Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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A Little Piece of History

Filed under: — stan @ 2:57 pm

Today’s bike club ride was one to visit a little bit of my personal history. Back in 1978, I was bike racing, and I was here in Los Angeles that spring. And the first big race I rode in was the Griffith Park Road Race on March 19, 1978. The race was on the order of 50 miles, since that was pretty standard for Category 1-2 races in those days. And when we went around for the first lap, I realized that the course reminded me very much of the course we used to race in the Tuesday and Thursday evening training races at Old Westbury, on Long Island. It was a short loop with a long out-and-back dog-leg with a U-turn at the end. I remember seeing signs for the Merry-Go-Round, so I knew pretty much where it was, and the dog-leg was the out-and-back on Crystal Springs Drive. So today’s ride was to go back and visit the race course again.

The race itself went by in a blur. There were about 100 riders, and we were going fast the whole time. Nobody managed to break away. I don’t remember even making it to the front of the pack. I just stayed in the middle of the pack, hanging on. In the end, it was a pack sprint for the finish, and I recall that the winner was Jerry Ash. I had just graduated out of Juniors, so I felt pretty good to be racing in Category 2, and it didn’t seem particularly hard at the time. Which seems kind of ridiculous now, since I can’t even begin to think about riding my bike as fast as I could then. And even if I could, I think I’d be terrified by the speed…

After visiting the old race course, we rode back through the park and got on the L.A. River bike path and rode down to Spoke. We had some snacks there, and then continued on down the river and then up Figueroa St. The route home was up the Arroyo Seco, and then back across South Pasadena, through Caltech, and then my regular route home from work.

44 miles.

Route map and elevation profile
Note that the map is incomplete. I forgot to turn my GPS thingy on until 4.4 miles into the ride.


Down for the Count 2016

Filed under: — stan @ 2:46 pm

This year marks the tenth time we’ve done our traditional “Down for the Count” Halloween ride to Culver City to visit Bela Lugosi’s grave. The weather today was looking threatening, but most of the route was very close to one or another Metro Rail line.

We rode through downtown L.A. I thought we’d see the Rock-’n'-Roll Half Marathon, and we did see a few runners, but it seemed like it was all over by the time we got there. Streets that I thought were supposed to be closed for the course were open to traffic. That seemed a bit odd.

South of downtown, we picked up the bike lane built on Exposition, next to the Metro Expo line. We rode that all the way to La Cienega, where we got on the Ballona Creek bike path. We took that to Overland, and then rode to Holy Cross Cemtery. We came in the back entrance, and then rode up and over the hill to The Grotto, where there are a lot of famous people buried. As usual, someone had come by and left a set of vampire fangs on Bela Lugosi’s grave. And we were all a little surprised when Jen perked up when someone mentioned that Bing Crosby was buried nearby.

Leaving the cemetery, we rode back into Culver City to our snack stop at La Dijonaise in the old Helms Bakery complex. Just as we got there, it started raining. We got a table inside and had some snacks. When it was time to leave, it looked like the rain had stopped. But once we started up Venice Boulevard, it started raining again. It wasn’t pouring down, but it was raining hard enough that it really was not fun to ride in. So we turned off on La Cienega and rode over to the Metro station there.

When we got up on the platform to wait for the train, there was a young girl there who started talking to us. It turned out she’s a bike racer. So I got to talk to her for most of the ride back to downtown. She told me stories about what racing is like now, and I told her some of my old-school racing stories from the ’70s. She said her dad used to race, so it’s possible we might have even been in some of the same races way back when.

33 miles

Route map and elevation profile


More old-school bike racing pictures

Filed under: — stan @ 8:41 pm

I finally got to go through and separate the pictures from the 1978 Longsjo Classic in Fitchburg, MA. Apparently this is a stage race now. But back then it was a single-day criterium in downtown Fitchburg. The course was about a mile, and it went up and down a hill in town. The race itself was something like 100km.

