I graduated high school early and went down to Austin Texas to train and race bikes. I got a job a Conan’s pizza working from 3-12 so I could ride during the day. I was 17 and racing Cat 1 races. I’d been a catagory 1 since I was an intermediate, 14, and didn’t race junior races unless it was for the Junior World’s or Nationals.
Anyway, I was riding a ton and racing local races on the weekends, saving a bunch of money so I could race the whole season. I planned to stay there until the end of March and make my way back to the Fayetteville Stage Race, now Joe Martin, in Arkansas. So, a few weeks into my Texas stay, I go to this race and there are John Howard and David Meyer-Oaks, both on the National Road Team, riding for Ultima. John had already been on 3 Olympic Teams and won the Nationals, raced in Europe, done it all.
I was thrilled to get my opportunity to race with them. I’d raced with Marc Thompson, who was on the 1976 Olympic Team, a couple times here in Kansas. He rode on the Follis Team with Wayne and Dale Stetina. But, he was local and John Howard was national, in my mind. So, here I was, thinking I’m fit and all, then I see John Howard’s knees. They look like they’d been through a war, scars galore. I was so intimidated by the sight of them, that I nearly peed my pants.
Anyway, I got past that. The day was great and terrible at the same time. I rode up the road with John and David. Me and the two National Team guys. I was pulling absolutely as hard as I could. I was going to be ecstatic to get third to these guys. So, I was pulling off and rotating to the back, when a gust of Texas wind blew and they swerved. I was overlapped on the left and swung across the centerline.
That was it. Immediately, Tom Boyden, a notorious Texas official, was there yelling some number and saying their disqualified. I immediately realize that neither John nor David had that number, so he must be yelling at me. So, we all slow down and John has a talk with Tom. John talks slow and deliberate. Saying something like, “Tom, what’s the problem?” Tom tells him I crossed the centerline and was DQ’d. I’m all the time saying I didn’t mean to and promising I won’t do it again and I’ll get last, etc. But, Tom doesn’t waiver. John is super nice, and on my side, asking Tom to make an exception, but nope. So John Howard tells me that Boyden is an hard ass and he’ll suspend my license, so I’d better stop. I was devastated.
I’ve been DQ’d or relagated 3 times in my life. All three times were by the late Tom Boyden. We just had a thing, I guess. Anyway, after the race, John Howard came over, introduced himself and apologized for the bad Texas hospitality. He then invited me over to a party to his house in Austin with the Competive Cycling Gang. That ended up being just as scary as starting the race with David and John.
This whole thought process started when I was looking down at my knees yesterday. They are pretty beat up. Much like my shoulders, hips, elbows, etc. I don’t think much of it. But, it made me made wonder what other people, non cyclists think? Then it occurred to me that maybe there young riders, like me from before, looking and thinking “holy shit”.