Typical Junior crash-a-thon. Pretty
amazing action in this photo! This was the Redwood City
Criterium, on Broadway, just a couple blocks from the current
Chain Reaction Bicycles. Broadway doesn't look like this
anymore (they've cleaned up all the blood).
my first race victory...the Stockton Time Trial (Well, not really!
Yesterday, 7/8/09, my son discovers the little glass award I got for
that race, and thought it was pretty cool and I should take better
care of it than to have it under a pile of junk in the garage. Funny
thing is, it clearly says 2nd Place not 1st! So I
guess my memory had enhanced the event just a wee bit).
the same time as Hank Tolhurst, our club's reigning super Senior
Cat-1 rider, who was expected to do well, unlike me. Don't
remember the guy's name on far left, that's me second from left,
Paul Doherty next to me, and then, behind the tailgate, we have
Ron Sears (in red) and Marty Yanofsky, Jenny Fire
(my...um...well, there have only been two women in my life, my
and, before her, Jenny) and Thom Iverson, whom I worked in shops
with and is now an engineer working in the Seattle area.
This just in from one of our customers-
Mike... it's a small world. The guy on the
far left in the Pedali picture with the car is Don Couch. Don was
a big trombone player who became a skinny bike riding trombone
player... I was in a band with him. There ya have
it! John Anning
We had four groups within Pedali Alpini.
There was the "A" group, whom we were expected to bow
down reverently before, got $$$ from the treasury for travel
expenses etc, the "B" group that comprised
"serious" cyclists who weren't good enough (and probably
never would be) for the "A" group, the "belongers"
who helped out and supported things...and us. A bunch of
upstart young punks who created the "Z" team. It
was our job, as the "Z" team, to do in the "A"
team riders any chance we got, particularly in time trials, where
there could be no doubt as to actual ability. We were a
feisty bunch, had a lot of fun, traveled all over the state and
had/have many interesting stories to tell.
Redwood City criterium...my first non-Twilight race. Yeah,
that's me all bandaged up after a nasty crash, surrounded by the "bike
rack group" from San Carlos High. Yep, that's right, we
hung out at the bike rack!
Mike Annisimov far left...he rode
and had ideas but never got anywhere and dropped out of racing
pretty early...racers didn't party hard enough, I think.
Next is Mark Alexander, a tall lanky guy, a year older than I,
whom I got into bike racing. He actually did pretty well in
races which had lots of climbing, being even skinnier than me
(tough to do at the time!), but didn't have much of a sprint.
And me all messed up from my first
crit, eating the gravel pretty early on.
memory? Sitting on a table at Kaiser, nurse getting ready to
spray me with something...I assumed painful disinfectant.
Thought I was going to DIE! Turned out to be a pain killer
though. Lots of fun, lying there while they pick gravel out
of your side with tweezers. You'll note the bandadge runs
from the knee well up past my waist (plus each arm). This was
on a Sunday, and I was back out racing the following Thursday,
complete with fever from all the stuff my body was doing to
regenerate an awful lot of skin. Far right is Clint Shields.
Have no idea whatever happened to him.
May 25, 1972- either my first or second USCF-sanctioned bike race, the Thursday night Twilight series
held near Lockheed (Sunnyvale). That's me on the far right,
in the fancy shorts & t-shirt. 27 miles of a windy,
4-corner criterium course.
My bike? A 25-inch Gitane Tour de France
(about 1.5 inches too big!) bought from Sugden & Lynch in
Menlo Park. Toe clips & straps (clipless pedals were
years away!), Mafac centerpull brakes, Stronglight 93 crankset,
Simplex derailleurs, Campy Nuovo Tipo hubs, Mavic Monthlery rims
and Paris Nice sew up tires.
This was from the Redwood City criterium, the
first year it moved to downtown Redwood City. I'd done
pretty well by now, since my racing number was 16 (corresponding
to my National Best All-Rounder ranking at the time). Still,
I was a skinny hill-climbing cyclist without a sprint (or the guts
to put myself in a position of real peril in a criterium).
A couple years later finds my first season as a
Senior, riding the same race as shown two photos above. Only
now, instead of being in one of the handicapped classes, I'm in the
"scratch" Senior field, and showing a bit more of a
"game face" than before. Racing was now deadly
The bike? My Bob Jackson "criterium"
machine, with ultra-narrow 38mm bars (I use 44s now) and short 168mm
cranks (better clearance for pedaling through corners).
