Monday, September 22, 2008

Name Those Riders (History)

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, 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.


Anonymous said...

Dutch, Italians, French, Belgies...What about the Brits?What about them you may ask? For what it's worth, and I know it's not much, that's Paul Sherwin in the center of your Euro Sprint shot when he rode for La there wasn't a Yank within 3000 miles of where that shot was taken.

TnA said...

Let's see...Sean Kelly in #1, obviously LeMond in #2 in the lead...and in #7 sitting 4th wheel.

After that, I'm lost.

Anonymous said...

Those were the days when bi-focals were considered a fashion statement. Maybe it was just a 'Dutch' thing. Jan Raas, behind right of Paul. Ahh, the good 'ol days.

Marco Fanelli said...

Awesome! I didn't realize that was Paul Sherwen, but indeed it is! The one that jumped out at me was in the Worlds jersey, but I was thinking it was Gerrie Kneteman (R.I.P.) but Anonymous is absolutely correct... it's Jan Raas. Same team, same glasses... just one year later. And you're probably correct, no Yanks around, unless it was J-Boyer in the back of the pack.

Yep TnA... correct on LeMonster. But I don't think Sean Kelly is in that field sprint. Looks like him over on the right in the green Puch jersey, but he wasn't on that team (I googled it).

TnA said...

Doh! I think I confused Sherwin with Kelly...

But, what would I know...I didn't start getting "into" cycling until the mid-80s...

Anonymous said...

How do you confuse Kelly & Sherwin?? Only one could really sprint and only one could/can speak in complete sentences. Neither could do both.

TnA said...

Sad thing is...I can't do either...

Marco Fanelli said...

Well, I just got email from somebody who nailed every single one, along with the bonus question. He even got a few names I didn't remember from the Berkeley poster, but perhaps that's because he won that race in the P/1/2 about, oh, 25-30 years ago (do I remember that right Mikey??)

But I won't post the answers just yet. Surely some current NorCal'ers can get #4 and #6. These guys are legends in the development of US cycling. And someone from SB should see a familiar rider in #7.

TnA said...

Is that Rory back there in #7 over the left shoulder of the lead rider?

Marco Fanelli said...

> Is that Rory back there in #7
> over the left shoulder of
> the lead rider?

Yes, that's the consensus. I suppose we could ask him...

clyda said...

Great post! Don't forget the weekly Tour coverage with John Tesch and his music. In 89 I was at my first newspaper job and I was able to read the two paragraphs of wrap up and the daily results and overall standings that moved on the wires. My paper never ran it of course. At least until the last day when I finally convinced the sports editor that Lemond's win was worth at least a mention on an inside page.

1. is that joop third from the left behind sean kelly? just taking a wild guess.

What, no Stetinas?

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks Carl. That could well be Zoetemelk, the team is correct. But that's Paul Sherwen in front of him, not Kelly.

Re the Stetinas, I've got loads of stuff out in the garage, including an old B&W photo I took of Dale winning the US RR natz on the Milwaukee lake-front course.

I had a quick chat with Wayne before the start of Elite natz last month, and one of the things we laughed about was Antonio Comforti as it (he) relates to my nom de plume on this blog. That won't mean anything to anybody not racing in the US in the late 1970s.

clyda said...


Looks like the internet's the world's biggest echo chamber. Care to answer your trivia question here since nobody took you up on it five years ago?

Marco Fanelli said...

Good one Carl!! That was about Tony Comfort, aka Antonio Comforti, who claimed he was the basis for the movie Breaking Away. He was a really good junior bike racer who rode for the "Monte of Italy" team (see: I asked the question, "besides Tony Comfort, name three juniors who went on to become well-known in the cycling world." Apparently nobody answered, so I'll tell you now. His teammates included Alexi Grewal (84 Oly RR gold medal), Ron Kiefel (7-Eleven, Motorola), and Steve Wood (US National RR champ & early VeloNews journalist).

Lots of US cycling history in the last 24 hours!

WarrenG said...

#6 is "Harv".

Marco Fanelli said...

Heya Warren! Of course you are correct. A couple other Sacto folks got that one (via email). One pointed out that he built that frame that he's riding in the picture! I had forgotten about the gang of Sacto frame builders (Tom Bartlett, Steve Uhler, Nitz,...?)

Ahhh... the good ol' pre-carbon-fiber days!

Anonymous said...

#3 Steve Hegg
#7 2nd wheel David Mayer-Oakes (?), then Danny Nall (?), then LeMond.

Euro sprint winner looks like Bert Oosterbosch

great post!!

Marco Fanelli said...

