June 08, 2016 – Jocelyn Bjorn Lovell was born in Norwich, England in 1950 and his family moved to Canada in 1954 where he started racing at age 13. Legendary Lovell took to cycling like a duck to water and is considered by many as Canada’s first cycling icon as he dominated road cycling in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Colourful and controversial, he touched many during his stellar career that was cut short by a fateful accident in 1983 and his recent passing ignited a rush of tributes and memories for Jocelyn, Jos, JL dubbed the “Muhammad Ali of Cycling”. Lovell passed away on June 3 the same day as the great boxer – read more about Lovell’s career here.
Jos, you were certainly an innovator with equipment, always ahead of everyone else. Your approach to training and attention to detail was one of the best. Thank you for paving the way for many us that followed you,
P.S. remember the time in Florida when we snuck away from the group and bought a 5 gallon of chocolate ice cream each. Then sat on the side of the road and ate it all, LOL. It was our little secret…
(first Canadian rider to win a World Championship)
Jocelyn Lovell put cycling in Canada on the map.
An exceptional human being and a kind soul; the contrary of what some who don’t know him believe.
The Muhammad Ali of cycling.
A very sensitive man who had to play tough guy to become a champion.
I raced against him a few times back in the day, and even as younger rider he gave me a hard time.
(Renowned bicycle manufacturer and former racer who built bikes for Jos)
The main issue was exposure for Canadian cycling in the 70’s. No one really knew about him but if a pro team had got a hold of a talent like that when he was young, well it would have been another story altogether for JL.
Joc had souplesse like no one I knew. He was truly “one with his bike”. When he pedalled it was like listening to poetry.
Joc was our team mechanic at the ’79 Junior Worlds and the attached albeit blurry picture tells it all. Joc, our ‘mechanic,’ encouraging me to pedal my heart out with a churning motion of his hands! He was simply an amazing human being.
(Stieda was the first North American to wear the Tour de France yellow jersey in 1988)
For now I leave you with this.
JL spent the last 7 months in ICU….which reverse is UCI
Tribute to Jocelyn Lovell
A hilarious mime, a prankster, a showman, a mentor, an inventor, a perfectionist, a fierce competitor, an outstanding athlete and a friend. Jos was all of these things. I am sure there will be much written about this force of nature. I will certainly spend the next days recalling so many special memories.
His list of cycling achievements are a testament to his inner drive and his amazing ability. Nonetheless, let me share a few memories and things that stand out for me.
The Athlete-Showman. It is 2 weeks before the Munich Olympics and we are training and racing in Copenhagen. It’s our last big meet before Munich. The stands are packed; it’s a warm, late summer evening and the lights are on. The is gambling; crowd has placed their bets. The feature race is a handicap. Jos is second to last. Scratch is a huge Danish policeman and reigning sprint champion. The two waste no time catching everyone end up side by side coming onto the home straight as they overtake the last of their handicaps. Pederson takes Jos all the way to the rail. Jos leans back into Pederson and in his incomparable, effortless style, throws is bike. A row of lights above the finish flood the white line . The chrome on their bike forks sparkle – JL’s wheel is clearly ahead! The crowd roared in shock and amazement.
The Prankster. It’s Amsterdam and we are training with the daily 1:30pm road group. There are often 75 riders. Cyclists range from top notch juniors to professionals who are adding to the morning 4-5 hrs already pedaled. The group is riding 2 abreast. We’re on a wide bike path with frequent sand drifts blowing across. We regularly overtake commuters and school kids. Jos spies a younger who seems enthusiast to stay with the pack. The boy can’t be more than 12, and we’re moving at close to 40kph. So Jos grabs ahold of the boy, and pushes him all the way to second position alongside the line. Then he gives the boy a good shove, sending him temporarily past the lead riders. They glance over, probably think this is a sign they are too slow, and pick up the pace. Jos repeats the push a few more times. The pace gets even faster. Finally the dour pros at the front look over their shoulder to see Jos in mid-push. Everyone chuckles.
The Mentor. There is not an athlete that came up during Jocelyn’s reign, that was not profoundly influenced by his professional approach to cycling. Jos never preached his knowledge, but somehow led us all by example. Whether it was equipment, diet, training or tactics – from an early age Jos had an innate understanding of the demands of cycling. He was also a keen observer, and questioned virtually everything others took for truths.
