Another Campocat interview
You know I'm am humbled and speechless over this one. I never would have started doing interviews if it wasn't that someone asked me, "Who is the guy fiddling with the rollers," at the races last winter. David has always been a good friend and has always been there for me when I needed help. When I asked for contributions for the track repair years back Taliah (Lempert, Dave's girlfriend) was the only one to put up a donation out of the whole racing community. No one wanted to help or saw the value in having a repaired Kissena velodrome, but they did. When it looked like the Kissena Cycle Club was going to be extinct, Dave remained calm and helped plod along organizing its redevelopment along with the new uniforms we know today in the spiffy New York colors, Orange, Blue, and White. I knew David had a great story to tell and reading this, well I don't know what to say except, thank you David. By the way you can beat me any time you like, and my nickname believe it or not was Spider. Maybe because when I was a kid I looked skinny like my adopted Son, Raj the rocket who doesn't race any more.
I guess I'll have to sign JC from now on?
JC How old were you when you first started racing?
DP I was 15 in 1970 when I raced my first 10-mile club time trial. My first pack race was in 1971, an Amateur Bicycle League of America sanctioned, San Jose Bicycle Club weekly training race near Moffett Field. I was dropped from the C group after two miles and finished laps down. I wore a hand-me-down Belmont Bicycle Club wool jersey, inherited from 1967 Junior National Champion, Jim Van Boven, whom I met recently standing on the Stage 2 Sierra Road climb at the 2006 Tour of California. My third race was epic, a criterium in Yosemite Valley in a blizzard. My first win came as a first-place tie with a rider on the national team from Denmark, in a hillclimb time trial during the Okanagan tour in British Columbia.
@##=#<2,L>@##=#To give you a little background, I grew up around Palo Alto, in Northern California. I raced seriously from 1972 until early 1978. Then I followed the cycling scene, moving to New York City in 1979 to study art at Pratt Institute. Over 25 years living in this town, I've seen a lot of races, helped with club teams, but raced only rarely. I felt like an insider on the outside looking in.
Years ago, when I tried to trace my first knowledge of cycling, I found that when I was 12, I saved a news clip from the SF Chronicle "Sporting Green," about the cyclist Jacques Anquetil. The five-time Tour de France winner had set a new world hour record, but was disqualified for declining to show up for drug testing. The story included how Tom Simpson collapsed and died in the Tour de France in July.
I went on a long ride with my sports buddies to San Gregorio beach in 1970. I went with my neighbor, Keith Vierra, he became my closest teammate. We had a healthy rivalry during our racing years, from our first training spins to the US team international stage races. On that ride we ran into the great Larry "Daddy" Walpole, of the Belmont Bicycle Club. Larry became our mentor, showing us every glorious detail about European racing and introducing us to the Northern California racing scene.
Northern California had a very active and beautiful cycling scene at that time. I watched and assisted at races, like the 1971 Tour of California. Fast juniors were allowed to race in many Senior races, with a 95-inch gear limit. Our generation won enough to be dubbed the "Senior Slayers."
The cream of our crop became pioneers of cycling, in the sport and the industry, with Mike Neel, Jacques Boyer, George Mount, Tom Ritchey, Greg LeMond, Leonard Harvey Nitz, Fred Markham, Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Otis Guy, Kent Bostick, Laurence Malone, and Jim Gentes. In my neighborhood there were notable bicycle advocates, Ellen Fletcher, a Palo Alto City Councilor, and John Forester, instructor of "Effective Cycling."
JC When did you win your first national championship?
DP I knew you would ask that kinda question. Whether you know it or not, I have never won a national championship. (I don't count one of the earliest collegiate championships at UC Davis, where I led the Foothill College team to victory.) Even though I tried once or twice, there have been an awful lot of those jerseys given out, the only one I shoulda, coulda, woulda won was an early US Pro Road Championship, won by Heiden, Prehn, or Eustice. That would have made my career. Instead I have nothing.
If you want to know when I got on my first national team, that was in 1973 when I was 18. I was selected for the Junior World's road team. I was in an ideal environment, with a group of competitive friends doing a strict training discipline. Palo Alto high schools began offering alternative classes and we did the Physical Education part in cycling. We kept training diaries, race results, and held a show-and-tell class with rollers in the auditorium.
@##=#<3,R>@##=#It was the first year that the USA would send teams to the Junior World Championships. Our team manager was Bob Tetzlaf, a veteran champ who we raced against. Everyone called it "Junior Worlds," but according to the UCI, it was the last Junior European Championships to include nations outside of Europe. The first real Jr. Worlds were the next year, 1974, with Hatton, Nitz, Ritchey. The road race in Bavaria was a huge bunch on a narrow twisty course. I finished around 70th, after a nervous mid-race bike change. Jacques Boyer was the best of us, finishing around 25th. The Belgian, Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke, won both the road race and track pursuit, with his supporters club in attendance.
