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.
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.