The Fierce Competitor. But for a very silly incident (The Cookie Caper), Jos was banned from the national team and missed the New Zealand Commonwealth Games. Understandably, he was furious about this, and the crazy thing was he was a sure bet to bring home several gold medals. So JL went to Holland and buried himself in the Dutch racing scene. There he rode everything from track, to criteriums to classics and stage races. He came back to Canada supremely fit. He entered and won almost every event at the National Champions, both road and track. And this was no easy task for a rider so gifted at track and field road sprints – as the Simon Fraser circuit was extremely hilly.
A Friend. The same year Jos went to Holland, I was at a cross-roads, wanting to move from track to road racing. So with a little CCA support (DND flights), I followed Jos to Holland. After a month with a local family, it wasn’t working out – so Jos invited me to stay in his apartment. What I time we had, riding with the groups every day, racing both road and track several times a week. And when not riding, we played cards, listened to The Rolling Stones, discovered David Bowie, sang along to Jos’ favourite country music; and we explored Amsterdam. All the while, I learned daily from Jos – all the fine details of how to become a better cyclist. Those lessons would be the foundation for my years as a professional.
In March of this year I visited Jocelyn. He was in hospital and bedridden. I came unannounced. Within minutes, it was as if the years all washed away. We talked for over two hours. About old times, about being in hospital, about life. As we sat – Toronto’s worst storm of the winter was gathering force outside. But I could not leave. Only when Jos was too exhausted to continue did depart. My heart was heavy, knowing it was likely the last time I would see my friend. I am so glad he made it home for a few days. As I said fortuitously to our once coach Barry Lycett yesterday when I learned he was home this week, “It must have felt like heaven”.
Ride like the wind my friend.
– Ron Hayman is a 2-time Olympic cyclist and seven-time Canadian national champion on road and track
– Eon D’Ornellas is a 2-time Canadian road champion and earned spots at 4 Olympics for both Canada and Guyana)
I would just like to say Jocelyn was truly one of Canada’s Cycling greats – a true world class cyclist. The stories of his character and mischief are legendary and transcend his era. I am so pleased we at Cycling Canada were able to induct him into our first Hall of Fame class last year so he could receive this honour while he was still with us. On personal note, Jocelyn was one of cycling idols and, even not knowing him, the news of his tragic accident while he was still a dominate athlete was a moment which deeply affected me. In closing I pass on my condolences to his wife, family and friends at this time and know we all of us join in mourning.
– John Tolkamp – President of Cycling Canada Cyclisme
“I had the chance of participating in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton with Jos, where we shared a room for a week. I was 20 and he was 28. What I liked best about him was his sense of humour. We played funny pranks on others together, although I cannot talk about them here J! I loved his ability to be serious for the bike and to laugh at himself, at others and of life. He was a super comedian with wonderful humor, an artist, a great cyclist and he was on his way to become an entrepreneur through bike manufacturing. I will remember Jocelyn forever. Rest in peace, my friend, we’ll see each other again someday.”
– Louis Garneau, owner/entrepreneur of LGS, Team Canada member at 3 UCI Worlds, 84 Olympics and 2 Commonwealth Games
I first met Lovell in 1968 when we were both at a junior race near Sainte-Agathe or in that area. We were racing on a gravel road when I flatted. Lovell went past me like a bullet and went on to win in a solo break. He was well respected. I think he went to 10 World Championships and three Olympics (’68 in Mexico, ’72 in Munich, ’76 in Montreal) but the 1980 Moscow Olympics were boycotted.
Lovell was only six months younger than me and we shared the same initials: JL. It was in France that I got to know Lovell when we shared an apartment in 1972. I had arrived in Paris a few weeks earlier and the club manager told me that one of my countrymen was coming to stay with me in the apartment. I was happy to learn that it was Lovell – we had a lot of fun together and he spoke French well.
Our club was one of the best; Greg LeMond and Stephen Roche (both later TdF winners) also went through that club which had apartments for riders who came from abroad – Jocelyn and I lived there full time for a while. He was a great talent with an incredible rapid sprint… he was elegant on a bike – what qualities Lovell had!
He talked to me about an up-and-coming young rider from Ontario named Bauer. I saw Bauer race a while later in Montreal and saw what Lovell meant. I’m not sure if it was Lovell that discovered Bauer who later went to the TdF and did so well.
While we were in Paris, Lovell trained on the track, but he race on the road as well, notably some spring classics. We had a lot of fun together; he was very funny and always playing jokes about all kinds of things.