Among the guys on our team, was Jonathan Boyer (VC Monterey). Then he was known as "Jacques," soon he became "Jock," and later "Jonathan." My aunt Rody lived near his mother in Carmel. In high school, he was already playing the role of a French professional. In Munich he told us: "I don't crash." We thought about it, how he used Mafac brakes and showed us some dare-devil antics. The next day I noticed his pants had a bloody hole in the knee. We drilled a confession from him. It was wet cobblestones crossed with trolley tracks.
JC How did it come about that you went to Europe to race?
DP Europe was the only place to go for a cyclist. When we went to Munich, Keith Vierra and I were planning to go racing somewhere else. Some of us from the team were invited to go to Antwerp, Belgium.
This was my first pilgrimage to mecca. We stayed a couple weeks and raced about ten days. I'll never forget those first days riding in wind and rain to our next accommodations, carrying backspacks, spare wheels and race bags, over the cobbles and sidepaths of Flanders.
A highlight for me, was seeing the roadside monument to a hero, the cycling champion, Jean-Pierre "Jempi" Monsere. Jempi was the youngest world pro road champion, killed by a car in a kermesse, resplendent in his rainbow jersey. Shocking.
@##=#<4,L>@##=#We were invited to return. Belgians always seem to enjoy helping American racers. We heard that Roger Young was riding the Ghent track in the winter. I saved up to return to Flanders for the next road season. What a trip that was. Eddy Merckx looked at me. I met his Molteni homeboys. A family took me into their Ford-sponsored amateur team, based in Hoboken, Belgium. They produced a pro, Rene Dillon, doing his first Tour de France that year. My guys for training were juniors and amateurs. There was enough in my budget to see the sports doctor for massage and medicine. First I went with the team, then on my own, more than once a week. I realized some of those kids were being primed a bit too young.
Eventually I got good enough to join the breakaways. One of the kermesse stars began hassling me when his sister was cheering for me. He knocked my leather helmet off while in a break, but I was lucky to catch it and get it back on. My best placing was 8th in Flanders. Even as this was good experience with cobbles, wind and rain, I was disappointed that I couldn't develop my mountain climbing. Now I wish I'd gone to Italy, like Mike Neel and George Mount, and before them, Victor Vincente.
JC Did you ever get to track race, or get to see the Six-Day in LA in 1973?
DP We had to race track to be complete cyclists. I raced track beginning in 1972 at Hellyer Park in San Jose. I started on an old Frejus, but I never was able to really excel on the track. The madison was the race for me, but I never raced a six-day.
I saw the US Olympic Trials in 1972, but didn't make it to the LA Six-Day in 1973. We raced with some of those trackies at some local crits. That event introduced the idea that any of us could turn professional. We could pay the professional license fee and forget the amateur Olympics.
During my short racing career I got to pedal around most of the tracks in North American, and Olympic tracks in Montreal and Munich. When I quit racing, I got more into the track scene.
I meandered across the US cycling scene for awhile, assisting the Belgian team at Red Zinger, going to Bloomington, Indiana, when Breaking Away was filmed. Then I helped with Dale Hughes of Madison Velodromes in suburban Detroit, setting up a plywood-track indoor race, with my Nor-Cal homeboys Tom Hardy and Mike Mole in the fray.
Moving on to T-Town, I worked for Jack Simes and Dave Chauner of Omni-Sports in Emmaus and Allentown, the bike-friendly place we called "Rodale Valley." Those guys set the T-Town program in motion, managed a semi-pro team, and took the helm of US pro racing.
Robert Rodale got Jack Simes to bring Patrick Sercu and Eddy Merckx to T-Town in 1978. Eddy retired that spring, so he didn't race as originally planned. I got to drive Patrick and Eddy around at bit. Everything about Eddy was massive, including his luggage. His chest busted his shirt buttons with his pack of cigarettes in the pocket. I tried to remind him, with a few Flemish words, if he remembered seeing me in a 1974 post-Tour criterium in Belgium.
JC I'm assuming the Tom Ritchey that was on your team was the bike builder?
DP Yep. Tom Ritchey grew up near me. He was a year younger, but actually years ahead of me. We became disciples of the Jobst Brandt school of cycling at the same time. Tom is a nearly perfect man. As a racer, he could have been a Grand Tour winner or Hour Record holder, if his faith allowed it. The same as a bike builder. I was closer to him before he grew his handlebar moustache.
A while ago I ran into him on the road on one of my visits to Palo Alto. Tom came to my rescue when I had a flat tire and forgot my pump. I was trying something new by climbing up Page Mill Road on a fixed gear. Tom came by with his Ritchey MTB team on a pre-World Cup ride.