I don’t remember a lot about the race itself. I rode the whole thing, staying snug inside the pack. I didn’t try to do anything fancy. But it was still a fun time. About the only real memory I have of the race is that I spent a good part of it following Jon Schuster. He was a Category 1 racer with the Indy USA team, which was the big team of the day. A lot of the National Team members rode with them, including the Stetina brothers. Wayne Stetina won the race that day. But I followed Jon because he was big. Like a moose. And when he moved through the pack, it was like the Parting of the Red Sea. Everyone just got out of his way. And I just sort of followed along. It was fun.

So have a look at the photos from that day. It’s old-school late-’70s bike racing at its best.


And here’s what I did with it…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:41 pm

So I’ve been writing down my old bike racing stories, and I told the story of how I got my Category 2, back in 1977. But there’s one more piece to the story. After the race in Maine, I sent my license off to the USCF New Jersey representative. A few days later, it came back with a nice little “2″ sticker next to “Category”. I was immensely pleased. So pleased, in fact, that I wanted to use it immediately. And I had a perfect chance.

On Sunday, September 4th, 1977 there was a race in Harrisburg, PA. This was a criterium around the State Capitol building. The course was four corners, flat, and just under 1 mile around. The first picture is a screenshot showing the location of the course. The feature race that day was 40 miles for Category 2 and 3. This was unusual, since 1 and 2 usually rode together. So of course I decided that that was the race I was going to ride.

The 2+3 pack was pretty big. Probably close to 100 riders at the start. I remember that two guys broke away relatively early, and I missed it. But a little later, I took off to try to start a second breakaway. A guy I knew named Clarence came along. He was from New York, and I knew him from racing at Kissena Velodrome, and I knew he was strong. So we were good to go. A third guy joined us, but I didn’t know him. The photo shows when we were first starting the breakaway. I’m on the right, and Clarence is on the left. We got within sight of the front breakaway, but we weren’t able to catch them. But we still got a good lead on the pack, and we held it to the finish.

Coming out of the last corner, I didn’t even try to contest the sprint. I just rolled across in 5th place. I figured that that was a pretty good showing for a Junior rider’s first outing in Cat 2.


The day I got my Category 2

Filed under: — stan @ 6:01 pm

August 21, 1977 was the day that I finally made Category 2. The race was in Waterville, Maine. It was the finish line the Maine International Bicycle Race, which was a rarity in that it was a true point-to-point road race. It began near the Canadian border and traveled south for 100-mumble miles to the finish in Waterville. But because just watching a pack of sweaty bike riders roll into town and sprint for the finish isn’t terribly exciting for the locals, the organizers also held a Junior race in town for the spectators. The race was a criterium around downtown Waterville, and it was 25 miles, which was long for a Junior race. Most were 10-15 miles. So I wanted to ride it, since I usually did better in longer races.

I got the use of the car for the weekend and set out looking for some other riders to come along. My friend Cary wanted to go. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a driver’s license. It was about a seven-hour drive from New Jersey in those days with the 55mph speed limit, and I wanted to find someone who could share the driving. So my other friend Gene came in. He had his learner’s permit, which meant he could drive if another licensed driver (me) was in the car. So this was good enough for us. And it’s probably best that we never stopped to think whether or not this was also going to be legal in the five other states we would be passing through to get there.

So Gene and Cary came to my house and we loaded up the car. Two bikes went on the roof rack, and the third was stuffed under the hatchback. With all our stuff, there was barely room for the three of us in the car.

The ride up to Maine was pretty uneventful. When we got there, it was night, and we went looking for a place to stay. We picked a motel and Gene and I went in to see about getting a room. The manager was suspicious, and kept asking us if we had any girls with us. We told him we were there for the bike race, and pointed to the car outside with the bikes on the roof. So he let us have a room.

We unloaded the car and started getting our bikes ready for the race when there was a knock on the door. The manager had decided to come and check again to see if we had any girls with us. Since we’d told him that there were just two of us, Cary grabbed his bike and went to stand in the shower with it while the manager came in. He looked at the bikes, wheels, and racing clothes strewn around the room and he was satisfied.

Our next priority was finding something to eat. Cary wanted to have something good, and not fast food. So we ended up at the only ‘nice’ restaurant in sight. The Silent Woman was the place, and we looked pretty out-of-place in there. It was all adults and families, and a trio of teenage boys looked pretty odd there. But the food was good, so we were happy.