He went to the Track World Championships in 1973 as part of his training for the Commonwealth Games later that year but that led to the “Cookie Caper” – apparently he stole some biscuits from a Brittany hotel and gave them to teammates. Team management decided to send him home from France. It was a stupid decision; if it had been someone else there would have been no consequences.
There were many jokes some of which cannot be recounted and Lovell’s way did much to create ambiance on the team. At the Pan Am Games in Colombia he was staying in a dormitory and went out that day to collect sun-dried cow patties by the roadside. He slipped them under the covers of a team mate’s bed as a joke – that was pure Lovell.
We rented a car in France and got a map for how to get to a bike race. On the highway, he was passing cars, but pretending to be asleep at the wheel as other motorists were honking at us.
Later, we were training somewhere near Versailles when we saw many gendarmes and found out that president Georges Pompidou would be passing by in his motorcade. As the motorcade came close, Lovell pretended to be asleep on his bike, but pedalling backwards. President Pompidou turned his head to see what was going on; this was apparently a great gesture of disrespect on Lovell’s part!
At the Commonwealth Games, he jumped on a tricycle during the closing ceremonies to do a lap of the track. The Queen waved, finding it funny. Perhaps he also made some enemies along the way, but Lovell and I were good buddies.
He broke records in 1972 and 73, especially on track but also with team time trials in road races. At the 1974 Canadian championships, we were staying at SFU university in Vancouver for the nationals and at breakfast he said to me, “Tomorrow, I am going to win the RR.” I thought this he was bluffing. The next day he won the RR and earned a lot of respect; he eventually picked up (almost) all of the national titles that year in track and road. We will never see that again.
His cycling accident in 1983 (Lovell was left a paraplegic) really affected me. I was supposed to go and see him with Giuseppe Marinoni (as depicted in the film Fire in the Frame) three years ago but couldn’t make it. Marinoni asked me afterwards if my ears were burning because they talked about me a lot over dinner at Lovell’s place.
Lovell was very close to Marinoni and once apprenticed with him for two months learning how to build bikes. Eventually, Lovell decided that building bicycles was too difficult. Later, when Lovell was in hospital, Marinoni was one of the few people from the cycling world that he wanted to see.
The last time I saw Jocelyn was two months before his accident and he was in the flower of his form and he had charisma. He could have gone into cinema because he had talent there as well. There was even an actor who looked like Lovell. I would place him among the best cyclists that Canada has ever produced in all disciplines.
– Jean Lessard, National Team for 5 years, competed at 2 Road Worlds, and later founded the Tour de Beauce.
A Glimpse of my Times with Jocelyn Lovell by Steve Bauer
I first saw Jocelyn Lovell racing the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. He was Canada’s ‘go to man’ for the kilometer time trial. It was less than a year later when I actually met Jocelyn at a junior selection camp in Shawnigan Lake, BC. The National Coach at the time, Barry Lycett (Bas), had brought Jos on to help lead the camp and provide mentorship to us young lads. “Lad” would eventually become a tongue-in-cheek term Jos and his wife Sylvia Burka (Lovell) would use to politely let us juniors know in a fun way that we knew shit.
In time, Sylvia and Jos would call me “Stevie.” I was selected for the Junior National track team that year and little did I know that later that fall I would be Jocelyn’s teammate competing at the Track World Cycling Championships in Venezuela on the Team Pursuit squad with Jos, Hugh Walton, Ron Hayman making up the foursome. Another junior lad like myself, Peter Sudermann, was our reserve player. We qualified 8th in the world under the leadership and speed of Mr. Lovell, together with our coach, Bas. For this lad, it changed my life and I knew competing at the world level was what I wanted. That was in 1977. Jocelyn would comment periodically for fun while knowing his influence on me over the years, “That Stevie Bauer lad, I taught him everything he knows…¨
I remember a particularly tense moment in Venezuela at the Caracas airport as we were waiting for a shuttle hopper on our way to San Cristobal for those Worlds. Jocelyn was wearing shorts and sandals, with no socks, of course, and he kicked the sandals off as we relaxed in a row all seated. An airport guard dressed in army fatigues and a carrying full-loaded automatic weapon asked Jos to put his sandals back on. I think Jos looked at the guy and gave him that WTF sort of attitude. The guard proceeded to kick the sandals down the hallway, once, then again, then again as Jocelyn slowly got up and followed. You could feel the tension between the two during the standoff. JL had the balls to do that and managed to retrieve his sandals… as I recall Jos made his point and then put his sandals back on.
