9.08.2007

GMSR Criterium postscript (velo retro part deux)

George Hincapie, sporting some road rash, at the finish of the Stowe Road Race, 1992.

Longtime Burlington Criterium director (now director emeritus or something like that -- along with Ben Haydock) Spencer Knapp posted this email to the GMBC email list this past week, I have added some notes (in red) of my own, along with a few scans of some photographs taken by my dad in 1992 at the Stowe Road Race.

"...In 1983, the first Burlington Criterium, then called the Waterfront Criterium, was held in late May on its original course with a start/finish line in Battery Park. [I caught a glimpse of this event -- it must have been 1986 or 87, and it was the first bike race I had ever seen.] The course had been used for an Olympic Trials race once in 1976 and was ridiculously challenging, heading out North Avenue, around the hairpin turn at what is now Burlington College, down the hill onto Lake Street, which was still largely undeveloped, left on College, and then left up Battery back to the Park. With more than 300 feet of climbing every lap, it was hardly a traditional criterium. Bernie Saunders, then in his first term as Burlington's mayor, was the official starter for the race. It attracted a strong group of roughly 400 regional riders with a prize list of mostly merchandise from local bike shops. The Peugeot national women's team was the main attraction, taking the first five places in the women's race. We had no more than 50 spectators the first year, and many of those were homeless residents of Battery Park. In an effort to draw parents and kids, we included a 50 meter tricycle race for age 6 and under riders -- and got about four. The race stayed on the waterfront for five years and then moved to its current location in 1988, where it has flourished and grown ever since. For many years, the Crit was paired with the Stowe Bicycle race, then one of the premier one-day races in the Northeast, for what we called "Vermont Race Weekend." [After the Stowe Road Race died, for many years the criterium was paired with a road race around Lake Placid, NY, I rode both the Lake Placid event, and the Stowe race, several times.]

Among many highlights of the pre-GMSR Crits was the attendance of the US and Canadian national teams in 1992, just before the Barcelona Olympics. On Friday evening before Saturday's Crit and Sunday's Stowe Race, we ran a time trial on the Beltline in North Burlington, causing the largest downtown traffic jam in Burlington's history [I remember this traffic situation]. The Race Director that year, whoever he was, was not very popular with commuters. In the 92 Crit, Derek Bourchard-Hall, a recent Princeton grad, the collegiate national champ, and a newly arrived Shelburne resident, beat George Hincapie, a 19-year old national team member from Queens, NY, in a dramatic shoulder-to-shoulder sprint up Main Street, which I will never forget. The next day Hincapie soloed to win the Stowe Race after two laps over Smuggler's Notch and and a final climb up the hill to Trapp Family Lodge [Actually, this is a description of the 1993 race finish, I remember that day for being viciously cold and wet]. Lance Armstrong, a new and completely unknown addition to the US national team that year, had been scheduled to appear but missed his flight from Texas. We had no idea then what we were missing. I remember Chris Carmichael telling reporters in a press conference before Friday's time trial that he thought Armstrong might become the next Greg Lemond. Little did we know."

Team Shaklee rider finishing the Stowe Road Race, 1992.

The men's Pro/Elite field at the base of Smugglers Notch, Stowe Road Race, 1992 -- for these guys, the race consisted of two 45 mile loops, and two climbs through the Notch.

My first race ever: An embarrassing picture -- climbing alone to the finish, riding unattached & wearing a funky ensemble of Garneau cow print shorts, day-glow Italian jersey (a legacy of 80's?), Performance brand sunglasses, and on a bike with a seven speed cassette and downshifters. My memory of this race is that I hit the base of West Hill in Stowe with a group, went hard, dropped a lot of people, promptly blew up, everyone I had dropped, passed me right back, and I rode to the finish alone....Those were the days. I was a slow learner; I don't think I figured out how to race a bike effectively in a mass start event until about 1998 or so -- six years later.

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