Before Lance and LeMond, and 7-11 and Motorola, there was a group of cyclists paving the way for American racing on the International level. They were the Raleigh Boys of the 60s and 70s. The Raleigh Boys set the benchmark as the first fully sponsored American Cycling Team competing abroad internationally. My guest this week is one of those “Raleigh Boys:” Bill Humphreys.
Bill Humphreys was a hippie and a bit of a drifter, who discovered his gift for cycling later in life. After proving his mettle as a rogue privateer, he got invited to join the Boys, and race alongside John Howard, Doug Dale, Bobby Phillips, and Dicky Dunn to name a few. That pack of two wheeled pioneers organized forays far and wide and made their mark with stage wins and podium positions in races like the Tour of Ireland in the 1970s.
Bill Humphreys, or the “Bike Guy” as many call him, has been a dear friend of mine for 25 years. I met Bill when he came to work at Bicycling in their events and marketing department, and we became fast friends, despite the fact that he was constantly giving me unsolicited (if correct) training advice.
I’ll be honest. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what a legend Bill was. I just knew him as an older dude who was a total badass on the bike. He was in his early 50s at the time. He told me he was going to get a college degree, get married, and start a family before he turned 55.
And he did. He is still married to his wonderful wife Sara and his son Ian is now in college himself. When Bill puts his mind to something, he does it.
These days Bill has Ireland on his mind again. He’s turning 75 this summer. And Bill’s always been one for celebratory bike rides. So for this particular milestone, he’s decided to go big with a 6-day Tour of Ireland Reunion Ride on August 4th through the 10th.
I sat down with Bill to talk about his storied career and the upcoming reunion. Honestly, the conversation could have gone for hours—and had we been sitting in his backyard overlooking the lake in his home in Old Lyme Connecticut with a bottle of wine like we have so many times, it would have. But we focused it mostly on those early years in and around Ireland.
Bill is an animated man, so you’ll hear him banging the table for emphasis here and there….It’s more like a fireside chat than a formal interview. But it’s all Bill in all of Bill’s wonderfulness. And it’s a rich, often overlooked, part of American cycling’s past.
Email Bill for more info on the Ireland trip: [email protected].