Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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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.


My pump

Filed under: — stan @ 12:55 pm

This is the story of my pump. It was my prize for 4th place in a race on May 22, 1977. It’s not the best pump, but it’s still special, since it reminds me of a very good day. And for 30 years I’ve been using it to pump up my tires before every ride.

The race was the Maryland Road Classic in Baltimore. I was racing as a Junior. The race was a criterium around a school. It was mostly flat, but with one small hill. The distance was about 15 miles. This was one of those races where the pack was, for lack of a better word, lazy. They never really got going very fast. Nobody wanted to push the pace.

I rode with the pack, just staying in the group. I wanted to break away, but it seemed that every time I tried, nobody wanted to come along, so I just dropped back into the pack. Somewhere along the way, three guys managed to get away, and I missed it. So when it came down to about three laps to go, I was still in the pack.

At this point, I decided to just go for it. I took off by myself, hoping that someone would come along. Nobody did, but I figured I’d just try to solo to the finish. This didn’t seem like an especially good idea, but I thought that my chances of making it solo to the finish were better than my chances in a pack sprint at the end. So I just put my head down and went for broke.

As it turned out, I gained enough time on the pack that I was able to solo across the finish line for 4th place. This was a Good Thing, since it meant I was one step closer to my goal of upgrading to Category 2. In those days, for a Junior to get Category 2 required three top-three finishes or six top-six finishes, so 4th place counted. I already had one 1st place finish, so I was on my way.

My prize for this was this pump. And I still have and use it to this day, 30 years later.


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.


My greatest ride ever

Filed under: — stan @ 1:44 pm

This is an old story. I’ve told the story on countless bike rides over the years, but I’ve never written it down. So, 28 years after the fact, here it is, to the best of my recollection. And fortunately, this was not lost to the ages. My father was there with the camera, and got some pictures. So I actually have a record of this experience.

It was May 28th, 1978. I was 18 and just graduated out of Junior racing and into Category 2. There were three big races over Memorial Day Weekend, culminating in the Tour of Somerville. This particular story concerns the Sunday race, which was the Tour of Nutley in Nutley, New Jersey. I’ve always wished that my greatest bike racing memory could have been attached to a place with a less-goofy name, but such is life.

The race was 100km around a course in downtown Nutley. It was about 60 laps. There were probably 200 riders in the field, and it was nothing particularly out of the ordinary for me at the time. There were riders from all the big teams at the time, including most of the U.S. National Team and a few riders from Europe. We started out and I just rode in the pack.

Somewhere along the way a breakaway got started and they got quite far ahead of the pack. I didn’t think much about it, since I had no (well, not many) aspirations of greatness at the time. But at about 20 laps to go, I found myself at the front of the pack. We were going along at racing speed, which was probably about 25-28mph, but I was just sort of loafing. I saw a guy in a red jersey take off from the front. I was just watching him go, figuring that he wouldn’t get far by himself. But then I saw John Quinn, who was the guy who ran my racing club, standing on the side of the road. He saw me at the front and yelled, “Go after him!” So I did. I jumped up and got on his wheel. He pulled me around for two laps before he even let me take a turn pulling. I took a quick look back and I couldn’t see the pack. When I pulled through he said something to me like, “No! Bigger gear!” So I dropped into a big gear and took a pull.

We traded off pulling for a couple of laps before I looked back and saw two other guys coming up to join us. I thought this was a Good Thing, since I didn’t think I’d last in a two-man breakaway. With four, I thought we’d have a good chance of making it to the finish without being caught. When they joined us, we settled into a pace line and life was good.

I hadn’t thought much about who these guys were, but the announcer started telling the crowd about us when we passed the starting line. It turned out that the guy who started the breakaway was Tom Doughty, who was on the National Team. The two other guys who joined us were Kent Bostick and Rick Baldwin. This was where I started to get scared. I used to get pumped up for races by reading race reports from Velo News, and so I knew that Rick had finished 8th in the 1977 National Road Championship, and I remembered reading how the National Team coach was “drooling over the raw power of big-boned Kent Bostick”. Suddenly I was feeling like I was a bit out of my element. I was a just-graduated-from-juniors kid. Yikes.

