Alastair Locket has been a fixture of NW bicycle racing for the last 20 years and we have been fortunate to have him on our roster for these last two. When he announced he was retiring from racing it came as a surprise but we're glad for the time we had together and wish him all the best. Plus, it's not like he's hanging up the bike... no doubt we'll bump into him out on the road more than once.
Alastair has just about done it all. He has raced on the road and the track (with lots of success in both of disciplines), has organized events, been a mentor to many and an inspiration to even more. His perspective is one of experience and always refreshing. Even in the last years of his career, there were numerous times when he could show the 'kids' (who were 25 years younger) how it was done; and the number of training rides where he put the hurt on all of us are too numerous to mention.
Lucky for us he decided to write down some of his memories and gave us permission to publish them. So here is part 1 of the last 20 years of bike racing in the NW through the eyes of Alastair Locket. Be on the lookout for future editions. Alastair - thanks for all your energy, support and enthusiasm!
The racing scene around here didn’t have nearly the number of riders as it does today. Cat 4 was the beginning category. There were extremely few if any Cat 1 riders as the upgrade system then was more stringent. There were very few races on the calendar as compared to now. No Seward Park, only Friday night racing at Marymoor but there was SIR on Tuesday nights. I think $2 was the entry fee. Weekend races were $4-$6 depending on the prize list. Phil Miller was actively racing. There was no internet so race information came either through the Bicycle Paper or in your postal mailbox.
While the racing scene didn’t have the large numbers of riders as does today, the quality of the racing was still reasonably good. Franz Hammer was only in his mid 40s and was one of the top riders at the time. Chandler Leach was a teenager and was starting to dominate on the track and road. Bill Turina and Kevin Fiske were top time trialists with Kevin being state TT champ 3 years in a row. Friday night racing at Marymoor saw lots of riders and spectators, more so than now. The field for the state points race saw at least 50 riders which was helped out by the inclusion of Cat 4s, me being one of them. The Canadians were the dominant force on the road. Only one or two NW riders would crack the top 10 at Volunteer Park. Bruce Spicer on his celeste green Bianchi would typically lap the pack in that race.
My first 4 years of racing was with the Rainbow Cycling Club, one of the dominant clubs at the time, particularly on the track. I borrowed from the club an old Gitane track bike and started racing the track in addition to road racing. Will was my main strategist with Todd helping out too. Sit in and wait for the sprint at the end was their advice. For years, that was my tactic which rewarded me with quite a few good results. By 1985, I was a Cat 3 on the track and was eyeing the season's points title for that year. One Friday night toward the end of the feature race (a scratch race which some Cat 3 were invited to), they rang the bell for a prime. I went for it figuring that I had no chance at the end of the race. With an instant 1/3 of a lap on the pack and two laps to go, people were yelling at me not to sit up but to go! Go I went and ended up stealing the race, much to the chagrin of Chandler. The following week, again invited to the feature race, I legitimately wound up 2nd and learned over the PA that I was now a Cat 2. So much for my quest for the Cat 3 seasons points.
While Chandler was the clear dominant force on the track through 1987, there were others who were coming of age like Ron Storer and Steve Smith who were both on the national team. In 1988, Chandler had decided that he was burned out on the sport and retired which left a void in the racing community, especially at the track. With my recent successes, I put even more energy into track riding over road racing. That year, I got into a breakaway with Ron and Steve during the state points race. While they were going at it for the win, I was quite happy to go for the bronze. My confidence level soared. With Chandler gone and Ron and Steve gone to national events throughout the year, I took up the slack for regular Friday night racing and won the seasons points in 1988. I did it again in 1989 along with winning the state points race. I clearly remember Martin Criminale being delighted at being part of the winning effort. I also remember John Hill guiding me through the pack after lapping it the first time which set me up to do it again. My legs were in knots after having lapped the pack twice, pedaling squares with 5 laps to go but already having the race in the bag.
1990 as it turned out would be my last year racing. I won the state points race again but didn’t deliver on the seasons points battle. I was relentlessly attacked which by August had worn on me tremendously. Pat White went on to win the season handily as he was just coming into his own. He was always a better sprinter than me and finally developed the fitness needed to not be asphyxiated at the end of a race. Chris Torgerson, who was a really top flight road rider at the time, would occasionally come out to race Friday night including the state points race. I remember having a rather uneasy nonverbal understanding with him that while he could kick my ass along with most others on the road, the track was my domain. He was second in the 1990 state points race. Mike Burdo was also someone who had great talent across the board and was an especially good pursuiter. Mike Hainsworth was 4th in the Cat. 4 state road race in 1989.
Friday night racing was quite a spectator draw back then. On a warm summer night, the stands would be full with people 4 deep on turns 1 and 2 and lesser so on turn 3. John Hanson was out then too offering advice and observations. He was the one who organized a team pursuit team one Friday night in 1985 that included me as a Cat 3. I thought he was crazy to include me in with the likes of Steve Poulter (still warm off of being on the British TTT for the 84 Olympics) and Brent Mudry. To my amazement, we cracked out a 4:51 and that was on pretty conventional bikes.
In the late 80s, Madison racing became an option for Friday night racings’ feature race. Andy Dahlstrom and I were team mates for this for several years. We won pretty much everyone we did. I remember in about 1984 looking back at Mike Kolin (coach for the Rainbow Cycling Club) during a Tuesday night training session. After a bunch of laps doing exchanges, snot was pouring out of his nose and was breathing like a race horse. He said, “This is the best form of bicycle racing”, and years later I would have to concur that I see his point.
With all the attention I gave to the track, I still had some successes on the road. I won a couple of Cat 2 criteriums and a number of top 6’s on RR’s. I was usually pretty compromised for weekend races because of racing Friday nights. It wasn’t just an issue of soar legs but also one of lack of sleep. Friday night racing left me quite buzzed which resulted in a terrible nights’ sleep.
In closing on this segment, I have to mention Glenn Bunselmeyer as he got started racing in the mid 80s. He was one of the “bad boys” of the racing community, always willing to mouth off at officials, riding with brute force strength and without much polish. More about him later as he became very important to my racing when I returned in 1999.