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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”.

20 thoughts on “Knees

  1. BrianK

    Thanks for the nice trip down memory lane, Steve:
    Junior races,
    Cosmic Conan’s,
    Marc Thompson,
    Fayetteville Stage Race.

    Now I’m remembering Joe’s Bakery (the original) in Lawrence….

    Brian Koenigsdorf

  2. SB

    It wasn’t just you Steve… Boyden was like that for everyone. He was also famous for doing “bike inspections” and not giving up until he had found something he could claim was wrong, or broken something while messing with the bike. He was able to use his thumbs to roll tubies that were fully inflated and properly glued.

    Still though, he did a lot for the sport. RIP Tom.

  3. Tom Gates

    Steve, another good one. I have the scars on scars too. Marc Thompson was a pretty good rider, I remember meeting him for a ride in ’74 when I was visiting family near KC. I think we did 50 miles in 2 hrs flat.

  4. Quinn Planos

    Boyden, Ha! Remember going to his races as a jr and sr. We’d drive for half a day, pay for a hotel, pay 20 or so bucks to enter…then win the race and get 40 bucks and a water bottle. Always needed to remind myself that I loved the sport after winning one of his races.

  5. Mr.Frack

    Yea Mr. Tom got me a couple times too. One time he was trying to “safety check” my tubies. Being an old crosser, and using a lot of layers of glue, no ways he was going to get that Vittoria off the rim at 110 psi. It was Labor day 29 years ago in Dallas about 100 degrees poor Tom loooked like he was having a stroke, but he swore that my tires weren’t glued on good enough. After about ten minutes and a gallon of sweat and the tire didn’t move, he gorillas my bars and says my stem was too loose. Got to love old Tom, RIP. I forgot the name of the Illinois rep that was about as bad.

  6. e-RICHIE

    yo steve – when we were in london, witcomb cycles (where i worked…) made frames and sent them to tom in texas. they were labeled Fastab or some such. i never knew what that name meant, nor did i ever see them when i returned to the states. i did a fair amount of race traveling in the 70s and saw a lot of odd brands, but never a Fastab…

  7. tilford97 Post author

    Yeah-I knew Tom imported some frames and sponsored some guys locally in Texas with Fastab. I’m not sure what that stands for, but I don’t think he did that too long before he became the super ABLofA/USCF official he grew to be. He moved on to the photo timing business later. The sport attracts interesting folks.

  8. Calvin Jones

    Glad those safety inspections are no longer done. Not sure how much good they really did the riders, but I did learn a lot by getting my hands on lots of bikes.

  9. Roadkill

    He got everyone down here. I had it out with him more than once.

    The strangest Boyden story ever was when I was on my way home from Europe. I stopped in a big bike shop in Frankfurt and got started talking to another American in the shop. He asked where I was from and told him Texas. He started swearing and asking if I knew Tom. 2000 miles from home and I still could not escape that guy!!!

  10. Hudson Luce

    I think Steve could do some hellacious safety inspections with handlebars; stems, bottom brackets, and cranks, too…

  11. Jim

    Mike Walden, in Michigan, was pretty much the same with tubies. Loved it when narrow clinchers came along. Was kinda fun to watch him struggle with them.

  12. dirty_juheesus!

    Worked at a pizza place and rode pro bikes…. Certainly can’t do that very much with $8000 bikes.

    Nice comments too.

  13. Neil Kopitsky

    Steve, it’s not just the young and dumb guys who look at you and say “Holly Shit.” Those of us with the experience and knowledge to know what we’re getting into are intimidated MORE!

  14. VCScribe

    Tom Boyden was like one of those comic-evil characters from some goofy 70s film. Nobody really liked the guy — he was so weird and contrary — but you couldn’t really strongly DISlike him either. Most Texas racing funneled through him somehow, some way. He put on a 3-day stage race every year in Garland, a janky NE Dallas suburb, and it managed to attract, mainly due to advantageous scheduling, a pretty high-quality field from the Southwest, Midwest, Colorado, etc. It certainly wasn’t the prize list! One year (maybe 1977?), Ron Kiefel (7-Eleven fame, Giro stage-winner) came down to race the Tour of Garland and slept on my couch. Think he won the junior race, but I can’t really remember. I do have several vivid memories of Tom Boyden, though: he had the scraggliest beard of anybody around, and in the marginally counterculture US bike racing community of the time, that’s saying something; he had this sweat-stained, decaying old straw hat with a chin cord that he wore almost all the time while officiating races, along with long, buttoned sleeves and cuffs and military surplus long fatigue pants — in Texas, in triple-digit weather; and the paint jobs on his bikes were ugly, but almost bullet-proof. They were orange-peel lumpy, but maybe 2-3 mm thick. I remember once he complimented my bike (an English MKM, sort of a weird blue-green metallic–a little nicked up from crit racing) and offered to respray it for $30. Said he could match the color “almost exactly.” I was skeptical, to say the least. Weird dude. Great days.

  15. VCScribe

    BTW — FASTAB stands for “fast,” minus the “T,” plus Tom’s initials: TAB, Thomas A. Boyden. We used to joke in Tom’s presence that it stood for “Fast as Sh_t-Thomas A. Boyden,” and out of his earshot for “Funky and Sh_tty-Thomas etc.”

  16. lynn tom's daughter

    well, now doesn’t this bring back some memories? i can’t begin to tell you guys how weird it is to read through other people’s memories of one’s father. not that i am under any illusions about the man… he DID do a lot for bike racing in texas in the 70s and 80s, one way or another.


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