In a private Facebook group, a collection of voices from bicycle racing back in the early 70s (called the “Dino” group, as in Dinosaurs), one of the legendary riders from back then spoke of how special things were, how we changed the cycling world, and by inference how much better than today. Below is my response-
I think we do lose something as the sound-byte generation lacks the patience to understand something that has a flow and a history to it. There’s only the here and now, which may help to explain the prevalence of doping.
The other thing is that, for us, back in the day, it wasn’t just cycling. It was a lifestyle. It defined us. And I think it’s important to consider it was counter-cultural. Your class-mates didn’t understand you, why you were riding a bicycle everywhere you could, instead of driving. Your teachers put up with you, for reasons unknown, when you’d ride in on a rainy day, smelling like a rat. Your father, who was the sports editor of the newspaper, didn’t quite know what to make of a kid who had the common sense of thinking that running *towards* a high speed projectile (football, baseball, tennis ball) was a bad idea, but had no issues hurtling downhill at high speed in the rain.
That’s why I relate so well to Dave Stoller from the movie Breaking Away. I *was* Dave Stoller. Except that I was so counter-cultural I didn’t shave my legs, because that was expected within the counter-cultural world of cycling.
I met some of the greatest people through bike racing. People whose skills were generally far beyond mine, like Lindsay Crawford and Bob Tetzlaff. I remember as a junior, soaking in every single word that BT said at a training camp, especially how to throw a punch and not get sanctioned. Yeah, as a junior, you actually have to be told not to be stupid like… who was Emily K’s husband, that started a fist fight at the Redwood City Criterium as they came past the finish line on a lap?
I miss it, so much. I miss traveling to races in a a fellow racer’s beat up Rambler station wagon that had to stop every 20 minute to manually pack more grease into the wheel bearings. I miss discovering what a great guy Tom Ritchey’s dad was when we hitched a ride back from Tahoe because the Rambler wasn’t going to make it. I miss my father, who came to me in a moment that I took for granted at the time, telling me he was sorry that we didn’t have enough money for him to support my racing like the other dads could (I was working 32 hours a week during high school).
For more musings on my past, including some embarrassing stories and examples of my writing in Competitive Cycling, see this older web page.