By Glenn Stilwell
We ride for miles and miles and miles. But cycling's behind the scenes groups
are relatively small in number. For one man, he has seen all there is to offer,
from the local criterium to the races of major stature. He sits above the
concentrated gaze of fans lining cobbled streets to peer himself at the
horizon, in hopes that he’ll be able to spot the leader first. And then hopefully
pronounce the rider's name correctly. He is a cycle racing public address
announcer, and his life is filled with cycling from dawn to dusk, and even more
when the race is happening.
That man is Dave Towle. Dave Towle has been interested in bikes, like a lot of
us, since an early age. He was a 13 year old when he saw his first bike race and
he’s been at more events than he’d care to remember, now that he’s in his
mid-30’s. During his career so far he has gone from that wide-eyed kid to being
a wrench at the local shop, to announcing some of this country's greatest
The Daily Peloton had a chance to sit down with Dave during one of his many
Daily Peloton: When did you announce your first race?
Dave: I was really lucky, and because of who I know, through working at
the races for years, Len Pettyjohn had me do the Saturn Cycling Classic last
year. Before that I was the announcer for the Saturn Cyberbike program. So in
essence my first announcing job was for fake races on exercise bikes hooked to
computers with common fans listening to me make stuff up about them.
DP: How do you remember the names of so many riders?
Dave: I spend about 2 hours a day reading about the sport. I've been to
the top mountain and road races in North America for the last 5 years, and just
being there, in person, really helps a lot. It's kinda like the way you'd
recognize the people you went to high school with.
DP: Do you try to get to know all the riders, their habits, their assets
and their weaknesses?
Dave: For sure, as that's such a huge part of the story. I really love it
when you know two guys in a break have a history, whether it's good or bad!
DP: How do you decide what to say?
Dave: I really just go with my gut. I always laugh at myself, because
when I have a "block", I just default to reading tag lines from sponsors. I
actually lose myself in that, and while I'm doing it, I try to look for
something significant in the race. I really try to find a positive spin, and
that kinda makes it easy, as there are always a lot of feel-good things to say -
our sport is the most beautiful in the world, after all!
DP: What have been your best and worst moments of announcing?
Dave: The best moment was actually at the
Saturn Cycling Classic. Chris Wherry's dad had died that week, and he was having
a day that most riders could only dream of, riding truly with the strength of
two. Because he lives here in Boulder, and I'm actually writing to you on a
computer I bought from him (that Henk Vogels spilled coffee all over), I knew
the story, but didn't know how far to go with it. Every time I mentioned he was
in the break, or anything about him, for that matter, a huge cheer would go up
from a group of about 10 people. I mean they would freakin' explode. So, I kinda
guessed they knew him.
After it became clear to me, listening to the race
radio, that Chris was going to be a huge part of that day’s story, whether he
won or lost, I decided to go over and say "hi", and see what was up. It turned
out that the core part of that group was the Wherry family, his older brother,
younger sister, and mom. They were so appreciative of the nice things they were
hearing that they hugged me, and made me feel as happy, and as sad, as you could
be. It was an amazing feeling, really. So, I'm sure you all know Chris went on
to win, and I'll never forget looking out at about 5,000 people, and just about
everyone was crying, they really were. It was so beautiful that the right man
won on that day.
My worst day is easy; I thought Vogels was going to
kill me when I incorrectly announced that he had lost to Meza in a sprint during
the Tour de Georgia. Unfortunately I was listening to something I shouldn't
have, and when the photo finish was being looked at, someone told me that Meza
won, there was a lot going on, as they’d started the award ceremonies for the
jerseys they were sure of... I cut in, "Mike, big news.... Meza wins", and Henk
looked at me...I never want to feel that way again, Henk knew he’d won.
DP: You wrenched for some pro riders?
Dave: Bob Roll, for one, when he was a mountain biker, ya know! And I’ve
been in a dream car with Mike Neel.
DP: Do you still help out any friends or family fix their bikes?
Dave: You bet! I don't mind, actually, but I limit the commitment and
scope of projects now. I'd do anything in the world for my family, which is
really a mom, dad and sister, so it's not too tough!
DP: You live in Boulder, Colorado. What makes that such a great place for
cyclists to live?
Dave: Boulder is a town that, for some people, is just the only place you
can live, for whatever reason. The real answer to that question seems to have a
couple different roots. The old adage "birds of a feather flock together" comes
to mind. You also have a great climate, and intelligent altitude, not too high
or low, really great options for riding seems to be the icing on the cake. The
mountain biking here sucks, which is hard for people to believe, but if I want
to do a real, single track filled ride, you need a car, you really do. I think
that's why IMBA is here, because there are plenty of trails, and awesome rides
right out my front door, but they are all illegal.
DP: Do you ride with the Boulder pros?
Dave: I'll go out, do about 90 minutes on their easy days, but I bet the
guys who let me tag along don't want their names mentioned. Clark Sheehan is my
closest neighbor, and he'll take anyone out, he's such a nice guy! Chuck Coyle
is another pro here who has time for a guy like me, and it's really special to
ride with them.
DP: What’s it really like inside the pro peloton?
Dave: It's a bunch of surprising, cool guys, actually. They all
really get along for the most part, and in America, you'd be surprised how
intelligent these guys are. Alex Candelario and I have had some really
meaningful talks, they do care about the support people, and appreciate things
that are done for them, and that's nice, as living your dream is not always
easy. Kim Bruckner and Chris Baldwin come to mind, as people who really care
about those around them, Michael and Dede too!
DP: We can be fairly sure to the answer of this question - what would be
your dream announcing job?
Dave: I'm going to school, this fall, taking French. I know it'll never
happen, but a guy can dream, right?
Why yes. Yes he can…
Thanks to Dave Towle for his time, we’d like to invite people to hear Dave on
his new radio program, "The Winners Circle," broadcast from Boulder,
Colorado. He’ll be talking to all those racers and special people he comes in
contact with, and he’ll be bringing those interviews to the listeners of
AdventureSports Radio every
Wednesday at 9am Pacific Time (12pm Eastern Time).
The Winners Circle debuts tomorrow, Wednesday 6 August, with a
terrific first show.