Does anybody remember Joe Bentley? He’s dead now. But he used to be a bike race promoter in Houston. He, along with Tom Boyden, also dead, was one of the mainstays of bike racing in Texas in the late 70’s and through the 80’s.
Joe had a bike shop in Houston, I think it was called Daniel Boone Cycles. It was one of the few places that spoke Campagnolo.
I did a crit one time in Hermann Park in Houston my first season of racing, in 1984. It was a Joe Bentley special, by which I mean there was hardly any prize money and he literally gave away water bottles for primes. On close inspection, they might not have been new. You only hoped they had been washed.
I did pretty good in that race and got enough points to upgrade to a Cat 3.
Joe and Tom Boyden always caught a lot of grief because, well, things never quite happened the way they promised when it came to money. But in retrospect, what money? You had to have a screw loose to promote bike races in Texas back then. It was the ultimate get-rich-slow-I-mean-never plan. Kind of like today.
People like Joe loved bikes and bike racing even though they themselves weren’t any good at it. Joe liked being in the thick of it, and it was a hell of a lot of work putting on a race. Like now, racers were ungrateful, entitled, bed-wetting, and always looking for a free entry. Like now, race turnout was highly dependent on weather. You could go to all the effort to put on a race and the pillow babies would take a pass if it rained. The promoter got stuck with the bill.
Unlike now, fields were huge. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg to get a race bike and gear, only an arm. You could race in a hairnet and the average schmo didn’t dope. There were no masters racers. We called them “veterans” and they were so old as to barely be considered alive. I think they were 35-40 years of age.
I was thinking about Joe as my Lyft driver, stuck in Houston rush hour traffic, slowly trolled past Hermann Park.
“I won that race,” I remembered. It was a good memory whether it was true or not. And I wouldn’t have had it were it not for quirky old Joe Bentley, may he rest in peace.
Read this far? Go ahead and hit this “subscribe” link. Thank you!