He gave me a good reprimand, repeating after Jobst's teaching. Even though I was carrying a pannier, repair kit, tools, spare tube and tire, somehow I'd left my pump back at the ranch. His old Silca pump was exactly like mine. Just like me, he would rather do the pumping than loan out his pump.
Everyone was given a nickname. If any racers or officials didn't already have a nickname, my buddies and I would make one. Tom was "Ritchie Rich," even though he earned every dollar. Nitz was "Lee Harvey," Fred Markham came before Fred Rodriguez with "Fast Freddy." Gary Fisher was "Gino Fisherino." Everyone knows John Eustice as "Useless." The "Bike Barb" inspired us. That was Nicola Farac-Ban, stage winner Tour of California and Competitive Cycling columnist. This continues, I was wondering John, good buddy, if anyone ever called you "Crampo?"
JC How was Nitz as a Palo Alto Cycling Club teammate?
DP Leonard Harvey Nitz was a fantastic teammate when we rode together. Harv came into cycling with his family. They showed up with hot rod cars and hand-built bikes. He was serious about racing, a guy with a dollar sign on his handlebars. He had a way of being like an underdog, then pulling out a huge upset, as if it was part of his plan. You could see his willpower increase each year.
@##=#<1,r>@##=#I was in a photo-finish with him and I kept the polariod. We came together at the line, he raised his arms and was declared winner. It was nice to wind up on the podium of a flat criterium, where my cousin from Holland came to watch. Imagine my surprise when the photo finish showed I'd won. To be equal to Nitz in a mass sprint, that was a victory for me and our team.
When Harv married Lesley Moore and moved to New York City to race at Kissena, his old teammates didn't expect that was part of the plan. We figured he was smart to tap into the East Coast scene and Eddie B.
Everyone had to deal with the Olympic issue, amateur versus professional. For a guy like Nitz, he could bank on Olympic gold more than us roadies. He was one of those let down by the cold war US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, but raised up by the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games. When gold was up for grabs, he got a piece of it. I met up with him later, at a big Subaru crit race at South Street Seaport. He wanted to show me his Porsche.
JC Do you have any good Gibby Hatton stories?
DP Well... I tried to impersonate Gibby in one or two races. Once I wore a scarf when we were called to the line. I tried to lay back all pretty at the back of the pack, then muscle my way to the podium.
I guess opposites attract. He was a sock-less hardcore sprinter, I was a wool-sock softcore roadie, somehow we have a bond by being there.
When he coached at T-Town I got to see more of the Bear. He came to see our messenger roller races in Philly. From him I got an Olympic Team Schwinn Paramount inch-pitch track tandem. It came with a Gibby Hatton seatpost, crafted by his father, Gil.
JC Do you have any LeMond Stories?
DP The most recent one... that was when my girlfriend Taliah met Greg. We were guests at a World TEAM benefit auction, featuring Superman Christopher Reeves and his tubular-tire Cannondale. Taliah Lempert, the bicycle painter, was getting the formal introduction to Greg LeMond, the celebrity bicycle racer. When Greg saw me, he said "Dave Perry? You're shitting me!"
I'm five years older than Greg. He said I looked younger than him. Considering the pre-mature aging of Tour de France war veterans, the way I figure, he looks pretty good.
I'm one of the lucky ones to have ridden in the bike race that went by Greg LeMond's family home, near Carson, Nevada, that inspired him to join the peloton. We saw him at his first race. His family brought him in their VW camper van from race to
race, win to win. Suddenly all us former Senior Slayers became slayed seniors.
As a teenager Greg was a blossom, his blond attitude and fresh power was amazing. His father, Bob LeMond, also got hooked on bike racing and became a Cat 1 master threat. Greg was nurtured by the support of his family, the Reno club with Roland Della Santa bikes, and the Northern California cycling scene.
In my last race, the Vuelta de Bisbee, Greg raced with Cat 1 as a junior. In the TT he blew by me like a rocket. That was it. Greg was part the reason I quit chasing the goal of being a professional cyclist. How could I be in league with this kid?
Greg didn't show any anger as a youth. What makes his career special is his good sportsmanship. He overcame so many tricky obstacles.
JC What was the Talbots team all about?
DP Team Talbots - Peninsula Velo Club was based at Talbots bike shop in San Mateo. USCF district rep Rich Holder, formed a club team with US team coach Tim Kelly and British mechanic Steve Aldridge. We rode Nishiki bikes with early Dura-Ace and Eddie B. did clinics with the team.
I joined Talbots in 1978, hoping for better access to the national team. I'd always been a true blue Palo Alto teammate, a founding member, since we moved the Belmont Bicycle Club to the Palo Alto Cycling Club. After I'd left PACC, I regretted going to Talbots.
