Tour de Louisiana, March 25-26, 1972
By Jim McFadden
The first annual Tour de Louisiana more than lived up to expectations as it blossomed into the most exciting bicycle race yet held in the Deep South. 57 riders competed for more than $1,000 in prizes; some bikies came as far as California, Ohio, Texas, and Maryland to compete in the Tour. The largest contingent of riders was from Ohio, which had 12 riders represented; Texas fielded a group of ten. The sponsors of the race -- Raleigh Industries, Gus Betat's Bike Shop, Marcel's Bike Shop, University Bike Shop, Joe's Bike Shop, Lightweight Cycles -- and the promoters -- New Orleans Bicycle Club (Inc.), and the J.C.'s of Donaldsonville are to be congratulated for conducting an outstanding event.
Stage 1: 4.2 mi. Time Trial
The first stage began in the early hours with dark clouds hanging menacingly in the skies. The assembly area at Shelter #1 was bustling with frantic activity as bikies scurried to receive their numbers, assemble their machines, and to test the course. Never before have so many good riders assembled in Louisiana, and it was indeed exciting just milling around the riders and inspecting their meticulously maintained bicycles. The colorful jerseys contrasted beautifully with the mahogany tanned limbs of the fit athletes.
As expected Olympian John Howard won the 4.2 mi. TT with a blistering time of 9 min. 39 sec. beating his nearest competitor by fifteen seconds. John was nearly the last man off, and he did his time under very windy conditions.
Stage 2: 85 mi. Road Race in Covington
By the time this stage commenced, the skies were cleared. One did not appreciate the size of the field until the event started. With nearly 60 riders in the field, the pack stretched 50 yards from end to end.
The first 40 miles were done at a promenade pace with riders content to sit in. In Europe riders will start attacking from the gun and a moderate speed will be 23 m.p.h. during lulls. The first 40 miles were finished in a little better than two hours which was very slow. On the last set of hills leaving Bougalusa local rider Jim McFadden initiated an attack with Don Bir of Ohio. A gap immediately opened between them and the peleton (pack of riders). Howard then blasted from the pack towing ten riders behind him. For the next 45 miles this breakaway group of 12 riders pounded unmercifully. The speed never dropped below 25 m.p.h., and on the flat stretches the pace approached 30 m.p.h. In the first 3 miles of the break, 3 minutes were gained on the rest of the pack. With 25 miles to go the lead group had shrunk to seven riders which contained Howard and his teammate from California, Bill Guazzo, the two Ohioans - Bill Shook and Bir, Bobby Phillips from Maryland, Jim Montgomery from Alabama, and Jim McFadden from New Orleans. Philips is a former national 10-mile track champion with a blinding sprint. Howard and Guazzo were fully aware of the latter's talent, and repeatedly attacked in order to drop the sprinter. This had to be the hardest part of the race. After having ridden 70 miles, one had to respond to the vigorous attacks of the Army duo. With approximately 13 miles left, Shook, McFadden, and Guazzo created a 50 yard gap between the other four, and tried to increase their lead. Howard paused momentarily, darted to the outside, and charged to catch the leaders. At that moment, I just happened to look back when I saw him surging toward us. He looked like a hairless King Kong. I shouted, "Here comes Howard; Hold on to your handlebars!" John not only caught but proceeded to pass the trio.
With five miles left, Philips and McFadden finally got burned off. A few miles later Howard and Guazzo disengaged from the two riders from Ohio and Montgomery. In a sprint that the following car estimated at 40 m.p.h. John beat his teammate to the line by 10 yards.
Stage 3: 50 mi. Criterium at Donaldsonville
The word "criterium" is derivative of a Latin word meaning "to judge." The word is aptly chosen as the kind of event demands expert bike-handling ability as the riders negotiate tight corners at breakneck speeds. The 0.9 mile course was treacherous and bumpy. The five 90-degree turns were gutted, hence making it difficult to find a smooth like going through.
After 10 miles Bill Shook and Bill Guazzo jammed out of a corner, and immediately had a 15 second lead which slowly increased to 30 seconds. The pack worked hard to bring them in, but the flying duo were working well together, and managed to gain a few seconds each lap. Bobby Philips jumped form the pack, and tried to bridge the gap on his own. When Guazzo suffered the first of his two punctures, Philips caught Shook, and the latter were joined by Montgomery. At this time Howard made his move, realizing that his race lead was being seriously threatened. On one corner John flew through, but hit a chuck hole. His bike slid out from underneath him, and he hit the ground very hard on his knee. He sprung up immediately, but looked dazed. Seeing the blue-jerseyed race leader on the deck, the pack responded viciously and sped away. John admitted later that he was hurt so bad he felt like retiring. Barret Leibe, watching from the sidelines gave Howard his bicycle. At this moment Howard was one minute and a half down on the breakaway group.
What followed can only be described as courageous. With blood streaking down his legs, Howard agonizingly retrieved precious seconds on each lap. With 25 mi. to go, he passed the pack as if they were crawling. Every time he passed the reviewing stand the announcer would tell him how far down he was on the leaders. With less than 10 mi. to go he caught Shook, Phillips and Montgomery who were riding flat our themselves. Philips and Montgomery got dropped, and so it was Shook and Howard to contest the sprint. John was simply exhausted from his solo effort and could not muster anything extra as Shook led out the sprint and pipped Howard by a bike length. The 50 mi. were completed in a time of 2 hrs. 3 mins.; a shade under 25 m.p.h.
The Tour de Louisiana was far from flawless. The monitoring of corners during the road race was spotty and inadequate as many riders got lost. At Donaldsonville cars got on the course which created a serious safety hazard to the riders. But on the whole the race was well promoted and organized.
1. John Howard (Ca.)
1. Doug Haddock (La.)
1. Chris Todd (La.)
1. Ted Waterbury (Ohio)
1. Lloyd Hawkins (La.)