"I left home at 15, on a bicycle," says writer Bjarne (pronounced Barney) Rostaing. He left a note on the occasion of his departure saying he'd be back "at the end of the summer, probably." And he did return, but not until he'd traveled all over New England, ending up in Martha's Vineyard. Still, the real conclusion of that summer's odyssey may be his piece on cyclist Jacques Boyer that begins on page 34.
Born in Lincoln, N.Y., Rostaing grew up in various places in Connecticut, where he attended what he recalls as an even dozen schools. "I got my B.A. and master's in English from the University of Connecticut," he says. "Then I did part of a Ph.D. at the University of Washington before going into the Army Intelligence Corps in 1959. We had Paul Rothchild, who later became producer for The Doors and Janis Joplin, to give you some idea what the unit was like."
After the Army, Rostaing took two jobs in publishing, first with Houghton Mifflin and then with Harcourt, Brace and World, but found them unpalatable. "So I quit and put in some time as an overage hippie," he says. Actually Rostaing, who had made a few bucks in school playing the saxophone, spent a number of years trying to be a serious sax player. "I played around Hartford, Connecticut—the Subway Grand Lounge in Hartford is still my favorite club—and in minor clubs in Greenwich Village. I was living next to Pharoah Sanders in New York, and John Coltrane used to rehearse with him. I realized from listening to them that I was never going to play in their league, no matter how hard I tried. Next I had a recording studio, which I sold in '71 or '72."
At about that time Rostaing rediscovered the bicycle. "I became a member of the Dawn Patrol in Central Park, which consists of all the people who go out to train at five in the morning," he says. "I raced in a few time trials—nothing serious."
In 1975 Rostaing and his wife, Anne, left Manhattan for Vermont. "I ran a bike shop for a couple of years, one of a chain of two," he says, "and I coached a team of riders who had never raced before. They won some fairly important races. I was racing, too, without distinction—there are hills in Vermont."
Rostaing was covering races for various cycling publications when he met Oliver Martin Jr., the U.S. Olympic road coach, at the 1976 Trials. "Martin turned me on to international cycling—a whole new level," Rostaing says.
In 1978, having resettled in Manhattan, Rostaing went to Italy as press attachè for the first U.S. cycling team in many years to compete in Europe. "I learned a lot about bike racing in those two months," he says. "When I was riding, I really didn't understand about racing. I didn't know how mental the whole thing was, or how complicated."
He knows now and thus is qualified to convey what Boyer is up against for the next 3½ weeks in the Tour de France, and the qualities, unparalleled in an American cyclist, that he brings to the challenge.
ROSTAING, ONCE OF THE DAWN PATROL