The Dino Ride

The Dino Ride

In the 1970s, a point when American cycling was unforgivably provincial, a group of mostly Northern California-based riders began making trips to Europe to race. You know some of those names: Mike Neel, George Mount, Jonathan Boyer, and of course, Greg LeMond. But they didn’t come out of a vacuum. And they didn’t become fast enough to win races in Europe by hiding in the bunch and taking the final sprint at the Tour of Somerville. No, they were racing a full calendar of road races and criteriums in Northern California and beyond, tackling climbs hard enough to toughen the legs for anything Europe had to offer.

Lindsay Crawford

So everyone knows that George Mount parlayed a sixth place at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 into a trip to Europe. That’s not really the story. It’s difficult to state how significant his non-podium finish was. An American hadn’t finished in the front half of the field in the Olympic road race since before World War I. Americans were to cycling what Sri Lanka is to Nordic skiing. No, the story is how a group of riders sealed off from world competition drove each other with such ferocious rivalry that graduates from their ranks would win races in Europe, compete in Grand Tours, and eventually ascend the top step of the Tour de France.

Terence Shaw, formerly of Shaw’s Lightweight Cycles

A number of these gents get together each year for a ride. They call themselves the Dinos, as in dinosaurs. The most recent edition took place here in Santa Rosa and brought together more legends in one place than an anthology of Big Foot tales.

The ride itself is most just a chance to talk before the beer starts flowing. We rolled up toward Healdsburg and, as has been his habit since the Johnson administration, John Howard put the hammer down. More than a few of us chose to remain in the little ring.

Rory O’Reilly. ‘Nuff said. 

This year’s edition of the ride included some time reminiscing about Dave Boll, one of the members of the 1976 Olympic team. Boll passed away this summer, unexpectedly. The stories I heard were funny, colorful and poignant, but also the sort of thing that ought to stay with the audience—those riders he raced with back in the day.

John Howard telling stories about Dave Boll.

Tom Ritchey recalls his own time riding and racing against Boll.

 Paul Deem, also a member of the 1976 Olympic team (on the track), regales the audience.

No matter what, the best stories always seem to be George Mount’s. 

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  1. Mark

    After a couple of days away, I came back today to read “Trust” and “The Dino Ride” back-to-back. (Great writing on both!) I had the great good fortune to ride Eroica California last year and luck into finishing with the Dino riders; they caught me on the last major descent and I tagged on the back of the group. I didn’t know who any of them were. On vintage machines, with replica or original jerseys, it was immediately apparent that they knew how to ride. Friction shifting on the downtube executed with a minimum of fuss, shifting in advance of a hill, feathering the brakes before and through a turn to keep the pack together safely, keeping up the effort to accelerate over the top of a small hill, riding smoothly within feet of each other — minutes after tagging on, I knew I could trust these guys.

    We all stopped when one person had to fix a tubular. I wasn’t about to leave a group that good, even if I hadn’t met them before and didn’t know who anyone was. I waited. At that point, a few people introduced themselves and the idea of the Dino riders. Names I’d read about in newspaper editions of VeloNews… Riding with them was one of the highlights of this year’s cycling.

  2. John Borstelmann

    Great story! Love the Dinos. Dave Boll was the first serious cyclist I ever met; we were in the same dorm at Stanford back in the early 1970s. I wish I had heard these stories. I am saddened to learn he has passed away. I knew he was good, but I hadn’t realized he raced in the 1976 Olympics. His physique was a novelty to me, huge legs and glutes with a skinny upper body. I had never seen that before…RIP Dave!

  3. Dave

    Love this sort of stuff! Takes me back to when I first started riding a “good 10 speed” in 1980.

    I still have boxes full of Winning magazines with all these names and more filling the pages.

  4. Earle Young

    I was too slow to race with the Dinos. But I was fortunate enough to be able to spend several years working at Velo Sport in Berkeley. The thing that struck me then, and sticks with me today, is how NICE these people are when they aren’t killing each other in tough road races.

  5. Ron Miriello

    I blended in with Tom Hardy and his Dino buddies after a winery rest stop late in the 2016 Eroica in Paso Robles back country. Tight, dressed, friendly and welcoming. I found myself riding under old oaks through winding bucolic roads with my dream team of 1970’s heros. Names I’d only read about. The dream lingered on for a spell and I was now a central character, pacing easily with my mellow squad of new best friends. As the flats rolled into hills, I began to fade some. Then the grades steepened, and I watch my dream slowly fade away in front of me. Over the hill ahead, final bits of faint chatter. Then quiet. I was alone once again, but somehow holding a crisper line and smiling.

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