R.I.P., Laurence Malone

The details remain elusive, but it seems that five-time U.S. national cyclocross champ Laurence Malone died Monday in an automobile crash near Lancaster, Calif.

Laurence was the real deal. When he turned up in New Mexico back in 1990 or thereabouts he’d pin on a number and go round and round with the little people. But he never went Hollywood on us. He would race in the most outdated, anonymous gear you ever saw, and beat your ass with it, too. Sold lentil burritos, which he delivered by bike.

I knew him to say hi to, but that’s about it. Herself and I gave him a lift to a race once. Another time I saw him ride a sketchy, sandy descent to the pit with his spare bike slung across one shoulder like a messenger bag, and I thought: “Man. I want to learn how to do that.”

And I had the privilege of finishing second to him in the 1991 state road championships outside Albuquerque.

Laurence was good. I was lucky. I was actually riding OK for a change, and Laurence and I had both made it into the break coming into the finish of the masters-35 race. Everybody in there was better than me, so I thought I’d launch one of my patented, doomed, last-kilo’ attacks on Sedillo Hill, go down in a blaze of glory.

But it was everyone else who went down. Well, almost everyone. Cliff Loucks and Rick Quant got tangled up somehow, taking out Tim Schoeny, Neil Davie, and Louis Abruzzo, as the contenders jockeyed for position in what should have been quite a sprint.

I heard the clatter, looked around, and the only dude still with me was … Laurence Malone.

“Shit,” sez I.

And that, as they say, was that.

I should’ve been seventh at best, but instead I got to finish on the podium with Laurence fuckin’ Malone. I’ll remember it until the day we meet again on the Other Side. If I can catch him, that is.

Peace to Laurence, his family, friends, and fans. He left us way too soon.

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24 Responses to “R.I.P., Laurence Malone”

  1. JD Says:

    P’OG: Thanks! Quite the tribute to a great cyclist and genuine human being.
    Wish more of these “inside the ropes” journalistic efforts were available today.
    Well done.
    RIP Laurence Malone.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      JD, this is one of the things that drew me to bike racing in the first place. Most of the top-shelf riders I met were just folks, the genuine article. You could talk to ’em, even ride with ’em. (Though this always made me nervous; what happens if you spaz out and crash Mari Holden or Danny Pate?)

      Dede Demet hollered some encouragement to me once when I was struggling up Wolf Creek Pass. You gotta love a sport where that happens. I was used to getting hollered at, but not like that. More like, “Hold your line!” or “You corner like a UPS truck full of plumbing supplies.”

  2. khal spencer Says:

    I got to race with Ray Brust, who was a perennial state road champion in Hawaii. I was a worthless PoS on a bike when I pinned on a number but Ray was always gracious to the point of being a brother. When I retired from racing, rather than getting fired, Ray and the race folks and I worked together on bike policy stuff. The fact that I put in sweat equity, not to mention a broken collarbone on those Sunday morning Tour de Industrial Park races, broke the ice between the advocacy and the racing crowd. So in spite of my ineptitude, it was worth it.

    RIP, Laurence. And Patrick, you don’t give yourself enough credit. Finishing second entails both brains and brawn.

  3. Libby Says:

    A lovely tribute, Patrick, made even more meaningful with the inclusion of the times your paths crossed.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Libby. I got to meet a lot of interesting people as a cycling scribe, and Laurence was definitely one of them. I think a whole lot of us who love the two-wheeler are a bubble or two off plumb.

  4. Jim D. Says:

    It’s been a tough winter and spring. I’ve lost 7 friends to various ailments. None to cv19. I lost four friends to that. Not sure what’s that means. To tough for that but there is plenty of crap to take you out. Gwen leaving us courtesy of a dui driver. Shit just isn fair. When does it take out the evil? Not THE good. Some days you cannot ride far enough.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The Gwen Inglis story was a particularly grim one. The driver has a history: possession, DUI, speeding. Every time I read a story like this I feel an itch between my shoulder blades while cycling the Tramway shoulder. That’s a 50-mph road, but nobody drives it that slowly, and we have a revolving DUI door down here too.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Who has jurisdiction over Tramway? 50 mph for a road in a city is just fucking insane. Its not Vision Zero. Its “I don’t give a Vision Zero Damn about public safety”.