After a few laps, we got within sight of the front breakaway. But we didn’t quite catch them. To my credit, I was not the first to fade. It was either Kent or Rick who first started to lose it. But we were all getting tired. All of us except for Tom, the National Team guy. He finally got tired of pulling us and just left to join the front group. By this time there were only about five laps to go. I was still holding out hope that we could make it to the finish, but it was not to be. I ended up riding by myself, trying desperately to stay away from the pack. But at one lap to go, just as I passed the finish line, the pack blew by me like a train. I could barely turn the pedals by that time. So I just wobbled over to the side of the road and fell over on the grass.

Some people from my club picked me up and carried me over to a wall and sort of propped me up there. They gave me something to drink. I was a bit delerious at that point, but I still knew that I’d done something that everyone considered to be amazing. So even though I felt half-dead, it was fun.

So this was my greatest single day of bike riding ever. It was great fun. It was my greatest triumph and greatest defeat all at the same time. And I wish I could have had more like it. I had other days of triumph, but this was the only time where I could truly say that I’d given it all.


On this day in history…

Filed under: — stan @ 5:31 pm

It was May 2, 1976, and it was the day of my first big race. I was 16, and had no idea what I was in for that day. We all had our old-style leather-hairnet ‘helmets’ on, and I didn’t even know to zip up my jersey collar. When the race started, it was all just a blur. We went faster than I’d ever imagined was possible. But I stayed with the pack, and even tried to break away a couple of times. I didn’t know that first-year riders usually get dropped, so I didn’t get dropped. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know that you’re not supposed to be able to do it. It was great fun.


On this day in history…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:52 pm

It was April 23, 1978. It was the Acton Road Race. I was excited, because they had separate races for categories 1 and 2. Usually in those days, 1 and 2 were combined, and if you were a Cat 2 like me, it meant that it was harder to place in the top ten. So the prospect of a separate Category 2 race was very nice. On the other hand, it was in the mountains, and there were some climbs on the course. I was generally pretty good at hills, but being from New Jersey, I wasn’t used to the size of the hills here.

The course was a nice 24-mile loop through the hills north of the Antelope Valley Freeway, about half-way from Los Angeles to Palmdale. The race was three laps, or 72 miles.

The course was very nice. The roads were smooth, and it was a perfect spring day. The pack was about 50-60 riders. I was hoping just to stay in the pack and finish with the group, since I’d had some bad experiences in the last two road races in the mountains.

The pack stayed together for the whole race. On the last lap, when we were going up the last big climb, I lost contact with the pack. I was feeling discouraged, and I was having trouble going up the hill. But then, about half-way up the hill, I suddenly started thinking:

“I am not going to let this happen again. I got dropped at Pyramid Lake. I got dropped at Bouquet Canyon. I am not getting dropped again!”

And suddenly, I was suffused with the strength of ten Grinches. I caught up with the pack at the crest of the hill. At that point, I was going so fast, that I ended up at the front. We crested the hill and went flying down the other side. We crossed the freeway and took the right turn that meant we were almost at the finish. I was so excited that I’d caught the pack that I was able to stay at the front all the way to the end. The finish was an uphill sprint, and I managed to reach the proper mental state of Zen Hulk-dom to do the sprint.

I came in 8th, which was pretty good, considering that I recovered from getting dropped. In fact, that was the only race I ever rode where I was able to catch the pack after being dropped. So overall, it was a remarkable and perfect day.

And sadly, as with most of my favorite racing stories, I have no pictures to go along with it. Just my own memories.


It was 27 years ago today…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:31 pm

It was February 19th, 1978. I got up at some ungodly hour like 3:30AM to go down to Bud’s Bike Shop in Claremont to meet the guys who were going to give me a ride to the Malibu Time Trial. This was a little 10-mile time trial that used to be the first event of the Southern California racing season. The race started at something like 06:00. The course was out-and-back twice. They sent us off the line at 30-second intervals. This was good, since it meant that the guy who started before me was still in sight when I started. So I just concentrated on trying to catch him. When I did, I just chased the next guy in line. I passed at least two other riders that day. The photo is when I was turning for the second out-and-back. When it was all done, I was in second place for Category 2, and tied for third place overall with a time of 23:19. There were no prizes. It was just an opportunity to see how fast everyone was riding. And it was great fun.


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