Clicking on any of the photos will bring up a much larger version of each.
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).
Ah, 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).
Did exactly 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 wife Karen 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.
The 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.
Most painful 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 serious stuff!
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.
Scanned stories from Competitive Cycling, a magazine I used to write for when I was a "serious" racer. For the full text, click on the photos. Warning, these are pretty big files!
From February, 1975 Competitive Cycling-
"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 districts."
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 year!)."
"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).
CC:What's your 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.