Long before he was a celebrated T.V. commentator on the Versus Network, Bob Roll was a member of the 7-Eleven team. “Bobke” competed in the Tour de France and now as an exclusive columnist for Road Bike Action, he will be offering his own daily updates from France…at least he’s supposed to!
To kick-off Bobke’s TdF campaign, we chased him down in his hometown of Durango, Colorado the day before he boarded a plane for France.
RBA: What is your Tour de France history and what’s the one word you would use to describe the experience?
Bobke: I raced it four times from 1986 to 1990. One word? Horrifying.
RBA: What was your best team experience in the Tour?
Bobke: I would say it was the race in 1990 when we held the yellow jersey for ten days with Steve Bauer. Knowing that we would be going into each stage having to defend it was awesome feeling. I’d also have to say the first year that we competed was great because Alex Steida won all the jerseys after the first stage and then Davis Phinney won the stage the next day.
RBA: Is there a favorite personal moment?
Bobke: I think just finishing the first one was the highlight of my whole career. Only five guys on our team finished and I was the top guy in 53rd place. It was such a struggle to finish so it was very gratifying to ride into Paris. I was wiped out at the end ? totally devastated. We had to race to race the Coors Classic the next week so we were on a plane the Monday after the race. Before we left for the airport I rode my bike over to Nortre Dame to give thanks that I made it through.
RBA: After all you had known about the Tour, was there anything that surprised about it after you rode it the first time?
Bobke: I’d say the brutality of it all surprised me. The Tour is a notch above all the other races on the calendar.
RBA: Was there any particular stage that really caught your attention?
Bobke: Definitely the Tourmalet. That climb was the most mind boggling that I’ve ever done. Just when you think couldn’t climb any more you’d come around a corner and see a sign that reads 28k to the top! You’d think it’s a joke, but then you’d still be climbing on your bike an hour later.
RBA: It was just announced that Floyd Landis’ appeal was turned down. What are your thoughts on that?
Bobke: His people were right to abandon a corrupt world. To try and go back required courage, but in the end the corruption proved to be an obstacle they couldn’t overcome. My prediction for Floyd unfortunately is that he’ll never race in Europe again, but probably in America. Over here the desire for justice is still important and people hold on to it, but in Europe they gave up on it along time ago.
RBA: What about the French this year?
Bobke: You’ll have to go pretty deep into the results to find the first French finisher. Maybe Sylvain Chavanel might break the top 30.