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.