John Howard: A Man of Many Accomplishments
Monday, July 3rd, 2017
By Anthony Gimino
You never know what John Howard is up to next.
He’s a three-time Olympian, the 1981 Ironman world champion, a form
er record-holder of the cycling land speed record, a national masters cycling champion too many times to count, a legendary coach still going strong at 70 years old this August and now … movie mogul?
Howard, a former dedication recipient for El Tour de Tucson and El Tour de Mesa, is also this year’s dedication recipient of the Cochise County Cycling Classic, to be held Oct. 7 in Douglas, Ariz.
His latest contribution to the cycling world is to revive, expand and bring to the masses the story of Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, a cycling world champion in 1899 who arguably was the first African-African sports star in the United States and one of the first in the world.
“Outside of the cycling population, almost nobody has ever heard of him, but he broke the color line in cycling 50 years before Jackie Robinson did it in baseball. And he was way ahead of Jesse Owens,” Howard said.
“We think it’s time he got some respect, because he was arguably the best ever. He did things on a bike that have never been done again. He was a trained acrobatic cyclist who had amazing fast-twitch movement and blazing speed.
“We’re committed to telling the story and we’ve got a pretty sizable budget for the film.”
Howard has written an as-yet unpublished book on Taylor titled “Requiem for a Wheelman,” which also explores the era, before the automobile, when competitive cycling was one of America’s favorite pastimes.
“This was the day when you went to a baseball game when all the seats at the bike track were sold out,” Howard said. “That’s how popular the sport was. … It was very exciting and it was dangerous. It was the NASCAR of its day.”
The book could be released to coincide with the movie, which is titled “The Black Cyclone.” Howard said a screenplay, based on his book, is finished. Casting is “figured out” and, as of early June, he and the producers were optimistic on financing.
The movie’s website theblackcyclonemovie.com describes the tale as “The Story of a Forgotten American Hero.”
As it so happened, Taylor and Howard were inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1989.
Howard’s main focus might be on the movie, but he’s also simmering with Project Speed. He has been a coach/trainer/mentor on that team, which is trying to make Denise Mueller the 2016 El Tour de Tucson dedication recipient the fastest ever on a bicycle.
She went 147.7 mph last September, coming up short of the record of 167, set in 1995 by Fred Rompelberg, who broke Howard’s record. Project Speed, looking for a new car sponsor, is gearing up for another attempt in 2018.
As for the Cochise Classic, Howard will be making his event debut. Howard describes himself as a “high-end recreational” cyclist these days, although he still has the fire in the belly at any starting line.
“I have gone from ruling these rides to being basic pack-meat,” he said. “I’m OK with that because my life is changing, but I still have a desire to ride with the top guys and be as competitive as possible.”
Meanwhile, he is throwing plenty of energy into the movie.
“We think this story will resonate, not only with the cycling population but the general public,” Howard said. “It will finally give Major Taylor the credit and respect he so deserves.”