A look back: Eric Allen

This installment of our PV history series goes back to the early days of Pen Velo. The Pen Velo race team was initially sponsored by Talbot’s Cyclery, then it was known at Cycle Pro Cycling Team. It was the late 70’s, before the days of aero bikes, deep section wheels and electronic shifting, when jerseys were still made of wool and cycling shorts were always black. In those days, PV had a strong elite men’s cycling team. Quite possibly the most gifted rider to race for this squad was Eric Allen. He rode with PV (Talbot’s/Cycle Pro) from 1975-1979 as a junior and as an elite rider. Eric excelled in all types of races – criteriums, road races and time trials. He was a member of the USA national team both as a junior and as an elite rider. He was aiming for inclusion on the 1980 Olympic cycling team when he was tragically struck and killed by a truck in November of 1979 while cycling to work. He is best remembered in the words of his good friend and teammate Mark Cahn (click HERE).

Click HERE to read local media coverage of Eric.

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Mark Cahn

When I remember Eric Allen, I remember two Erics.  There was the tenacious, aggressive, take no prisoners bike racer that won Road Races, Crits, Time Trials,  and was on the Jr Worlds Team in ’75 and ‘76.  And then there was the easy going, fun, friendly, regular guy off the bike with no hint of ego.

I met Eric when I moved from New Jersey to Clayton in ’75. I was a Junior racer and the next couple of years I joined up with the regular 10 am summer training rides with Eric, Tim Parker, Brian Kelly,  Dyke Andreason, Mike Zuckerman and others. We did many epic training rides; none more so than our battles up and down Mt. Diablo.  Eric would typically win the climb to the junction of the North and South roads, and then fearlessly try to keep up with Tim Parker on the descent. I would back off on the descents, but not Eric. More than once I’d round a bend to find Eric picking himself up from the shoulder of the road, frustrated at not being able to hold Tim’s wheel, but unwilling to give in.

Eric kept his bikes in immaculate condition. I recall his Masi and his DeRosa were always spotless and his campy hubs and chrome fork shined with Semi-Chrome polish.  Eric  introduced me to Steve Aldridge, Ray Stafford, Tom Simpson,  and I joined the  Talbot’s / Pen Velo team in ’77. He encouraged me to race more aggressively, he  lent me his Campy 28 spoke wheels for the Nationals, drove me to races, and was an all-around good friend.  Back in the day, before HRM’s and Powermeters dictated training rides, between jams and sprints we’d spend hours on our bikes talking. We’d talk about regular things that teenage bike racers would talk about; bikes, europros, cars, girls. He’d tell me about his encounter with Eddy Merckx during the Jr. Worlds, or his experience at the Olympic Training Center, and he’d do his Eddy B imitation with a thick Polish accent.  Eric was there for the first of our Pen Velo SF to LA rides.

It was a shock getting the call from Eric’s Dad and hearing that Eric had been killed riding his bike. As bike racers and teenagers we thought we were invincible and the call certainly gave me a reality check.  When I think of an example of a great person and athlete, I think of Eric. I was fortunate to have a friend like Eric; I hope you have one too.