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By Patrick O’Grady
It’s always a delight to see a new Bob Roll column in VeloNews,and not just because I like the feverish glint in his jaundiced eye. Like some biwheeled, mutton-chopped Quasimodo popping wheelies among the stony gargoyles, ringing the Big Bell with lusty strokes from Thor’s hammer,he draws the angry, torch-waving villagers away from me for a while, giving me a moment to catch my breath and plot new outrages of my own.
His “At the Back” in the 30th-anniversary edition, “Eurotrash and theTexas Tornado,” (see VeloNews, March 18, 2002, page 106) was vintage Bobke, a red flag brandished in the vacant faces of the mooing steers who besmirch cycling’s feedlot, chewing cuds full of training tips, bike porn and Lance sightings. I jokingly suggested that editor Kip Mikler should provide a Bob Roll Decoder Ring with the issue, and at least one befuddled reader actually requested one.
Philistine. I wouldn’t give him the ring around my toilet.
A Natural Born MujahadeenThe ink hadn’t dried on VN4 before the e-mails started pouring in likethe Flood, clogging the editors’ in-boxes more completely than a hotelsewage system under peristaltic assault from a Tour’s worth of roughage-gobblingracers.That, by the way, is an image that Bobke would appreciate. When I interviewed him for a New Mexico newspaper way back in 1991, the year after his diaries first began appearing in VeloNews, an irate reader had just taken him to task over a graphic discussion of a “wicked” Belgian virus that had dramatically altered his bowel habits.“That’s about 70 percent of what we (pro racers) talk about,” Roll saidthen. “I had one sentence in there. I let him off easy.”Words To Blow Chunks ByReading Roll has rarely let anyone off easy, especially in those earlyyears, when his diaries were accompanied with glossaries explaining Bobke-speak.While the cycling press was portraying Greg LeMond as Richie Cunningham,Bobke was busy painting himself, with a very broad brush indeed, as someunearthly hybrid of Fonzie, Charles Bukowsky and Rodan the Flying Monster—crashing,burning, bonking, raving and blowing sky-high chunks, from both ends.As an inept masters racer who had to use binoculars to see the podium,I relished his blue-collar view of the pro peloton, one soldier’s diariesfrom a series of foreign battlefields on which the grunts fought and diedso their officers could collect the medals. He laid nicknames on some (“Wookie”for Ron Kiefel), and nasties on others (“Belgian cheesehead” for ClaudeCriquelion), and made us feel that we knew them.Blood And Butt-Cheese When Bobke veered off-road, it seemed only natural.The cobbled lanes of Europe weren’t big enough for a Durango Diner, bacon-and-eggskind of guy who wrote about diluting a mud-filled stomach with double shotsof tequila, irrigating the Cactus Cup with his own arterial blood, andcrashing into children and telling their angry fathers to “go watch a chessgame, you massive, Swiss butt-cheese.” But even some among the laid-backfat-tire crowd found fault with Bobke, and the critical letters kept coming,only with more misspellings.Hey. Don’t like him? Don’t read him. Save your tender stomachfrom those caustic gastric juices that gush like the Bellagio fountainsat the sight of a Roll among the Wilcocksons, pissing in the teapot. Wouldyou sit in your La-Z-Boy, place your private parts on a wooden cuttingboard, then repeatedly bang them with a meat tenderizer while complainingthat it hurts, it hurts? Of course not.So give your eyes and my ears a rest, and let those of us who like himenjoy him in peace. I’m totally jazzed and stoked and dipped in doo thatmy stone homeboy still slays all, and you — your freakin’ whining givesme a wicked headache, you massive butt-cheeses.
Patrick O’Grady rants regularly in the pages of VeloNewsand Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, and irregularly from hisown soiled perch at www.maddogmedia.com.Like or don’t like what you just read? Tellus about it.