I won the Walker Walpole Memorial Handicap in 1993, during my first year of competitive cycling. It was on a Blue Reynolds 531 bike with Shimano 600 throughout. I bought it second hand for $600 from a guy who took the mountain bike I was riding at the time as part of the trade. He was opting out of racing, meaning I got his shoes, track pump and enough cycling clothes to get me started. As a student, getting out there riding to clear my head from all of the study, I was blown away by the fact that I won $100 that day!
5 Years later, my dad had just died, and I bought my dream bike, the red Saeco CAD3 Cannondale, with full Dura Ace and Mavic Helium wheels. Ignore the downtube shifter in the photo: that is something I’ve done later just to keep the old girl rolling when one of the STI shifters f__ked up (never buy top-shelf Shimano). This was an incredibly stiff bike, that left you feeling dead but for those moments when you REALLY laid down the power and it would hook straight ahead. 100% power transfer! I guess Mario Cipollini knew the feeling as well. He rode the same model bike.
I left cycling from 2000 to late 2008, and went surfing instead. But the mid life crisis left me wondering why I should go on living, and bla bla, you know, all the usual suicidal thoughts that get the better of some unlucky bastards. Fortunately, I bought my Lynskey TI bike, with Mavic’s 10 year anniversary Helium wheels, and Campagnolo gear. What a bike! My friend "Egor" led me out with 1km to go. We were leaping from a huge bunch, maybe 70 or 80 riders all up. I was on his tail yelling "go Egor, go Egor" until I could tell he was cracking then had to go it alone. 800m of wide open road, with The Roman Army giving chase on my heels. But we had a slight tail wind, and I had a rocket up my arse, and wound out my 53/11 until all I had to do was keep it rolling to the line. I looked behind a few times, like I do during a flyer sprint, and could even stop pedaling about 20 or 30 meters out from the line. Browny (a sprint rival of mine from way back) was closing, but the finish line was closing in quicker. I don’t know why Dave Heaton was Commissaire and not racing that day. He was as keen as me to win it, having won once and ran second dozens on times. He was on the line and reminded me to keep both hands on the bars as I crossed over, lest I get disqualified. It took some effort to keep both hands down!
I couldn’t sleep for three nights, just reliving the moment, thinking of all the ways I might have lost. An old rider and mentor of mine, who knew me from my glory days (his glory days too, actually) had come up beside me in the peloton maybe 1.5km from the line, and said, "this is your race Steve, you should be up near the front." After the finish he rode along side and said, "They underestimate you. They don’t know you’re a former club champion."
Alright, seeing my two boys being born were bigger events, but winning this trophy a 3rd time was far bigger than, let’s say, any career achievement. I am the only person to have won this trophy more than once. It’s an important trophy to our club also, as it commemorates 2 shocking deaths that old timers like Browny’s father recall (he is still racing in his mid 70s).
It’s a death or glory kind of sport actually, although we do all we can to keep it safe and sane, mostly. Not doing it is a worse kind of death though.
Thanks Za-Bear for holding the trophy, and for being there this year to see Daddy win (you are forgiven for not being there in 1993 and 1998, given how as you weren’t born and all).
I should mention, the Titanium Lynskey is the best bike ever to sprint on. It skips along the road all race, like a speed boat skimming on top of the chop. Then when you lay down the power, it can actually bounce into the air on the first one or two pedal strokes; that’s how alive it is. It’s like a tightly coiled spring that goes from 30-60 in just a few seconds, holds that speed a while, then graciously keeps rolling even when you can barely pedal for oxigen debt.