One side trip along the way was riding the 1977 Red Zinger stage race for a team sponsored by Pure & Simple foods. This was put together by Olympians Dave and Sharon Mulkey. He took us on a motor-pacing and hill climbing high-altitude training camp in Colorado.
JC A lot of folks out there probably don't know who Eddie B is, I'm sure you can explain better than I can. Also the Eddie B Book was the bible for racers when I was coming up, you have a famous book also - talk about those three subjects...
DP There were actually two guys named Eddie B. Eddie Borysewicz and Edmund Burke, they were "B-plus" and "B-minus." Both of those gentlemen wrote A-plus training programs. I remember when the Feds introduced these guys to US cyclists. Neither of them took me closely under their wing, they barely recognized me. It's amazing how much they had to give for US cycling champions.
I got to know Eddie B in 1976 when I got a lift to the Olympic Trials in Lake Placid with Mike Fraysee. Eddie could barely speak English then, and I thought it strange for him to be an assistant coach on a US team. Having raced in Belgium, I thought I already knew what he was proposing.
When Eddy B. checked us out in 1978, I had a decent resume: Olympic Training tests showed I had elite potential. I'd finished a two-week stage race in Guatemala for the US Team, set a record on Mt. Whitney hill climb, out-sprinted John Howard in Vale, Colorado, and felt stronger, but not as crafty, as Wayne and Dale Stetina combined.
@##=#<6,L>@##=#Any cyclist who's been there can write a training book, but it takes a bit of training to write a book. We were raised by the Italian School, with the blue CONI book "Cycling" of 1968 as an intro, followed by an update titled "Agonistic Cycling." I tracked my weight, heart rate, times and speeds, by counting my pulse and mapping out rides. There was no real power data back then and only calculators were digital.
My book, Bike Cult, was my attempt to bring the whole world of cycling and bicycle culture into one encyclopedic volume. The idea came around 1982, after I'd dropped out of the racing scene, while studying art, science and punk rock at Pratt Institute. It took a dozen years of research, almost four years of editing, and yet it still wasn't completely perfect when it was published in 1995. I was lucky to have a publisher that kept it in print 10 years.
I became more of a bike advocate in New York. One reason I left California and moved to NYC was to get away from all the car driving. I didn't want to see my life go by waiting at an intersection for the light to change to green. I got involved with Transportation Alternatives, editing City Cyclist magazine with Charlie Komanoff and designing their Bicycle Blueprint for NYC.
I've seen friends carve out careers in bike advocacy, with Jon Orcutt at TA and Tri-State, Steve Stollman of Lightwheels, Bill Di Paola of Times Up, George Bliss at the Hub, Peter Meitzler with Manhattan Rickshaw, Karen Overton of Recycle-A-Bicycle, and Brent Barbur's Bicycle Film Festival. One thing you'd like Campo, I collaborated with Carl Hultberg on a three-volume bootleg compilation of bicycle music and songs, called "Bicycle Boogie."
JC You have a bike shop and web site www.bikecult.com - you still race occasionally. You are the back bone of Kissena Cycling Club, and you have a cool set of rollers. The other night we had a great event at the Brooklyn Brewery. What was strange to me was that people are coming over to me and asking me who you are. Talk about the rollers and its history, how you maintain the machine, and what was our dream - to make it an event, in pleasant settings, high profile, in the winter to bring more people to cycling by having a social plus competitive event...
@##=#<7,R>@##=#DP As for my bike shop, I guess it was inevitable. After doing Bike Cult, I wanted to get back to the nuts and bolts of bikes. I was into recumbents, cargo bikes and pedicabs. With George Bliss, we delivered bundles of Richard Fries' "The Ride" and Mark Roland's "In Traffic" zines to all the bike shops that would accept them.
I began my shop Bike Works NYC in 1997. It grew out of the Hub, a garage run by Bliss, for bikes, trikes, skates, a trampoline, and even NASA electric vehicle research.
That's where I met Taliah and hung her paintings. With the shop came the NYC bike messenger community, with the alley cat races, spoke cards, and real super heroes. That's when I came full circle with bikes: back to classic road and track bikes.
The Barelli competition rollers I got at auction, they are dedicated to my mom, Hallie. I got them, as you say, to invite the club environment in our cycling milieu. My best memories and happiest moments are when cyclists come together and go full-tilt all gaga. It's like our own portable Alpe d'Huez, perhaps more obscure. With the arrows and dial, they are a work of art. I'm worried the day they will stop working. Its machine bolts are the rare Imperial thread pitch, and its transmission cables are almost impossible to find.
JC Do you have any plans for next year? Personally? Professionally?
DP I'm looking to restructure the bike shop, to find a way to unleash myself from burdens that weigh me down and keep me from, say, working on the next edition of Bike Cult, make something interesting, or spending time training to be able to beat you at the track John. Thanks.
Check out more shots of Dave racing here, and here's some shots of Dave's shop.