track (Hellyer) occasionally.
A bit about these races: they were promoted by Doug Knox in conjunction with a week-long series of big-time races in SoCal. Many of the best riders in the US came. The first weekend were two crits in LA, one in Westwood and the other downtown. Tuesday was a night-time crit in SLO where Eric Heiden showed up (and was mobbed by Cal Poly coeds). Thursday was the Santa Ynez RR, Friday was the Solvang crit, Saturday was a circuit race up and down State St. SB, and Sunday was the crit around Santa Barbara High School. It wasn't exactly the Amgen Tour of California, or even SuperWeek, but it was big-time and it was here. So anyway, blow me away and name any of the riders in the poster.