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Idols of the Past

Old 12-30-15, 07:37 PM
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Idols of the Past

All of us who have taken up bicycle racing have a person who inspired them to put in the not very long miles and moderately hard work to become as desultory, shirking and marginal as possible in our somewhat beloved Sport.

My inspiration was Claudio Pancetta: “Il Piccolo Scoiattolo” as he was known to several members of the cycling press who drank a bit too much.
An inept bike handler whose turgid time trialing was only eclipsed by his dismal climbing, complete inability to sprint and frequent natural breaks.

Selection for the 1968 Moltini team lead by Eddie Merckx was based entirely on his ability to tell >500 “Knock-Knock” jokes in four different languages. This gave the peloton something to do while the Cannibal was off winning every stage solo.

Il Piccolo Scoiattolo’s only professional career win came at the semi-classic Tour du Merde where the peloton was waiting for the punch line to “ Bobet, Coppi and a Duck walk into a Bar in Roubaix” joke while the finish line passed unnoticed for a Pancetta victory.

His legacy: Lighten Up, it’s Not That Serious.

-Bandera

Last edited by Bandera; 12-30-15 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 12-31-15, 01:23 AM
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Argg. Came late to this table. I was already lost to motorcycles when "On Any Sunday" sealed the deal in 71. The years on the bicycle were just practice till the grip actually turned. Ended up racing with some of those guys in the movie. BMX...we were our own heroes.

Then the fat, old, twice retired moto guy rediscovered pedalling. And some guy had someone ghost write a semi fictional account of how he won some race in France. So he cheered a lying DB. And an a guy who's dog died. And discovered some talent for the sport. So it goes.

But the jaded racer who beat his brains in against drug fueled ex pros still can watch Iban Mayo sail up Alpe de Huez, hair flying, jersey unzipped, cheered on by a sea of orange. Vino's attacks, taken to heart. And the purity of Basso's pedal stroke.

Floyd's ride that day. Old school.

I grew to appreciate the ugliness and utter lack of talent of Simon Gerrans, when it occurred to me that we had a lot in common. Chewing off people's toes till they can't walk is never pretty. But you chewed off a guys toes to win.

And Greg Lemond sitting in a chair in the middle of some street at some stupid Fondo happily signing autographs and really talking to folks for hours until there was no one left, then coming over to ask about the wheels someone had on their bike.

And he still goes downhill like a rocket.

Robert Millar had a great piece in CN recently where he picked his "fantasy" Tour team. I knew of all but a couple of the guys he picked; and found it a shame that the guys I didn't know they couldn't dig up pictures for. Like Millar's piece, I always appreciated Sam Abt's writing. It wasn't always about the big names.
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Old 12-31-15, 04:22 AM
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Loved Millar. He was a great when British (and more especially Scottish) cycling had none. I could still grieve over the Spaniards conspiring to rob him of the Vuelta. And LeMond has a lot to thank him for, it was Millar who agreed to use his team to tow LeMond back on when Hinault was betraying him in '86.

Still on the British theme, Barry Hoban. Nobody remembers him, but he won 8 stages in the TdF in the Merckx era at a time when English successes in stage races were as rare as rocking-horse $hit.

But the one who got to me most of all was Kelly. Hard as nails. Up there with the absolute best as a Classics rider, multiple green jerseys, Paris-Nice seven years in a row, he'd have won a Tour to add to his Vuelta but he couldn't deal with the highest mountains. He could climb, but seemed unable to handle the altitude - and nobody was spending the winters at altitude or sleeping in tents back then. His descent to catch Argentin and win his final Milan-San Remo in 1992 when he was, frankly, past it has to be one of the great moments in my race-watching career.

I'd have liked to see Coppi. They say there was a period of almost a decade before and after WW2 when Coppi, once he'd ridden off the front, was never caught, and that you didn't need a stopwatch to measure his margins of victory because the Town Hall clock would do. Before my time, sadly.

EDIT. [MENTION=335281]Bandera[/MENTION], speaking of the Merckx Molteni team, there's an anecdote in the Fotheringham biography of Merckx that you might like. One of the domestiques was saying how hard it was working for Eddy, because he insisted that they were always at the the head of the race. But, he adds, they didn't mind too much because Merckx was so strong he usually ended up doing most of the work himself!

Last edited by chasm54; 12-31-15 at 04:28 AM.
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Old 12-31-15, 11:52 AM
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I know of Hoban. Still winning smaller pro events into his 40's. Old sprinters never die, they just look for flatter and shorter races
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Old 12-31-15, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex
Old sprinters never die, they just look for flatter and shorter races



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Old 01-01-16, 04:41 PM
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I was fortunate to find the sport at the beginning of its modern heyday, 1981. The guys and gals I looked up to were the ones I raced against (except the women). John Howard. John Allis. Tom Prehn. Jeff Rutter. Wayne Stetina. Steve Pyle. Tony Chastain (he's in my BF avatar picture). Mark McCormack, Frank Jennings, and Paul Curley (all teammates, the latter otherwise known as The Champ in my race reports). Pat Gellaneau. Jeff Pierce. And later, at the end, the 7-Eleven gang.

On the women's side, Connie Carpenter, Rebecca Twigg, Jeanne Golay, Inga Thompson, Jeannie Longo (although she ended up being a doper).
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Old 01-01-16, 05:12 PM
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One of the first issues of Buy-cycling that I bought had a story on Merckx's Hour Record in Mexico City from 1972. I'll never forget part of the description of his bike where they noted that his team had cut his front hub in half and made it narrower to reduce drag.