The last priority was deciding how to divvy up the two beds. As you might imagine, this was a gravely important task for teenage boys. We drew lots, and I won. So I got a bed to myself while the other guys had to share.

In the morning, we headed over to the race. The course was pretty nice. It was basically triangular, with two long straights and a wide hairpin turn at one end. There was a slight grade, but nothing worth getting excited about. There was also a tremendous hole in the road that was marked off with sawhorses and cones. The race had a pretty good turnout, and the pack stayed together for about half the race. Then a breakaway formed. I don’t remember how it started, but I managed to get in it. There were three of us, and we got a good lead on the pack. We managed to stay away to the finish, and I didn’t even contest the final sprint. So I came in third, which was the finish that put me over the top for my Category 2 upgrade.

My goal for the year had been to make Category 2. I had one first-place finish, a fourth-place finish, sixth place in Rahway in July, and sixth place in Pittsburgh. So with this third place finish I met the requirements for my upgrade. That was the thing I was most excited about. My actual prize for the day was a pair of pedals and a little silver-plate trophy bowl.

I used the pedals for many years until they broke from metal fatigue. But I still have the little bowl. And the memories of that day. It was a fun time.


La Verne

Filed under: — stan @ 8:40 pm

I got a chance to do two rides this weekend, so the Saturday ride was out to La Verne and back.

We met at Library Park in Monrovia and headed east from there. In Duarte, we were treated to the sight of a helicopter being used as a crane. It was lifting a series of large boxes from the parking lot up to the roof of the building.

We rode pretty much straight east, all the way across Glendora and San Dimas, where we turned and rode up San Dimas Canyon Road. Then we made a loop up in the hills, coming out right next to Live Oak Reservoir. I’d never seen it in daylight before, but I recognized it immediately. Back in 1978, when I raced with the Claremont cycling team, we used to to evening workouts on the road around that reservoir. We rode our track bikes, and we did intervals, time trials, and practice races. The thing I always remember about those times was how our coach, Steve, used to ride with us. When we got going fast, he always looked like he was going to die. His face was red, and he was sweating hard. But he always beat us in the final sprint. He had ridden on the 1968 Olympic team, so he was actually a very good rider.

After passing the reservoir, we dropped down a very steep hill. Gene said that he got up to just over 48mph on it. Then we rode into La Verne and stopped in the nicely shaded patio at Coffeeberry.

On the way back, we took the direct way. It was very hot by then, so we stopped for water several times. At the Santa Fe Dam Nature Center, we saw a number of oddly-placed stuffed birds. There was also a stuffed bobcat. Outside, we saw a roadrunner go by, so not all the birds there were dead and stuffed.

The last funny thing we saw was the car in Duarte with the two Hello Kitty dolls strapped to the front like so many dead deer.

It was an amusing and fun ride.

55 miles.


Kissena Velodrome

Filed under: — stan @ 8:23 pm

Here’s a picture from last week when we visited:

Now here’s a picture of me riding on about the same spot on the track, back in 1979:

Those trees next to the track are a lot bigger now, nearly 30 years later.

In one respect this is a good thing, since now the backstretch is shaded, and riders are not blinded by the setting sun. But on the other hand, that used to be my favorite place to attack, since everyone was blinded by the setting sun…


A day in Pittsburgh

Filed under: — stan @ 9:24 pm

It was August 7, 1977, and I rode a race in Pittsburgh, PA. The race was in Schenley Park, across the street from Carnegie-Mellon University. The course had a straight uphill stretch along the edge of the campus. There was a right turn at the top and short level stretch. Then a long downhill with big, sweeping switchback turns. At the bottom it met up with the uphill back to the finish line. I was riding in Juniors at the time, so the race would have been something like 15 miles.

The course was nice. I particularly remember the downhill as being very exciting. The road was a bit rough, and going around the turns at high speed was great fun for a 17-year-old.