Flashback time. Was just
thinking of my more memorable races from the wayback
days, and came up with three-
The Tour of Lake Tahoe, a 3-stage race with the
middle event along Highway 50 on the backside of Lake Tahoe,
heading into Stateline. Why so memorable?
First, the fellow racer's car we took to get there was a beat-up
old station wagon with shot wheel bearings. I mean really
shot. We had to stop every half hour or so and pack them
with grease (they literally smoked).
Second, the criterium stage in Squaw Valley had this tight little
loop through the parking lots at the business-end of the valley
(where the lifts are). The pavement at the back of the ice
rink (which no longer exists) had a nasty four-foot-wide cut
across it where the pavement dropped maybe an inch or two and then
came back up. On an early lap, after a particularly nasty
impact on that section (we called it the ski jump), my Campy
seatpost decided it no longer wanted to hold the saddle in place,
so I rode about 20 miles without sitting down.
Third, the infamous road stage around Lake Tahoe itself was
memorable for two things. Early in the race, a couple
riders got away from the group on one of the climbs, one Tom
Ritchey and Mark Alexander. We had a pretty strong pack, and
people asked me, since I knew both riders, if this was something
we should be concerned about. I didn't think so; Mark had
never displayed a desire to suffer off the front of the pack for
long distances. That analysis proved to be a mistake, as
they stayed off the front to the end. Sort of, because, in
this race, there was no end! The guys who were supposed to
be setting up the finish line outside of Stateline (well before
the Casino area) ran out of gas. So you have a pack of maybe
50-60 testosterone-crazed juniors racing through Stateline, trying
to get through the traffic jams by riding anywhere we could.
Sidewalks, wrong side of the street, whatever, we were there.
Even picked up some police "escorts" but lost them in the muck.
I have no idea how we all survived the experience, but let me tell
you, it was the thrill of a lifetime! We eventually ended up
near the "Y" and realized that all was not quite right.
The Patterson Pass Road Race of 1972 or so.
Patterson Pass is a very hilly race, with one spectacularly
steep and sudden climb. A perfect race for climbers!
Usually, but not this day. There were at least four very
strong climbers in the group (of which I, at the time, was one),
and we should have had little trouble breaking things up, but we
didn't. We were too confident, just climbing too easily and
enjoying the day a bit too much. Come the final climb and we
still have most of the group together, including... Rod Jewitt, a
short, stocky field sprinter who was most definitely not a
climber. He should not have been there, but he was.
Add to my problems the fact that I'd assumed this was going to be
a race with junior gear restrictions enforced, so I had my 47/15
as a high gear. Um, no gear restriction that day, as things
turned out. Long downhill sprint to the finish line, with a
strong tailwind. Rod won (I ended up spinning my way to
4th), and I learned a very valuable lesson about pushing the pace
any time it favored my particular style or riding.
Sierra Grade Road Race of 1974. First
year as a Cat-2 senior, and, like Patterson Pass above, a course
that should have suited me well, with a nasty climb (Sierra Grade)
near the beginning. Remember that lesson I learned at
Patterson Pass a couple years earlier? Push the pace
whenever you could? And the prior lesson about
underestimating your competitor's abilities? Judge for
yourself how well I learned those lessons. Robert Wilkins of rival
club BBC tested the
waters on the climb and rode off the front a ways. I was
feeling pretty good and not too worried about it; after all, was
he going to stay away, fighting the wind on his own, for the
remaining 40 miles? I won the field sprint... for 2nd place.
There were many other interesting times during my
five year career as a semi-successful racer, enough to make it
confusing to figure out if I'm a has-been or never-was.
Probably something in-between. My motivation to race wasn't
just to get across the finish line first, but to rationalize
spending more time on my bike (the alternative being homework and
household chores), finding great new places to ride (we traveled
quite a bit through the state) and spending time with a great group
of people. Besides, I was doing both the school and work
thing, supporting my habit entirely on my own, so I could never
spend the amount of time training that many of my competitors did...
which in itself was motivation to try and beat them.
My racing "career" was somewhat backward of what you see in the pro
ranks, as I started as a climber (6' tall, 133 lbs) and ended as a
sprinter (158 lbs). If you look at guys in the high GC
standings for major stage races, they're often older guys (older
being relative- maybe 26 years old) who used to be first-class
sprinters but no longer contest field sprints, choosing instead to
play a tactical game in the mountains. But things change and
truth is, back in the day, your TDF leaders, Merckx in particular,
challenged sprints every bit as much as he challenged the mountains.
