Aaaaah…1983. My first year as a licensed USCF competitor, my first national championship. This was back when nationals competitors were chosen through district championships. Each state/district was allotted riders on a percentage basis; basically, more riders in your state means more riders go to nationals. National team riders were given automatic spots and a select few as well were given exemptions from the district championship system, but everyone else had to deliver the goods in their state/district race to compete at the national level. At that time I was living in NY North (NY at that time had 3 districts: NY North, NY West, and NY South. There wasn’t a state championships per se, there was Empire State Games but you couldn’t count on all of the best riders taking part.) I was extremely naive and clueless, yet I managed to win the NY North Intermediate championship which gave me a starting slot in nationals. Not knowing if I’d ever qualify again, my parents decided (with a bit of pleading on my part) to fly me out to San Diego. I’m not quite sure where I finished (I think I got 21st or 31st). All I remember was a guy from Virginia won (Andrew Gellatly) and I don’t think I ever heard of his name again. It’s funny how people win titles young and disappear from the sport.
There was rising excitement about next year’s Olympics in Los Angeles. Who could possibly imagine that the 1983 men’s silver medalist Alexi Grewal would trade that in for an improbable Olympic gold in 1984. And how about the future achievements of these riders: Davis Phinney, Andy Hampsten, Ron Kiefel (1983 national champion), Jeff Pierce. Dig a bit deeper and check out these names: #42 Chris Carmichael, #72 Richard Fries, #83 Boone Lennon, #123 Ned Overend, #244 Bob Roll. A number of riders are still going strong today: #8 Steve Tilford, #53 Dave LeDuc, #113 Ronnie Hinson, #127 Michael Carter, #144 Paul Curley, #147 Chris D’Alusio.
You also may recognize the names of a few of the youngsters:
Junior Men…#1 Roy Knickman (1983 champion), #30 Scott Moninger, #98 Greg Oravetz, #107 local rider Derek Powers, #109 Matt Koschara, #123 Kurt Stockton, #129 Lance Donnell, #133 Richard Scibird
Intermediate Boys…#6 Aaron Frahm, #28 Mike McCarthy, #32 Yours truly (with a typo), #90 Rich Hincapie, #124 Jame Carney
Midget Boys…#28 Jonas Carney, #55 George Hincapie, #67 Robbie Ventura
So many of the men became the first generation of road pros in America, off the top of my head I counted at least 35 who went on to ride professionally. And how about the women? Connie Carpenter, Rebecca Twigg, Cindy Olavarri, Betsy Davis, Jeanne Golay, Beth Heiden, Marianne Martin…
Other random notes about San Diego…Bud Light was the title sponsor but was prohibited from selling any beer at the race since it took place in a city park. Doh!…Unsurprisingly, racing in late July in San Diego was hot as hell. 95 degrees on the start line? I’d lived my whole life in the Northeast and I thought the apocalypse was upon us…My dad and I stayed in some crazy hotel that was decorated as a medieval castle…We ate some of the best pizza of my life at a nearly hidden Italian restaurant tucked away in the back of a fish/produce market…As I’ve previously mentioned, I witnessed Andy Hampsten and Roy Knickman ghost ride their Team Raleighs in a Burger King parking lot…My first and only ride on a track took place within the confines of the road venue at the San Diego Velodrome. I remember talking to some elderly Italian gentleman who asked me if I was in town for road nationals. I chatted with him for a bit and he pointed to his grandson who was tooling around the track, “He’s lazy and will never amount to much on the bike. You…you seem like a hard worker. What’s your name?” He then put a little star next to my name in the official race program as someone to keep an eye on. Pretty cool, my first fan other than my parents…