In Part One of our interview with Bob Cary we covered that part of his career up to his third year with TI Raleigh and the end of 1976.
For 1977 he was back in the UK with the Carlton-Weinmann team alongside riders like Olympic team pursuit medallists, Mick Bennett and Robin Croker not to mention British pro scene stalwart, Reg Smith.
Bob takes up the story:
“It was a good little team, I rode with them for two seasons, with some good placings along the way.
“I rode the London to Holyhead in ’77, that was over 427 kilometres, we were on the bike for 11 hours plus, Sid Barras won that one.
“And in ’78 I rode the Glenryck Cup on the Eastway Circuit – the London Olympic velodrome is built on the site of that circuit – where Eddy Merckx came over along with many big continental names like Poulidor, Ocana and Thurau who won on the day.
“I also rode in the Belgian kermises but because most of them weren’t UCI races you don’t see the results on the palmarès websites.”
Season ’79 you rode for Glemp-T.J. Cycles on those ‘Flying Gate’ frames.
“Yes, it was an Anglo-Belgian team, the ‘T.J.’ was Trevor Jarvis, the guy behind the ‘Flying Gate’ frames; they actually rode really well. Give me a steel frame over carbon any day – I’m still reaching for my down tube gear levers!
“Glemp was the Belgian side of the team, I got the ride through a recommendation from the folks at Plum Vainqueur bike shop in Ghent.”
Then you rode single sponsored for Carnation-Build Up?
“Yes, with Ken Bird supplying the bikes.
“My career was winding down by then but I still got a few nice results like winning the North Roads ‘Hard Riders’ time trial – that’s early season and in the lanes. I won it at the start of my career too.”
I believe you did coaching in Africa during your time with Raleigh?
“I was over in Victoria Island, Lagos in Nigeria with my Raleigh team mate, Dave Lloyd at the end of seasons ’75 and ’76.
“In my ‘civilian’ life since my cycling career ended I’ve done a bit of business in Nigeria – I can relate to the mentality there and get on well with the people.
“But on the way back from Nigeria in ’76 I flew to Rome with a view to travelling to Florence to sign with the Italian Magniflex team but I’d caught some sort of stomach bug in Nigeria and had to head back to London I was so unwell.
“I went to the tropical diseases hospital in London but it’s never really been sorted out.
“That’s one of my few regrets, I think I would have been more suited to Italian races than the races in Belgium and The Netherlands – as I said before, I was in there too deep, too early in my career.”
And you coached in the USA?
“Yes, Jack Simes invited me over, I met Fred Mengoni [a massive supporter of cycling in the US, helping men like Greg Lemond and Steve Bauer, ed.] in New York and I said I’d love to ride for him – he sponsored Greg Lemond at the time – but he said, ‘no, I want you as a coach.’
“I looked after the Huffy team, Danny van Haute, Mark Whitehead, Nelson Vails, LA Olympic Sprint Champion Mark Gorski and LA Olympic Pursuit Champion, Steve Hegg.
“People in the UK wouldn’t realise but cycling in the States back then was different, many of the riders came from wealthy backgrounds, their folks had money; in the UK and Europe it was still predominantly a working class sport.”
On the subject of the USA, you had a hand in getting British Time Trial Champion, Alex Dowsett his ride with the Livestrong development team in the US?
“Alex rode for an amateur club which was sponsored by a friend of mine, the chap called me and said that he had two really good young lads in the club and could I help move them up to the next level?
“I contacted Lance Armstrong and he put me in touch with Axel Merckx. He was nice, we had a bit of banter about me racing against his dad and he said to send him CV’s for the riders.
“They accepted Alex, he rode with Livestrong then went on to Sky, Movistar, Katusha and now he’s with Israel Start-Up Nation.
“I followed him in a mid-week 10 mile time trial once, he doesn’t half go!”
But I believe your coaching isn’t just restricted to cycling?
“No, probably my most interesting piece of work was helping a lady who wanted to be a stunt woman for the movies but was having difficulty with her lung capacity for underwater swimming.
“I swim myself most days; not right now of course with all the pools being shut but I’m going to get a wetsuit and get into doing some open water swimming.”
Are you still on the bike?
“Yes, but I only do an hour a day when I can, like many endurance athletes I’ve had heart problems – the left ventricle is stretched so I have to be careful.
“Johan De Muynck, who’s the last Belgian rider to win a Grand Tour, the Giro back in 1978, lives in Spain and he’ll ring me up and say; ‘come down with your bike Bob and we’ll go out and do 200 kilometres together.’
“I have to tell him to ‘steady on, Johan!’”
Do you still follow the international cycling scene?
“Yes, I was really disappointed that Milan-Sanremo was cancelled, one of my favourite races.
“But I heard some Belgian guy say that it should just have gone ahead because cyclists are like cockroaches, they’ll survive the nuclear holocaust because they’re so tough.”
What do you do now – and tell us about the picture of you with Yasser Arafat?
“I work in international finance and that photo was taken when I was in Palestine.
“I was sent there from Israel as part of a project I was working on.”
An interesting life then, Bob?
“For a fat, sick little boy who wandered into Condor Cycles in London at 12 years-of-age and gawped at the posters of Louison Bobet and Fausto Coppi on the wall and decided I wanted to be like that, I’ve done not too bad.
“I rode for the best team in the world at the time and raced against Eddy Merckx, the best rider ever, so I did OK.”