But the elder
Boyer made a thin living at it. His marriage ended amicably in 1961, and his
wife, Josie, left for California to join her parents in Carmel, with two very
independent boys and their sister, Eliza, nine.
Josie Swift Boyer,
originally from Pasadena, now lives in a quiet, casual corner house full of
books. In the house one finds a kind of summer-cottage ease, along with a
definite if unspoken sense of tradition and values. "There's nothing more
individualistic or determined than a prospector," says Josie Boyer of her
former husband. "I could see I was going to have to earn some money to
bring the children up."
The Swift in her
name came to her via the meat-packing family, but the Swift money did not, she
says—nor did it finance her son's career, as some believe. So Josie Boyer took
a degree in elementary education and began teaching school in nearby Monterey.
Boyer may be the Phil Mahre of bike racing, but his mother doesn't rush a
visitor to the trophy room. She's more concerned about the basics—Jacques'
recent marriage to Elizabeth Underwood, his general well-being, his future;
these are things that pro sports can tamper with, and she knows it. On the
other hand, she also knows her son is tough. He could always defend his
privacy, even as a child.
"I didn't know
what he was like, even though we had a close relationship," she says.
"He was always out there, active, but I don't have a clue as to what was
going on in his mind. I don't know why he became a bicycle racer, or as good a
bicycle racer as he is. Except that stamina runs in the family, both sides. But
why Jock wanted to be—had any concept of wanting to be—'first,' I don't know.
[Boyer was born Jonathan, "Jock" to friends and family; the years in
France have made him "Jacques" to millions of European fans, and that
is the name he uses today.] He didn't care to play competitive games, even at
"When he got
interested in something, he would stay with it. He told me that he had to stop
reading in the fourth grade because when he found the Tolkien books, he
couldn't stop. The teacher would catch him with The Hobbit inside his math
book. I think the thing that interested him most, before bicycles, was animals.
Jock always loved snakes especially, and knows a great deal about them, has no
fear of them. He thought of becoming a veterinarian before going to
It was brother
Winston who got Jock into cycling. "In grade school Jock wasn't any bigger
than anyone else, but he was sort of a tough guy," Winston says. "He'd
get into fights once in a while and beat somebody up. People would hire him for
their bodyguard. He was competitive. I think that was part of the two of us
together—he was always trying to do what I did." His mother adds,
"Whatever Jock did, he got away with: He'd come home after school with a
black eye and a bruised jaw, but there wasn't a word about it. Somehow he never
energy, "He would drive everybody crazy in the off-season, when he wasn't
supposed to ride for two months," Winston says. "He would be holding
down two jobs and you'd find him in front of the house at 3 a.m. polishing this
car he was going to sell. When he's riding, he's fine. It calms him
grandmother, Lila Swift, remembers that he was by turns impulsive and practical
as a young child. He would throw impressive tantrums, which he stopped
immediately when it became clear there was no point in continuing. She isn't
surprised that he is good at languages: "He was such a good mimic—he would
entertain us at the dinner table by imitating all his teachers. They were very
him," is the way Josie describes what happened when that energy and
temperament encountered the bicycle. She's still a little troubled by Boyer's
early, abrupt and complete removal from "normal" life. Whatever
experiences he would otherwise have had between 15 and 25 are gone—her
word—almost as if he had entered the military or the priesthood.
When Josie Boyer
lost her son to cycling, he fell first into the good hands of neighbor Sam
Hopkins. In racing circles, Hopkins is known as Heidi Hopkins' father, his
daughter being the No. 2 U.S. woman rider. Around Carmel the slight,
soft-spoken, white-haired Hopkins is considered a genuine cycliste sportif,
though he never raced seriously. Hopkins recalls that any ride with the Boyers
ended up fast. A lot of miles were put in with Hopkins—unstructured, low-stress
miles of the type Frank Shorter thinks may often be the most productive kind of
basic training for runners. By the time Jock was 15, he could do a pair of
pretty quick 100-mile rides back-to-back and feel no distress the next day.