        The City Indifferent is slowly taking over control of roads like St. Michaels and several other NMDOT roads in the city limits. The scuttlebutt is that one or more of those roads will be traffic calmed. ‘Bout time.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Tramway is a state project: NM 556. It is chock full of evil infrastructure and fools in tanks. There are a million things that can go wrong out there and I’m astonished that it doesn’t trigger a funeral every hour on the hour.

        It reminds me of Powers Boulevard in Bibleburg. That nightmare was supposed to draw north-south traffic away from Academy, which was intended to draw traffic away from Union and Circle, which was intended to draw traffic away from Nevada/Highway 85-87, etc. et al., and so on and so forth.

        Powers can be ridden, south of Highway 24, anyway. We used to ride it north, back in the early Nineties, but it’s not something I’d try these days. And mostly I skirt around Tramway using the suburban foothills streets. The route is less direct but more interesting and just a wee bit less threatening.

        • JD Says:

          Indeed spot on PO’G re Powers here. It’s another case of “If you build it, they (the developers) will come”. Not enough $$ when Powers was constructed as a “bypass” to get traffic off Academy, so it has slowly but steadily been developed with commercial and residential areas. Now the intent is to build flyover intersections so the Powers traffic can keep moving … or else build another “bypass” farther east … an area that’s already exploding with development. I’m not optimistic.
          That’s one reason I gave up road cycling for MTB’ing about 8 years ago. Too many close calls and near misses on the roads. If I’m going to die or get injured, I’d rather know it’s because I did it, not some distracted/DUI/et al vehicle driver.

        • khal spencer Says:

          Yep. State traffic engineers and designers have historically been worshipping at the altar of Motor Vehicle Level of Service. As many cars as necessary moving as smoothly and rapidly as they can. Cerrillos, St. Francis, St. Michaels, etc.up here. And if you build it, more will indeed come.

          Back a couple years after I moved here from Paradise, I was working with Gail Ryba and trying to stop the expansion of St. Francis to 3 lanes in each direction and no bike lanes. We quickly experienced having NMDOT bus tracks on our back in spite of the fact that enhancement money of the wrong color was used to make that road bicycle-hostile. I asked Gail why we were not filing a lawsuit. She said, and I wish I could remember her exact words, that it would be analogous to a head on crash between a bicycle and a cement truck.

          I occasionally ride St. Francis as its the only direct route from the house to Wholeazon Amafoods, Trader Joes, etc. But its not for the faint of heart.

  5. Pat O’Brien Says:

    “And the news just repeats itself, like some forgotten dream, that we’ve both seen.” John Prine – Hello In There

    As I aged, and then retired, I valued time much more. That changed my risk assessment calculations for both road and mountain cycling. When I reached the age of a 71, I said to myself, self, you have cycled enough.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I still enjoy cycling, but I’ve definitely restricted my movements a bit. Some of the roads and highways around here give me The Fear. The infrastructure is bad enough. But the vehicle operators are even worser.

  6. carl duellman Says:

    i’ve been watching the ‘not just bikes’ on the youtubes. apparently cities can be designed with people in mind, not just cars. https://www.youtube.com/c/NotJustBikes
    thank the flying spaghetti monster for gravel biking.

  7. LARRY BROWN Says:

    sad

  8. Julian B Shapiro Says:

    Laurence Malone in his stockroom. Chimayo, NM July 2020

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Wow. Quite the stock “room.” Reminds me of Brian Gravestock’s bike shop in Bibleburg from Back in the Day®. Dude had everything your heart could ever desire, including the mad skillz to make it work.

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