Over the following years, our relationship as teammates and as friends grew. I tried to absorb the knowledge and experience this “specialist of speed” held. We spent days together at the Velodrome living “in the bowels of it” as Jos would say. Our accommodation below the track had no windows, just some bunks to sleep and a place to hang or bikes and drop our suitcases. We sought out entertainment during the boring rest periods between training sessions. The regular hike down to Hocelagas restaurant for the lasagna was a daily highlight to replenish from our daily training and a memory of good times.
JL’s humor was sometimes hilarious and in his element with teammates Jos was fun to be around. He would make jokes, challenge people and above all he kept our minds working. He did that with everyone. He challenged them though it was not always so obvious; sometimes he was absurd or slightly cruel with his manner of play. Jos would tell me periodically: “You know Stevie, some people just don’t like me…” Yet JL seemed totally OK with that.
On one particularly long stay at the Velodrome we sought out things to do other than lie in our beds or read books during rest time. Jos crafted the master key for the Velodrome and Olympic park. I think the original master is likely on JL’s wall at home. It must be. It was a piece of art and innovation. The master key could get us through any door of the Velodrome and into the Olympic Stadium which housed a state-of-the-art press box, fully equipped with free long distance calling. Imagine that!
On one particular evening, we were bored and hungry so we decided to test our skills at the third floor cafeteria. All the food and goodies were locked up behind one of those flexible aluminum screened doors that accordion out. The screen was not attached at the bottom and was flexible if you pulled it out toward you. You could almost crawl underneath except for one thing, it hit a limit at a railing that funneled people along the take-out counter. So brilliant JL and I decided…“let’s pull the railing out of the ground and then we can get in.”
And sure enough, the 25-foot long, 5-post railing (as I recall) came out of its floor holes. We managed to pull out the roll door enough to crawl under and pick up some nice evening snacks. Then it was time to put the railing back in. Posts one, two, and three went OK. Post four barely went in and post 5 refused to go back into its hole. The spring tension wouldn’t allow it to drop and we start reefing on it. JL was on the end and I was pushing, yanking and thrusting it but no way. “Shit,” we say. “We’re screwed. This is serious!”
Now JL lies down between post four and five and he is giving it all he’s got, feet on one post, arms above his head on the other. Jos must be pushing the equivalent of his best full squat max between the posts and I am on the end seated doing the most powerful rowing tug I got in me. The post drops in. We are both soaking wet from sweat, our backs, legs and arms are done. We are both completely cooked. We laughed so hard I think the Velodrome gargoyles shook off the roof and the Olympic Stadium dome could have caved in, but somehow, no one heard us.
In racing, Jocelyn’s turn of speed and crafty timing were legendary. In my first visit to the Tour of Somerville, Jos would tell me to be mindful on the backstretch. “Beer Backstretch” he named it. The race took place on Memorial Day Monday. The parties were big and JL was not kidding. It was Jos the mentor speaking and his way to say “be heads up, lad.” That day I watched Jocelyn Lovell rocket out of the bunch in the final homestretch to take the win with complete grace. He never left his rear end off of the saddle as he came off the wheels in full acceleration in the last 100 meters to take the race. Jocelyn knew patience, he knew his strengths, and he knew how to win.
Lovell also had a brilliant mind for innovation. He was a perfectionist when it came to the bike he raced on and he sought out ways to improve its performance. Constantly, he was tinkering in his mind as Jos looked for an advantage. He was in his prime with the 1000-meter TT. He had become singularly-focused on specific training of his power, acceleration and final speed for this short race that would take just over a minute. Jos was really tuned in now to the specificity of the kilometer and what it would take for him to deliver his best. Gone were the days of team pursuits, longer road races and training rides with the boys. JL was more-than-ever focused to go for the gold. Jos knew it was in him he just had to work as hard as he could on this one race.
Jocelyn’s competition was formidable. The communist bloc was flying high, likely in more ways that we know. East Germany (the DDR) was on top. How could he beat them? I know JL spent hours and days thinking of how to gain an edge; it was his nature. Aerodynamics were one key, but what about a mechanical advantage? Jos came up with quite an amazing idea: a double-crank with double-gearing. One lighter start gear for the standing start and another race gear once the bike was rolling. The start gear or left crank side was a single cog with a coaster (freewheel); thus not fixed. The second right hand drive was the race gear cog that was backed out just the right amount of revolutions and would tighten on and became the drive gear as the opposite side began to freewheel. Such an idea of was brilliant, simple but brilliant. Regardless of whether it made JL faster or not is beside the point. Jocelyn’s best kilometer race won him silver at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Munich 1978 where he stood on the podium beside two East Germans.
