Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eddy Van Guyse 35 Years after "Breaking Away"

Some of you may not know Eddy Van Guyse by name but you will remember the hit out of nowhere that he played in;"Breaking Away". Eddy played the Italian villain that put a bike pump into the spokes of the young Italian bike racer wannabe Dave Stohler and shattered his view of the way the world really works. The movie had a great script and Peter Yates directing of "Bullitt" and "The French Connection" fame but it needed someone with racing experience to breathe authenticity into it. That someone was a young Belgian bike racer who grew up in Chicago 3 blocks from Wrigley Field, named Eddy Van Guyse. Eddy told me he won the part with his swarthy Italian "look" and wore a shirt with the top buttons undone chest hair and all. I saw the film when I was in high school and after getting goose bumps watching the bike racing scenes decided I.U. was the place for me. I've gotten to know Eddy through our mutual continued interest in cycling through the CSC bike race in Arlington and the bond from riding in the Little 500 at IU in different eras. I've had the conversation since, that had he not lent his technical expertise to the film it probably would not have rung true even though it was great story and I never would have ended up going to Indiana.

Ben: Eddy do you think kids today will relate to "Breaking Away" the way that my generation did in the late 70's?

Eddy: I think humans have not changed at the core. We all have brains, hearts and blood pumping through them.
Kids today may have a stronger index finger from punching the buttons on video games and computers but they still relate to a good story. One thing I find is that kids have more trouble making eye contact and connecting in general. The best teachers i had growing up were also able to articulate a good story.

Ben: You've told me in the past that Peter Yates pulled you aside for technical advice on the movie "Breaking Away".
You put the kabash on the bikes with reflectors and coaster brakes that were going to be used for the movie.

Eddy:When I met Peter Yates I asked him if he wanted to make a movie that had bike rides featured or did he want to make a movie about bike racing.
There were some things on the bikes that they gathered that not give the look of a bike racing movie. He said "Eddy we need to talk to you more about this "

Ben: You mentioned that you were a pretty good baseball player and being 3 blocks away from Wrigley field, what made you choose bike racing over baseball?

Eddy: We played makeshift baseball with a rubber ball against a wall in an alley painted with a square. This was the era of free range kids. My mother called us alley cats and would say things like "Come inside you alley cats!" as it approached 9 o clock at night. My family took me to the velodrome races in Konshen and Northbrook in Chicago and I could see that they admired the racers as I did and I decided I wanted to become a bike racer. The decision was of my own free will. My parents encouraged me to make my own choices.

Ben: You told me your father was a big influence in your life and that he was a people person and that's where you got that gift.

Eddy: My father survived three months in a concentration camp during World War 11 and almost a year after he was deported to a work camp. When we came to Chicago he was very good at reading people. He could smell a rat and one thing I remember was how he was very outspoken aabout Fidel Castro being a dictator when he rose to power before it became apparent to everyone. The Belgian community in Chicago was important to my father.

Ben:What would you tell someone who wants to be a bike racer.

Eddy: Are you ready to deal with pain. People also don't realize how lonely the training can be to be. A champion is able to ignore the pain

Ben: How did you develop as a bike racer?

Eddy: I was 5'6" my freshman year at !U. When I was an intermediate racer I could not crunch down the big gears like the big boys in the sprints on the track but I had endurance. I finished my freshman year at 6 foot. Now I was able to add
more power to my racing but my strength was as a road racer.

Ben: You've said before that the "Little 500" race felt like a gladiator entering the arena...

Eddy You have no other intramural event like it with a stadium built for 30,000 people for a bike race. The other thing about the "Little 500" is that it is a team race. I've done Madison races and other amateur team events but this was a more defined team event. The racers that have been through the Little 5 at I.U. become like your brothers.

Ben: What are your views on professional sports in America.

Eddy: I have a 4 letter word for what pro athletes do: P-L-A-Y while the rest of us
W-O-R-K. Athletes should keep this in perspective.


MB said...

Funny, I've been shooting CSC (and thus Eddy) for years, and I've never made the Eddy/Breaking Away connection. Danke!

MB @

Nick Mulder said...


I think being a pro. cyclist at the top level is way harder than having a normal office job.

A job is well a job, but a pro's life is cycling, when hes not training hes resting. Every .1% will make a difference.

Nice interview though.

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