I read what I could find, though our main source of info at the time was Cycle News which evolved through various incarnations into today's VeloNews. Heroes? George Mount, Dale Stetina, and Robert Millar were my early domestic and international heroes. Relatively early I learned through reading, second and third-hand stories, and personal experience that these guys and gals were athletically gifted and personally normal humans -- meaning they were humble, egotistical, personable, and aloof to name just a few of their character types.

Interestingly, I was never a big Lance fan as he clearly had a bigger ego than most professional bicycle racers. I met Greg Lemond briefly when he was a Junior and had a group dinner with him in 1986. He struck me a being nice but strange. He still seems that way.

The thing that keeps me from latching on to the bandwagons of professional athletes too much has been racing in SoCal with a number of "retired" former pros, Olympians, and national champions. Basically, while they are exceptional athletes, they don't walk on liquids without sinking. Yes, I cheer for Americans during the Olympics and World Championships and I watch every stage of the Grand Tours while cheering for my favorite, but I haven't been able to bring myself to being in a fan club (figuratively) since following Greg Lemond in the early to mid 1980s.

Regardless, if you haven't watched the movies, A Sunday in Hell: Paris-Roubaix or Stars and Watercarriers, you really need to find them and watch them.
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Old 01-01-16, 08:42 PM
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I did not have any cycling heroes. I cycled and ran in the 70s and spent a lot of time in the gym. I had a buddy in San Diego and in the late 70s and early 80s, he and I would cycle, workout in the gym and go for a run on the beach where we would look at SoCal women and think how fortunate we are to live there.

When I started serious racing in 2007, Lance was done and I started watching UCI pro cycling. It was okay but no UCI pro per se captured my imagination. My racing club had a pro women's team and an elite 1/2 team that had the remnants of a UCI pro team that are club's title sponsor backed. The racers from the pro teams were interesting.

I got into track racing and all the racers I hung out with were national and or world champions and or record holders. It was fun to learn from and train with those guys.

It comes down to I am more of a participant in sport than a watcher of sport which is why I value opinion and help from those who are current in the sport that can directly benefit my athletic endeavors.
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Old 01-01-16, 08:44 PM
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BTW, when I first read the title of the thread I thought it said idiots of the past.
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Old 01-02-16, 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Cleave

Regardless, if you haven't watched the movies, A Sunday in Hell: Paris-Roubaix or Stars and Watercarriers, you really need to find them and watch them.
Must be more than 30 years since I watched them. Still vividly remember "A Sunday in Hell" I'll have to find it again to see how it has stood up.

EDIT. They're both on YouTube. That's this evening's viewing sorted out, then.

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Old 01-02-16, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
BTW, when I first read the title of the thread I thought it said idiots of the past.
Same, same.....
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Old 01-02-16, 03:16 PM
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Thanks @Cleave, for reminding me of A Sunday in Hell. Watched it this evening.

I was amazed at how much I remembered after all these years. Thoroughly enjoyed it. What a period piece it is now. In the first place it evokes the atmosphere of the 1970s superbly, the much less sophisticated facilities for the riders, the working-class roots of the sport in Europe, all that. But the whole way the film was made, the slow pace at which the story of the day is allowed to develop, the deliberately understated narration, the utter absence of hype, all a marked contrast to how such a documentary would be made today. Loved it. And Merckx, de Vlaeminck, Moser and Maertens in the same race. Fantastic.
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Old 01-02-16, 03:24 PM
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I liked the way Sean Yates rode. But the guys I really respected were some of the older local riders I used to train and ride with growing up in New Orleans. I just respected the heck out of how they managed to balance work, family, and racing.
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Old 01-02-16, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by shovelhd
I was fortunate to find the sport at the beginning of its modern heyday, 1981. The guys and gals I looked up to were the ones I raced against (except the women). John Howard. John Allis. Tom Prehn. Jeff Rutter. Wayne Stetina. Steve Pyle. Tony Chastain (he's in my BF avatar picture). Mark McCormack, Frank Jennings, and Paul Curley (all teammates, the latter otherwise known as The Champ in my race reports). Pat Gellaneau. Jeff Pierce. And later, at the end, the 7-Eleven gang.
Small world...I race against Prehn in CX occasionally, and have ridden with him on the track. This one time on the track he was trying to tell me how to ride; my response was "who the hell is this guy?," and then somebody told me! lol. Also I've been on group rides with Wayne Stetina...he's (still) a remarkably strong rider. Dale Stetina is also still a talent, despite his accident; he's one of the nicest guys I know and I'll never tire of the 7-Eleven stories. Anyway these three are all still avid cyclists and Prehn and Dale are pretty commonly out and about in the Boulder area.

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Old 01-03-16, 05:17 PM
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Wayne isn't that strong. [MENTION=95878]Racer Ex[/MENTION] almost beat him in a hilly road race wearing penny loafers.

Been in some races with Wayne. I always liked Dale better. Glad to hear he's recovering from his accident. John Howard is still very strong even though you wouldn't guess his talent by looking at him today.

I remember Steve Pyle from the mid-1970s when he was a Junior on the Austro Daimler team out of Connecticut. Andy Weaver was also on that team. I knew Patrick Gellineau from when I started racing in the NYC area during the 1970s.
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Old 01-03-16, 05:51 PM
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John Allis. The grandfather of New England racing. We all learned from him, whether we knew him or not. The "Allis Way" of bike handling, riding in tight quarters, hand grips, position was passed down to everyone racing. Made for very good and safe racing. Everyone played by the same rules. Got someone beside you riding your speed. Both riders would adjust their position slightly so handbars were even. Then a small, or even big bump wasn't an issue.

Dale Stetina rode one of our club races. For him, it was good publicity. Didn't sprint, but talked graciously to everyone.

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