"Historically, the race has been very good
for an early-season indication of who's going to be successful in
the upcoming races. For example, Charlie Dixon, who won the
event in 1973, faded away shortly thereafter. Likewise Marc
Horowitz the following year. So, if history provides the
answer, the 1145 (USCF member) cyclists who stayed home are in for
a relatively decent year."
From June 1975 Competitive Cycling-
"With 4 laps to go, a rekindled Joe Shaw
left the pack behind and rode alone to a well deserved
victory. Included among the various prizes he won was a gift
certificate good for an hour at a local massage parlor.
Unfortunately, when Joe seriously got back into cycling, he became
out of practice at other things in life to the point where it was
questionable what wore him out more- the race or the hour spent
"relaxing" at a massage parlor."
"In the I & II race, Leonard Nitz
sprinted to his second consecutive victory (while those not riding
were sprinting for his sister, Debbie)."
From May 1975 Competitive Cycling-
"Surely race field size can be brought down
to a manageable level by stating a mandatory cut-off date for
entries and a maximum field size to be allowed, while maintaining
a reasonably "open event, allowing category II riders to
enter. Very few race promoters, I'm sure, will complain
about the inclusion of category II riders, many of whom BY
NECESSITY tend to be very aggressive and fight to the finish,
simply because they need the placing for upgrading.
Noel has the right idea- limiting field size for
safer races- but is going about it the wrong way. The
category I riders cannot be allowed to become an elitist group,
just as category II riders cannot be denied (in California) of
their right to compete on an equal basis with riders from other
From May 1975 Competitive Cycling-
"The category II race was the closest that
any event came to a crowd-pleasing blood-bath, as nervous and
sometimes inept riders would attempt to improve their position by
sprinting up the inside before the corners, not finding enough
room to fit in. The result was that a sizeable number of
riders would become separated from the pack by a good distance,
each time taking several laps to get back on."
"Throughout the final laps (of the Cat I
race), one face became very familiar to the crowd, because it was
always in the same place. Nikola Farac-Barb (Talbots-Pedali)
was keeping an ever-vigilant patrol on the back of the pack,
demonstrating to one and all how to suck wheels. Nick later
rationalized this by explaining that he'd moved up five riders to
improve his position and then look back only to find that those
riders had dropped out of the race! Said he'd move up another
five, look back, and... typical CC mentality."
From November 1975 Competitive Cycling-
"The ultra-sadistic SCCCC(would you believe
Santa Cruz County Cycling Club?) promoted a weekend event for all
ABL riders who either can't translate Spanish or doubted the
extent of sadism that the SCCCC would resort to (remember, they
brought us the Santa Cruz Criterium AND the Alba hill climb last
"Were it not for the inclusion of this
event (Alba Hill Climb TT) in the stage race, the total number of
entrants might well have doubled. Alba Road starts in Ben
Lomond, at the base of Ben Lomond Mountain, and in 6km climbs 630
meters to the top. This averages exactly 10.5%;
unfortunately, the first kilometer or two is an "easy"
6-7 percent, until the road literally bumps into the first of
several 15 percent-plus grades. The masochistic use low
gears of 50" or so, while the more sane (and also those
turning the fastest times) rode in the mid to high 40s."
Not written by me, but a great article about one
of our local heroes, George Mount (who also happens to be a
customer, and does a lot of work with local charity rides).
attitude toward competition? GM: I race because I enjoy it, whether the race be out in
Podunk, Calif., or the Pan-Am games. I like going to races
and I like the people who are involved with the sport- at least on
the West Coast. I was sort of turned off by the Midwesties;
some of those people are pretty strange. CC:They might have through the
same about you. GM: Most likely. I'm crazier than they are; that's
why they are strange to me. It is not important for me to
win. If winning becomes and end-all and you begin to lose, then it
can demoralize you. Even if you are a top rider, you are
fortunate to win a third of your races; that means you are losing
two-thirds of the time. If I can win every once in a while,
I am satisfied with that."
This appeared in February, 1976. George
Mount went on to become the first US cyclist to do well in an
Olympic Road Race, taking 6th place at the 1976 games.
At least I got something right!
Check out my piece on this new guy, Greg something-
or-other. Seems like I thought he might be a pretty good
rider. This was in July of 1976.
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