Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

4/5/2007

It was 30 years ago…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:08 pm

This week marks 30 years since the beginning of the 1977 bike racing season. This was my last year racing as a Junior, and I’d set a goal for the year of making Category 2. In those days, if you raced in Juniors, when you turned 18 you went into Category 3. But if you could place in enough Junior races, you could graduate directly into Category 2. Since Categories 1 and 2 generally race together, it meant that if you were a 2, you got to race with the Big Dogs. So I decided that that was what I wanted to do.

I’ve written before about my greatest ride ever, when I got in the breakaway in a big race in 1978. This is the beginning of how I got to race in Category 2.

The first race of the season was the Challenge Cup Road Race at Rockland Lake State Park in New York. It was a four-mile loop with some moderate rolling hills. I figured that I had a pretty good chance of getting into a breakaway there. Since I wasn’t a very good sprinter, I thought that this was my best chance to place in the top 10.

The race was six laps, for 24 miles. Right from the start, I stayed near the front and tried to start a breakaway. Sadly, the other guys who tried it with me weren’t strong enough, and we always got caught by the pack. But I kept at it.

Finally, on the last lap, I was hanging around at the front when I saw one kid take off like a bullet. His name was Frank Kaler, and I found out later that he was known for riding time trials and pursuit, and he was very good at going very fast for 2-3 miles at a time. He was hoping to solo to the finish. I immediately got on his wheel. The way he was going, I thought that we had a pretty good chance of making it to the finish.

We went about a mile before I took a look back. We had a good lead on the pack. I said something like, “Hey, I can pull. Let’s work together and make it to the finish.” He just looked back at me with a wild look in his eye, put his head down and went faster. So I just stayed on his wheel.

About 300 yards from the finish, he started to slow down. I put my head down and poured it on. I went around him and drove straight for the finish. I was sure he was going to tail me and come around at the last second. I just couldn’t even begin to believe that I could actually win the race. Even as I went across the finish line I was still expecting Frank or someone else to catch me and come around. In the picture, it’s apparent that I was in no danger of getting caught, but at the time I was afraid to look back and jinx it.

After I crossed the line, I sat up and looked around, dumbfounded. I’d won the race. Nobody there was more shocked by this than I was. It was a complete surprise, but it was also great fun. I always thought that soloing across the finish line was the absolute best way to win a bike race, and now I’d actually done it. It was the best feeling.

In my racing years, I only won three races. This was the first one, and in many ways, it was the best.

One Response to “It was 30 years ago…”

  1. Karen Says:

    Sounds Like this race was a Gas – I’ve mentioned this has a *Breaking Away* feel to it…but the WIN was all yours!

    :-)

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