JL had a passion for cars and in particular his wonderfully-tuned yellow VW Karmann Ghia (KG) convertible. I had the pleasure to return home from a training camp in Montreal with Jos, back to his house in Toronto. I don’t know how the hell we jammed our bikes and cases in that trunk and behind the two main seats, but we got it in somehow. I don’t remember the main drive from Quebec to Ontario as we all know it quite well, but what I will never forget is one particular stretch from Highway 401 to downtown Toronto via what is still known as the Don Valley Parkway (DVP).
We were hitting Toronto at a fairly high volume time and Jos said to me: “I love this stretch.” At that point we both became silent as Jocelyn hit the gas and began driving. The engine RPMs became taught and JL was pointing the lowered KG with Campagnolo wheels in-and-out of traffic, narrowly missing bumpers in front and behind by fractions of space. There was no need to check rear view or side mirrors, as we were threading through cars seemingly planted as we passed them at race speed. I don’t believe there was a word spoken for the minimal time it took to reach the Gardiner Expressway. As insane as it seems – and I don’t exaggerate – I was completely confident in Jocelyn’s skills.
In everything he undertook, Jocelyn was a quick study and he would follow it through. Whether he was racing his bike, renovating his classic VW window van, creating Lovell bicycle frames, or building an energy-efficient home where he lived with his wife Neil in his later years, Jos did it with pride. I recall one day how proud JL was to show me the cheque received from the electric utility company for energy generated from his home. Jos was a master of many things.
Beyond all his accomplishments and contributions, Jocelyn took on the mission to help find a cure for spinal cord injury. JL would tell me that they will find a cure. I am convinced he is right as I do not know Jos any other way.
There are so many great stories and great things to say about Jos. While my stories seem a bit random these are ones that first came to mind and a small glimpse of my good times with JL.
I am so fortunate to have known you, Jos. I am proud to reiterate that you taught me everything I know. Godspeed my friend. You will never be idle as everyone you have touched has a little bit of JL in them now, helping to turn their wheels both mind and soul.
– Steve Bauer, raced the Tour de France 11 times, finishing 4th in 1988; he is widely considered “Canada’s most acclaimed cyclist.”
Forty Five Years of Jocelyn Lovell Memories by Barry Lycett
I met Jocelyn at the 1970 Track Championships in Winnipeg. I was taken aback when it was time for the medals to be presented and I heard him say to the podium girls, ‘If you play your cards right, you could have me tonight.’ This was the start of our passion for cycling together. We travelled the world until 1983 with Jocelyn as a competitor and myself as a Project Coach. Competitions were in Trinidad, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Venezuela and many cities in Europe and North America.
Our favourite trip was to Trinidad in 1972. One day we rode behind a slow-moving truck. How fortunate for us that it was filled with grapefruit. Yummy. On another day we rode to Maracas Beach in the blazing sun. No one was around so we stripped and had a swim. Back on the beach, getting dressed, a man came by and said, ‘You can’t do that!’ to which Jocelyn replied, ‘We just did.’
During our three-week tour Jocelyn said, ‘There’s just one thing spoiling this trip; it’s having to race.’
Another memorable moment was in 1983 in a race series in North Carolina. The field contained the who’s who of North American cycling: Hayman, Stieda, Bauer, Walton, Phinney, Kiefel. Knickman. Well Jos “whooped” everyone in true Ali style. He had to dig very deep and after riding back to the van he promptly said ‘Bas, sell the bike.’ These one-liners were classic Lovell.
Jocelyn’s success came before heart rate monitors and power meters. Regardless, he rode by feel. He knew his body, he knew himself. Jocelyn didn’t suffer fools. He had his unique ideas which often rubbed against officialdom.
For the last twenty-three years we kept in contact via email and telephone. We never got tired of reminiscing about the fun we had in the past.
A few years ago I visited him at his last house. We shared memories; we were so compatible as cyclists and as friends. Then Jocelyn looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “You know, Bas, given different circumstances, we could have been lovers.”
Before my last visit to see Jos in the ICU, I asked many of his former team-mates to write their memories for me to share with him. During the weekend I read over 30 ‘Jocelyn Fun Stories.’ At the end of them, he said, ‘more stories.’
I’ve recently been described as a ‘rider’s coach.’ For me, Jos was a ‘coach’s rider’ and we became life-long friends. I am sure going to miss him…”
– Barry Lycett, former National and Olympic Team Canada coach