Weekend Reading: Bob Roll, Mount Diablo, and the Giro d’Italia

Growing up in south Florida in the 1960’s and 70’s California always seemed a world away, and going out there for races was always an experience. But by the mid-1980’s I was spending more time in California, especially in the East Bay area, and that’s where I met Bob Roll.


In 1985 I was racing for 7-Eleven and early in the year we were in the US training for the Tour of Italy. To get ready for the long and difficult climbs in the Giro, I was spending a lot of time on Mount Diablo – one of the summit finishes used last year and this year in the Amgen Tour of California.

Bob Roll was also out in Northern California during that period and we trained together at times. He was being coached by Mike Neel, the director sportif for 7-Eleven, but at the time he was riding for Mug Root Beer. Bob was a great guy to train with because he always had fun. Then – as now – there were riders who took everything too seriously, but Bob realized that working hard on the bike didn’t mean it had to be drudgery.

One day I remember going out to train on Mount Diablo with Bob, and we were both hammering the ascent and pushing each other pretty hard. The finale of Diablo is exceedingly steep, especially considering you’ve already climbed about 10 miles and gone up more than 3000 feet. The final few hundred meters rise up into a steep ramp at 17%, and I remember that it was there that Bob came around me and accelerated! I really had to dig deep to get back to his wheel, and it was then that I realized this guy was the real deal.


  • USA Pro Challenge Race Experience: Ride every stage, share meals with the pros, and experience a professional stage race from the inside! Discover the 2014 USAPCC Route!
  • Article: Giro d’Italia Stage 1 Analysis, by Jim Rutberg – Get the story behind the results from Stage 1 of the Giro d’Italia!
  • Article: 11 Best Gran Fondos in America, by Cristina Goyannes – Men’s Journal asked CTS Coaches to help find the top 11 Gran Fondos in the US!
  • Climbing Camps: May 14-17 in Brevard, NC. June 4-7 in Colorado Springs. Or June 11-14 in Santa Ynez. Learn how to climb faster, train with power, and descend with confidence.
  • Epic Mountain Bike Camp: Come to Breckenridge, Colorado from June 18-21 for this instructional high-altitude mountain bike training camp. You’ll ride some of the top trails in the Rocky Mountains with our best mountain bike coaches!
  • Hors Categorie Climbing Camp: Climb both paved 14’ers (Pikes Peak and Mt. Evans) in Colorado and ride some of the most iconic mountain rides in Colorado. July 21-26
  • High-Altitude Ultrarunning Camp with Dakota Jones: Join Coach Jason Koop and ultra running star Dakota Jones for this incredible training experience in the mountains near Colorado Springs, CO. Just $499 for this incredibly-valuable experience, July 24-27.


When I got back from that ride, I called Davis Phinney and Ron Kiefel, two of my 7-Eleven teammates, and told them we needed Bob Roll for the 1985 Giro d’Italia. Thankfully the powers that be at 7-Eleven also knew about Bob and brought him into the team for the season – including the 1985 Giro d’Italia.

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Last year’s Amgen Tour of California Race Experience was the first time I’d climbed the entire length of Mount Diablo in a long time, and starting up the final ramp I immediately thought of that day so long ago with Bob Roll. I don’t get to ride with Bob much anymore, but I know he’s still lean and strong on the bike. I wonder how we’d do together on Mount Diablo next week, but unfortunately we won’t be able to find out because Bob will be in the commentary box as Team CTS is out on the roads riding every stage.

I’m really looking forward to our fourth Amgen Tour of California Race Experience, and our third trip to the USA Pro Challenge Race Experience later in the summer. When you spend a week riding long and challenging courses and sharing all your meals together, you come together as a team and build friendships that last a long time. I’m very glad for the opportunity to work with the organizers of both these great races and create life-changing experiences for people who are passionate about cycling. Stay tuned to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates from the road, and then Apply to be Bucket List Qualified so you can join Team CTS for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Race Experience, August 18-24!

Have a Great Weekend
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

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Comments 5

  1. As a local who climbs Diablo often, and often hear of the story of Bob’s win, I have been searching around for results/details of the stage. Was it up South Gate, and is Bob’s time recorded somewhere?! Thanks!

    1. Stu, Bob won the Hill climb up the north side in 1983 with a time of 45 minutes. The following day there was a a Crit in downtown Walnut Creek, can’t remember who won that. Interesting note about the Crit, it was dubbed Devil take the hindmost. Each lap, the last rider across the line was pulled out of the race

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  3. I really enjoyed the photo! And the bit of history. I’m 62 now. I got my first road bike in 1969 and have never stopped riding. I’ve had a very successful racing career, but the women’s races didn’t count for much and still don’t, really, and I haven’t been racing at all the past few years. I lived in Colorado long, long ago and knew Ron Kiefel and Damon Phinney, Davis’s dad. Still in touch with L. Zinn, occasionally see him at xc ski races for old farts. I only race track now, if at all. No hills! Although I used to excel on hills when I was a thin young person. Would have loved Mt Diablo in those days, was known for accelerating over the top.

    Thanks for the memories!!

  4. Sorry I missed your talk at the Tour de Cure champions’ dinner in Las Vegas last week. The others i spoke to,said it was very inspiring.
    We rode together years ago when you came to Santa Barbara to ride with the volunteers for our local MS ride, and i sat next to you at lunch, and really enjoyed talking to you.
    Keep up your good works,
    Bob Zimels, Santa Barbara

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