by TR Member, Tom Bollum
In the mid-seventies when one of the first waves of European Road cycling mania hit North America, I was living in Tallahassee, occasionally attending FSU Business School, focusing hard on my street basketball game, working part time in a restaurant, and of course…having fun. It was a full life. High-end bike stores started springing up around town. I purchased a mid-level Fuji 10 speed, which I used to get to school and for rides in the country. These rides got longer and more competitive, and after a while my friends prodded me into entering a 20-mile race put on by the local soft rock station, Gulf-FM. I trained for a couple months, and entered with about 50 other riders. It was really hard, and at the end I was outsprinted by a one armed guy for fifteenth place. At this point I mainly enjoyed cycling for the nice rides in the country and because it improved my jumping ability in basketball. The bike shop I frequented was a co-sponsor of a local criterium series and they were after me to compete. I finally agreed when they offered me a Fuji Pro bike for the races. I couldn’t believe how fast and responsive this bike was.
My first criterium, wearing a street basketball outfit, Converse bb shoes, tank top and no helmet. Didn’t know that the bell signaled the last lap and coasted across the finish in third. I was hooked.
From that point on I raced whenever possible at events in Florida and southern Georgia and had pretty good results…usually a top five and occasionally a win. Entered the Gulf-FM race a second time…..won it and a new Nishiki-Pro bike.
This shot is right after the opening 25 mile TT in in 1974 Tour of the Apalachicola Forest Stage Race. It was a flat course in 95° heat….did it in an hour flat which would have put me mid-pack. This was a five stage Eastern Regional Olympic Development race and I finished 6th overall.
To the everlasting discredit of Florida State, I finally graduated, and began pondering the “what’s next”? question.
I was ambitious career-wise, but also loved riding. So I decided to try racing full time for a year to see where it took me. I had a fairly decent sprint and based on what I saw in the magazines, velodrome racing looked interesting. So I purchased a Raleigh Pro track bike and moved to Chicago in the summer of 1975.
In Chicago I was taken in by a local racing club sponsored by Sabena….a Belgian Airline. Three nights a week I waited tables at Steak and Ale, and on Tuesday and Thursday nights I raced track in Chicago and Kenosha (Wisconsin). The racing was really fast and aggressive. Guys would lean on each other in corners, and positioning was everything. It took until mid-season before I was somewhat competitive.
Mid summer I returned to Kentucky for the State Championships which were held on a cinder track! I won the sprint, standing kilo and pursuit. In the 10 mile race all the other riders raced against me and I finished second. My standing kilometer time was 1:16 and the bike was sliding around the whole time. I had done a 1:10 in Chicago which would have qualified me for the Nationals, but that didn’t help me here. So in late July I went back to Chicago to compete in the one event I qualified for…the National Sprint Championships.