10 More Things With Bob Gregorio, Mechanic Extraordinaire
In part two of our chat with Bob Gregorio, we talked about his first Tour de France, touring through Central America, and his advice for achieving your dreams.
Missed Part 1? Check out how Bob became an early innovator in mountain biking or what they referred to it as in the 70s, "ballooning". In the first part of his "Things With" interview, Bob explains how he went from turning heads on the bike to turning wrenches for the legendary 7-Eleven team.
My first Tour de France was an incredible experience. It was 1990, Greg LeMond’s last victory. There’s this big circus around it and obviously it was a big goal for me, but by about the third stage, it was the same old grind. I don’t mean to belittle it in any way, but it’s not glamorous for a mechanic! You have to get up at 5.30 am, feed yourself, wash your underwear in the sink, bust tail doing transfers and then after the stage, you really go to work. No breaks. That’s the life of professional staff on the road.
I have pictures of myself with our rider Steve Bauer in the yellow jersey. He was in a really strong breakaway on one of the early stages and they went all the way. The icing on the cake was that I was in car two, so we followed the break and I got to witness my team take the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. It’s just one of my many incredible memories in cycling.
I was reunited with John Tomac in the early part of 1990. He didn’t make the Tour team, but we were both on the smaller races that led up to it. After the 7-Eleven experience, Johnny told me that he’d been overwhelmed by the scene in Europe and especially the unmentioned part of it that was so evident in 1990. It wasn’t publicly taboo like it is now. John never used it as an excuse for not winning Paris-Roubaix, but it was obvious to me. I was shocked to see someone who had decimated the competition so many times over, only for his ability to drop like a rock in Europe.
I was one of the first mechanics hired on the pro mountain bike scene. After being shelled on the road, John Tomac returned to mountain biking once it was recognized by the UCI, and he invited me to come with him. It had been an independent sport so there wasn’t a lot of money until the UCI took notice and the Olympics were on the radar. That’s when sponsors got interested and John was the top rider in the world.
I took a few years out before joining up with Kelly Benefit Strategies. I’d taken some time to re-evaluate after raising children – divorce was part of the story – but I decided I wanted back in the game in 2007. A friend of mine from Durango, Dan Bowman, worked with the team and he told me they were short a Spanish-speaking mechanic for the Tour of Chihuahua. He put me in touch with Jonas Carney and I was in, with a one-race deal.
I rode my bicycle from Durango to Costa Rica after the Tour of Chihuahua. I’d left the team on great terms, but I needed to hit the reset button and do something just for me. Touring through Central America had been a dream of mine for much of my life, to pack up my bicycle and just go, just keep riding. I wound up living in Costa Rica for two years.
Bob spent most nights camping along the roadside but on a few occasions, locals welcomed him into their homes.
I got back in with the team in the spring of 2009. I loved living in Costa Rica and travel proved not to be any more expensive, so I based myself there until the race schedule demanded more and more of my time. I moved back to the States in 2010 and worked for the team full time until 2018. In 2019 I transitioned into my current role which we call the ‘VIP mechanic’.
I'm essentially operating our charity cycling program. I manage the bike part of it while the front office organizes the events. I show up with a fleet of bikes and get to continue being a pied piper of sorts, sharing my passion. I’m too old to be jumping out of a car and switching a bike for Gavin Mannion in the mountains, but the pace that I’m able to keep with our charity events is just right. I hope that I can continue to do this and continue to raise money for good causes like the United Healthcare Children’s Foundation.
I was attracted to Rally Cycling by the high standards and ethics of the team. I feel so blessed to have connected with Charles and Jonas, Jake Erker, and another fantastic member of our family, Sam Wiebe. This core group has been together since 2006. After working with Johnny T, it would have been hard for me to take a step down and work for a crappy team. But that has not been the case at all.
The only way to reach your dream is to start moving in that direction. Someone asked Eddy Merckx what his training secret was, and he said, “ride hard and ride a lot”. It’s the same with anything. But I would say you should do it anonymously. That is, don’t draw attention to yourself or try to show off how hard you’re working, just get it done. Do it because you want to do it, knowing you’re motivated to get somewhere. Little steps at a time until you’re there. Luck is certainly a part of it, but I think you make your own luck.
You can visit the full collection of "Things With" interviews here.
READ THE ORIGINAL STORY ON RALLY CYCLING NEWS