Anonymo- I'll take your word for it on the Euro sprinter, but #3 is actually a woman. There is a bit of resemblance to the Golden Boy though! Also, #7 was a local NorCal hack not David Mayer-Oaks. You might be right about Nall, I don't know.

TnA said...

Hmmm...with the hint on #3, I'll take a stab in the dark...Rebecca Twigg??

toml said...

if it's not D Mayer-oakes, then Dave Barry, maybe?

The euro sprint guy might be Henk Lubberdink. He had a sprint, frameset looks too small for Bert (RIP)

Marco Fanelli said...

OK, turn in your tests...

#1 Jan Raas, Paul Sherwen, and ???
#2 Greg LeMond & Kieth Vierra at Nevada City
#3 Heidi Hopkins at Pacific Grove
#4 Sir Lawrence Malone (I can't believe none of the CX'ers out there got this one.
#5 Carl Leusenkamp (?) and ???
#6 Leonard (Harvey) Nitz, legend
#7 Tim Lewis (1st), Rod Hugi (2nd), Greg LeMond (4th), Rory O'Reilly, Tim Imai, and ???
#8 L-to-R: Kieth Vierra, Hal Tozer, ?(Jim Bell), Bob Muzzy

Top guessers: Tim Imai, Michael Williams, Casey Kerrigan

WarrenG said...

Re: #5

* Final for 1st and 2nd: Steve Woznick, NJ, beat Roger Young, MI, 2,0
* Final for 3rd and 4th: Jerry Ash, CA, beat Leigh Barczewski, WI, 2,0

I think that's Woznick in the CRC of A jersey since both he and that club are from NJ. I think the guy on the right is Jerry Ash. Turin (3rd rider) was a midwest club and Roger Young was from there, although I remember him riding only for Scwhinn-Wolverine, with his sister Sheila.

Marco Fanelli said...

You may be correct Warren, I'll defer to you for all things Track. I keep thinking that one of these days I'll go through all my old VeloNews, Competitive Cycling, and Winning issues out in the garage. It'll probably take an entire weekend because I'll stop to re-read them all. But when/if I do, I'll probably find lots of old pictures of these guys.

WarrenG said...

It takes longer than a weekend. :-)

...and I still have WINNING #1 with Fast Eddy on the cover.

Tom Simonson said...

In #7 I think the late Eric Allen is last rider (Talbots) upper left. In #8 it is not Jim Bell but Calvin Trampleasure. FYI the 5th rider in the break was Roy Collins.

Marco Fanelli said...

Thank you Tom. Wow, remembering Eric Allen! Despite his being just a few years older, he was a God to me when I was just starting. It was a very sad day when he died (hit by a car, right?) I downloaded a few old NCNCA newsletters that Casey has archived, and one of them has a picture of Eric Allen. I may post it here unless anyone objects (out of respect or copyright issues...)

OK, so it's Trampleasure! He just had a 50th bday party I hear, celebrated with a bunch of old-time bike riders. Where does the nicky "Haystack" come from for him? Some memorable crash?

So Tom, by any chance, is that you in 3rd position in the Berkeley picture??

Anonymous said...

Normally I'd defer to Tom Simonson's opinion on these sorts of matters but I think #8 is actually Vierra, Tozer, Roy Collins, & myself.

The nickname morphed from calvin to calhoun to haystack calhoun to haystack. My personal preference was the Italian version, Calvino.


Anonymous said...

Hello, all.
Yeah, I remember the '78 Contienda, yikes. Particularly the huge bloody crash on stage 2, Empire Grade (heard it happen, more than saw it). Fortunately I managed to be just off the front, when this CalTrans dump truck came swinging up a tight climbing turn, hugging the center line too closely. Many went down, with the CHP shutting the 4 lapper down after 2 laps. I don't know if this was the bizarre event re: Laurence Malone of which you allude; I don't know where Laurence was for that (I'm guessing he was in the lead group that was flagged down by the CHP?). Anyway; best regards to all. Eric Allen: I bought a Masi frameset from him; classiest young guy, just like Greg LeMond in those days. Caught between a semi-trailer rig is what I had understood; very grievous, sad affair.
OK...Daniel Green here, Santa Cruz Rag-tag Pirates (as Geo Mount labeled us at the '78 Red Zinger), signing off. Still riding some; the racing ended over 30 years ago tho', with no plans to return, ever. You may reach me @, if you're at all so inclined.

Cheers, =dg=

Rick Adams said...

#5 The leader is Carl Leusenkamp( my coach at the time) I am pretty sure that the guy in second last name was Bell. The picture is from the 1973 Nationals and I have it on my office wall.

Rick Adams