I am seriously thrilled to be able to share a great interview with you that I had with the one and only Bob Roll and his snarky business partner (BK, QBK, CBK... you'll see below) Jessi Pacetti. These two are an hilarious pair and it was really an honor to get to spend a little time geeking out with them.
As I stated before, Bob Roll is somebody I've had an immense amout of respect for. Bob is probably most famous now for his commentating during the "Tour day France" on OLN. Bob was also one of the pioneering professional riders on the historic 7-11 team of the 80'-90's. As such, he's something of a hero of mine. Getting to ask him a few questions was a treat that I just can't believe I was lucky enough to fall into. Bob has recently launched his own website, complete with a blog (Blogke), to help him with his own celebrity and to stay in touch with his ever increasing legion of fans and weirdo stalkers (I prolly fit the latter category).
Before I go any further, I have to extend an enormous thanks of serious gratitude to my good friend Donna Tocci. Donna is the one who facilitated the conversation and is also responsible for the "other" Bob Roll interview that I have shared recently. Donna, my friend, I can not thank you enough- YOU ROCK!
Now, without any further babbling from me;
Bob, I was very sad to read of your father's passing and want to extend my condolences to you and your family. Was your father a cyclist or fan of cycling, outside of your accomplishments?
Thank you. My dad was more of an intellectual than an athlete. He was a big fan of my life as a cyclist, but not cycling in general.
Did you grow up in a cycling hotbed, or were you one of those weird social misfits like many other people in this country when you were getting your start? I grew up in Alabama, where cycling pretty much put you on the fringe of the social scene.
The Bay Area continues to be a cycling hotbed in the US. It is still a great place to ride. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to be a cyclist there.
Was your sense of humor always a highlight of your personality or has it "developed" as you've been growing in your celebrity status?
I’ve always had a lot of fun with teammates, sponsors and fans. My teammates always knew I was hilarious and now the whole cycling world has been exposed to that through OLN for better or worse. (Laughs)
Everything I've ever heard or read about you seems to indicate that you are a very humble and down to earth person. How is it that you've done such a great job of not taking yourself too seriously and not getting caught up in "being a celebrity"?
Humility? Yes. I am thankful for everything that has happened to me because of cycling. I have been able to express myself and enjoy the most beautiful sport in the world. Commenting on this is kind of an oxymoron isn’t it?
Now to get a bit more bike nerd-ish, which comes oh-so-easily to me.
Which race did you enjoy riding more; Le Tour or the Giro? (I do believe you rode both, but could be wrong and if so, which race do you prefer as a spectator?)
I much preferred riding the Giro, hands down. The food is better, the people are nicer and the racing is much more enjoyable. The courses are both challenging but the level of humanity extended to the racers is much more forthcoming at the Giro.
Andy Hampsten is another of my cycling heroes. What was it like riding with him? He seems like another "good guy". What was it like being on the first American team to win a European Grand Tour?
Riding with Andy was an honor and always rewarding to work for Andy because he usually came up with the goods. He is a good guy. It was really exciting to compete in the Tour and win a Grand Tour. It’s been a really satisfying point of my career. Taking into consideration that the sport is so much more popular now than it was then – at least in the states.
Davis Phinney is another of the people I have had great respect for. Have you been involved with his Parkinson's fundraising efforts?
Yes. I’ve volunteered many times in his fundraising events. It’s always a pleasure being able to help out with such a worthy cause.
A lot of the guys from that 7-11 team are demi-gods in US cycling. Do you still keep in touch with any of them?
Just about every one. I see all the guys on a pretty regular basis. We are brothers in arms and will always be connected because of our racing.
You are famously linked to Lance Armstrong and have been very close to him over the years. Now that his celebrity star is white hot, do you still speak with him or spend time with him?
I try not to hassle Lance because his time is so stretched with his commitments. We get to speak periodically and I see him throughout the year and it’s always a good time.
When you were racing, who were the guys that you respected? Were there any riders who "scared" you or made you think "ohmygod I'm riding next to _____"?
Greg LeMond comes to mind immediately. I used to want to punch him and say “Greg! You’re the man!” Francesco Moser, Sean Kelly, Raul Alcala and Sean Yates were all pretty high on my list back then.
It seems to the outside geek like me, that you gained respect with the Euro-pro riders fairly quickly and gained something of a reputation as a "hard man", especially in the harder one day races. Did you feel that then? Was that something that you ever noticed at all, or was it just what those of us back home felt for you?
I tried not to get pushed around and perhaps being larger helped cement that reputation. I only got into a few fist fights but they were all really fun. Nobody seemed to begrudge me for my place in the peleton, so maybe there was something to it.
What was your best day ever racing?
Wow. Whew. Golly. Man o man. My best day ever – that’s a hard one. Golly. Awww. Probably the 1986 Paris-Roubaix when I was the only finisher from the team and the expectation was that none of us would finish. (laughs) It was very satisfying to be in the mix with the big boys when nobody thought it was possible.