Somewhere along the way, two guys broke away. I missed that, but I managed to make it into the second breakaway. There were four of us, and we got a good gap on the pack. The downhill was faster for the four of us than it was for the pack, since we didn’t have to slow down for the turns.

At the finish, I just coasted across the line. I figured I couldn’t do worse than 6th place, and that was good enough for points toward my Category 2 upgrade.

This race meant that I had one first-place finish, a fourth-place finish, and with sixth place in Rahway in July, I had two sixth-place finishes. So now I just needed one more top-six finish to get Category 2.

I have no pictures from that day, and I don’t even remember what my prize was. But I do remember it as a very fun day.


Hartford, 1978

Filed under: — stan @ 12:37 pm

The year before last, when we were on vacation at Lake Tahoe, we found my parents’ old slide projector in the closet at the house. There was a carousel in it filled with slides of bike races I rode back in 1978. Included were the big races in Hartford and Fitchburg on July 4th weekend, and also the races from Super Week in Milwaukee.

This year, Cathy took these slides to Ritz Camera and got them all scanned onto a DVD for me for Father’s Day. So I’ve been going through them and sorting them out. Today I put up the first set. This is from the Hartford Criterium in Hartford, CT. At the time, the race was sponsored by Travelers Insurance, and it had a very rich prize list. This race was very popular with racers on the east coast. They had a little sticker with the Travelers umbrella logo that they put on bikes when they passed pre-race inspection. Lots of racers kept this sticker on their bikes long after the race was over, even going so far as to glue it back on if it fell off.

Apparently, they are still doing this race now. It was on Memorial Day weekend this year.

The race is held on a short course around Bushnell Park in downtown Hartford. The Category 1/2 race was relatively short. My recollection is that it was something like 25 miles. There were only a couple of real corners on the course, so the race was very fast. I don’t remember much about it. I just stayed in the pack the whole way, and I didn’t place. But it was an exciting race, since it was a big pack on a fast course.

So here are my pictures from that day. It’s old-school racing at its best.


A holiday at home

Filed under: — stan @ 5:18 pm

It was Monday, July 4, 1977, and I rode a bike race in Rahway, NJ. It was billed as “A Holiday at Home” because the big east coast races on the 4th of July weekend were in New England, so this was a race for people who didn’t feel like traveling to Massachussetts. This was my third step towards my Category 2 upgrade, so it was a significant day.

The Junior race was something like 10 or 15 miles. The course was a short, four-corners criterium course through downtown Rahway. The course went underneath the railroad tracks in two places. The race was pretty fast. I never got the front to try to break away, and most it was a blur. I don’t remember much about this race, aside from one incident right by the finish line.

Around the middle of the race, there was a crash right as we passed the finish line, and several riders went down. One of them was Frank Kaler, who was the rider who had helped me win the Challenge Cup race back in April. My recollection was that he seemed to crash in a lot of races. That and that he had the orange-tread D’Alessandro tires that always seemed to pop off his rims when he crashed. Usually, when riders crash, they are off the course by the next time the pack came around, but this time, we came around, and Frank was still lying in the road with the ambulance crew around him. He was still there on the next lap, too. Then he was gone, and I never saw him at a race ever again. I heard later that he’d fractured his skull, and was told not to race any more. Back in those days, helmets were the old ‘leather hairnet‘ type, and they didn’t offer the same degree of protection as modern helmets.

Somewhere along the way, one very big and strong kid named Chris Diehl broke away solo. So on the last lap, all of us in the pack were racing for second place. I’d recently learned how to position and sprint in a pack, so on the back stretch I moved up the inside. Coming out of the last corner, I was near the front. I used a 52×17 gear for the final sprint. My eyes rolled back into my head and I went for it. I came in fifth in the sprint, for sixth place overall.

This finish meant that I now had one first-place finish, one fourth-place finish, and a sixth-place finish. All I needed now was one more top three finish, or two more top six finishes to get my Category 2. The goal was within sight.

My prize for the day was a $25 savings bond, which I saved for many years like a trophy. I finally cashed it in 1988 when Cathy and I were buying our first condo. So in a small way, my ride in this race helped me to enter the southern California real estate market.

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