SI Vault
Bob Ottum
September 14, 1964
The speed of bicycle racing is a blur, but the sound of it is a poetic, seductive thing to Jackie Simes III. Seasoned and scarred at 21, he is going after America's first Olympic cycling medal in 64 years
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September 14, 1964

Lure Of The Wild White Noise

The speed of bicycle racing is a blur, but the sound of it is a poetic, seductive thing to Jackie Simes III. Seasoned and scarred at 21, he is going after America's first Olympic cycling medal in 64 years

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Since that time Simes has spent so much time working on the technique of match racing he could do a thesis on it. He has it so pat that he has psyched every American rider of any consequence and a great many Europeans. Except Sercu. Simes does not throw hooks—American racing rules are tighter than in Europe, and anything that appears to be more than a momentary wobble is illegal. (In fact, under U.S. rules, the rider in the lead in the last 200 meters is not allowed to stray outside the sprinters' lane—a 32-inch strip on the inside of the track.) But he knows a hook when he sees one coming, and he has learned to control all the action in a race by diving for the inside lane from either front or back. In winning the national title this season he turned the 200 meters in 12 seconds flat, a creditable speed which matched Rossi's old U.S. record—but which disappointed him, because he holds the new record himself at a stunning 11.4 and has unofficially matched the world mark of 11.2.

Simes continued developing his technique in 1963 as a member of the Pan American team—losing in S�o Paulo but winning in a tour of the West Indies. At the world championship that year in Belgium, Simes made it through the first-round heats. Back home he reached the semifinals in the nationals only to lose to Rossi again.

This summer Simes raced in Trinidad and then took his scars and mended bones to Denmark for another try. In the Danish Grand Prix on July 4 he finished second behind Sercu, and for the first time the Danes hailed the sensational American sprinter as the best hope to beat the Italians in Tokyo. He beat Danish champion Niels Fredborg in Fredborg's own home town of Aarhus. And he trounced France's Michel Trentin, who twice has placed third in the world championships.

All this has toughened Jackie Simes III. He is a lean 150 pounds now: 50 pounds of body and 50 pounds centered in each ironlike thigh. But sprinters such as Simes do not grow as big-legged as some cyclists—particularly the distance riders—who are built along the lines of centaurs. "I suspect," Simes says, "that they arc stacked somewhere in their quarters like statues sculptured in a racing position. Then they are carried out to their bikes—fitted onto them—and after the race they are carried back, still in this muscular crouch, and stacked up again."

Simes now starts each day with a 25-mile warmup ride on the country roads around Closter, a quiet town of shade trees and vociferous crickets. In the winter he speed-skates, "because it uses all the same muscles as cycling," and all year round he gulps down huge quantities of vitamin B-12 "because it is supposed to steady your nerves." He is usually in bed by 10 or 11 o'clock, propped up on pillows, playing folk music on his banjo. Each Tuesday and Thursday in summer he is racing on the track in Flushing, and all of this does not leave much time for anything else. But occasionally Simes and his girl friend, Judy Johnson of nearby Haworth, really whoop it up by going to New York's Greenwich Village, sitting in coffeehouses and listening to folk music. They drive down in Jackie's desperately wrinkled, front-bumperless, banana-colored Porsche—which is about as much adventure as anyone can stand on an evening.

"The boy," Simes II said last week after all the triumph, "has lots of years ahead of him yet. If he doesn't win a medal this Olympics, he could do it in four more years when he certainly will be stronger. He could turn pro and make $50,000 to $60,000 a year racing. It's big in Canada, and they're trying to get it going again in this country. But I would rather see him get a good education and go into something else."

The something else he seeks is still far away; in the immediate years ahead there is going to be little else but bike racing for the Simes family. Last year Jackie took nighttime classes in psychology at nearby Fairleigh Dickinson University but now does not have even the time to spare for that much. At the family home, racing is all. There is a disassembled bike in the dining room, an assembled one in the front hall, two on the front porch. (Mom Simes rides one of them—ever so slowly—to the grocery store. It has a basket in front which will hold about $10 worth of supplies.) The house is decorated in old racing trophy.

"We Simeses go 'way back in this thing," said Grandfather Simes one day last week, sitting in the front porch swing. "We spring from Philadelphia, where my great-grandfather was John Weston Simes. My grandfather and my father were John Weston Simes. I am John Weston Simes, so is my son here and so is young Jackie—"

"There will be no more of that stuff," growled Jackie. "It will end with me."

"I was at the races yesterday watching ya, kid," said Grampa to Jackie.

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