What was your best day ever just riding for fun?
Probably the day John Tomac and I did a 12 hour epic in the Rocky Mountains on the mountain bikes.
Random bike nerd stuff…
Bob- You and I have a common friend/ acquaintance in Chris DiStefano (formerly the mouthpiece for Shimano and now the mouthpiece for King Cycle Group). Chris claims you still owe him $20.00- is this true? Also, he specifically wanted me to ask you if you thought you could beat him in a fist fight- yes or no?
I do owe Chris $20 because he bet me that the capitol of Montana was Helena and I thought it was Missoula. It was confirmed by my daughter, Ruby, that EVERYONE knows that Helena is the capitol of Montana. As far as fist fighting, I’m a lover not a fighter. (Are you happy now, CD?- Masiguy)
Jessi- Why BK or CBK/QBK? What gives?
BK stands for Bitch Kittie. Bob coined me Chief Bitch Kittie of BobkeInk and commonly refers to me as QBK – Queen Bitch Kittie. Obviously he is a very smart man. A girlfriend of mine coined that phrase. It’s for a girl who’s got the attitude and uses it appropriately. People don’t mess with her. Appropriately fitting, don’t you think, Tim? (Do I have to answer this? Masiguy) It came up in conversation with Bob once in the beginning and he just went with it. You know you’re in trouble when the phrase “Want me to let the kittie outta the bag?” comes into play.
Both- How did you two end up working together? Who hired who? Judging by personalities, it could be open for debate…
B: That’s a good observation. We were both unsatisfied with our working conditions and figured that we could make it better by working together.
J: Uh, that and a few cocktails. It works pretty well. He’s the boss and I’m in charge. I guess we didn’t answer that question. The interview on www.missingsaddle.com covers this pretty well.
Bob- What was with the sideburns/ ham chops? You know which ones I'm talking about too, so don't play coy… did the network "make" you shave them off?
The network did not make me shave them off. I actually was in my best friend Ivan’s wedding and shaved for that. However, in the meantime the network has said I am not allowed to grow them back.
Bob- Jessi says lots of things that I am sure border on "questionable", but she says that you are a fan of old Masi bikes. A) Is this true? 2) What is the favorite bike you ever owned/ rode and what is your current favorite?
Absolutely. Love the old Masis. No question about that. I love the California Masis too.
Oh man, my favorite bike to ride was the Eddie Merckx Motorola team bike. My current favorite is the Trek LiveStrong bike I have hanging in my house.
Jessi- As a non-lifetime bike nerd, what do you think of suddenly being thrust into a world full of bike nerds? What does your husband, the bike nerd, think of your employer? Good, bad, indifferent?
I have really been welcomed into the bike world by a great group of people. (Thanks Donna!) I have met people from all over the country and seen places I’d never been, so that is really cool. I came from the construction business and the bartending life, so this is good. It’s all a little more laid back and a hell of a lot more fun. My husband is VERY supportive of what I do and is great with the kids when I travel. He is proud of how far Bob and I have taken this and really likes what he sees down the road for us. It’s amazing to me that I have a job that I love so much I sometimes feel guilty calling it a job.
Both- What do you think of blogging? I notice you have a blog on the Bobke site, but you are obviously busy enough that regular posting is kind of hard to do. Do you feel a need to blog, a desire to blog or is it just a feature of the site? Would you ever begin to call yourself a blogger?
B: I would be a “Blobber” not a blogger, but you never know. The future is so bright, we should all be wearing shades.
J: That was lame, Bob. Blogging is good. I rather like commenting on what other people are saying and seeing so many schools of thought on one topic in one space. We are discussing some changes in our website and the Blog-ke will then be easier than ever for me, so I think I will enjoy it more.
Bob- Does Eddy Merckx scare you? Does standing next to him make you feel totally unworthy, like it does to me? (I stood in line in Vegas for his autograph, again, last year and after getting his autograph 5 or 6 times over the years, I still felt like kissing his shoes or something.)
Not really. He’s a great guy. I did marvel over the fact that he knows who I am.
Bob- Best thing to ever happen to the sport of cycling? Worst thing?
The best thing was Lance Armstrong winning the Tour after winning his battle with cancer. The worst would have to be the Festina Doping Scandal of 98.
Both- Why do you think that Masi Bicycles are the best bikes in the entire world? Be honest, you're among friends here…
Jessi: Send us a size 60 and a 54 and we’ll get right on that. (Thanks Tim, you are the greatest bike nerd ever!)
Thanks again to both Bob and Jessi. I am still shocked that my incessant begging paid off finally (unlike when I was a teenager...). Rumor has it that Las Vegas and Interbike will be the next meeting place... face to face. Look out for a potential podcast interview; beer-fueled of course.