Saturday, December 05, 2009

Bethel Spring Series - What It Used To Be

So Bethel has become this nice, polished, semi-consistent event. But how was it at the beginning?

Not so polished, nor organized.

One of the first Bethels. Not quite the first.

Based on Easter's date, it's from 1993. The Series started the year prior, in 1992, with a $7.95 entry fee. This confirmed what someone told me a long while back - that the Series started in '92. Anyway, no one wanted their nickels that year ("nickelback", so to speak), even though we'd brought rolls of them to the race. We decided to raise the fee by that nickel for the following year.

Bethel then was different from Bethel now. For one thing, the only van I had didn't run. You can see it in the picture below - a beautiful F-150 if it ran. I ended up selling it to the dump for $20, and they picked up up for free (bonus!).

Instead I got by on using a hand-me-down car, a Mazda 626. I hauled virtually everything in it. I also used my parent's Subaru, and for a while we even rented vans or SUVs.

Packed car, the last day of the Series.

Note the podium (the wood box), my green kit (means it was 2003 probably), the clock, and one of the original "Caution" signs from 1993 or so.

More podiums, cones, gasoline, and my bike up top (a Specialized M2 with Ergo).

I think we were in the "borrowing a tent each year" phase so there's no tent. Either that or Joe B or Tom was carrying the tents home. Whatever, they're missing from the pictures here.

At this time we were still using paper and pen for registration. It started getting complicated when we went high-tech with laptops, which then required some level of dryness, which meant tent sides, and finally heat.

We used a tiny generator after frying two cars worth of electrics (using plug in transformers). The generator was noisy, inefficient, and tried to give up after two years of service. Merto fixed it despite its protests one year and we got through that Series before it really gave up. I gave it to the dump when we moved a couple years ago.

Big honkin' radio, rented from CBRA. Guessing it's 1996-1997 based on the cap, maybe 1996 since a bunch of the pictures are from the same batch.

For the Series, especially in the early years, radios presented a big challenge. I thought for many years of distributing, to the marshals, a car battery with a CB radio attached to it. I figured a fully charged car battery would power a CB for long enough, and if it didn't, we could just hook it up to an actual car.

But instead we used walkie talkies. Heck, the $40 for a minimum CB was a deal breaker, and where would I find 2-3 car batteries that worked? (Forget about all the dead ones I had in my garage...)

For many years we rented radios from the CBRA. We'd get chargers, radios, and pay some fee each year. We finally saved up to buy some Motorola walkie talkies, and we're still using them now, supplemented by several AAA battery powered cheapies.

Mike, one of our two regular officials, standing in the center. Our actual official that day was Dave.

This used to be the scene at the start/finish area. A car or three, dirt, and warmly dressed officials.

Action shot of the same scene.

Perhaps it's 1996, based on other shots from that Feb/Mar. Yeah, that's me, at the back of the field. I'm running a 24H Zipp 340 rear wheel, probably a 28H GEL280 or FiR GL330 front. A very fast, very light set up, for the time anyway.

There's a building back there now, and a big paved parking lot, not piles of sand and dirt.

Doing the lap cards.

Checking the time gap.

Whenever I see this picture, I think of the Tour where Hinault gets into a break in the 1985 Tour, one of the flatter early stages, one that took place in Brittany. A young Phil Liggett comentates that the Bretons, checking the time gap, will be happy with Hinault's progress (Hinault is from the area).

The break has some horsepower. Stephen Roche, who would win it one day, was there with three teammates I think. Phil Anderson, another top rider from the time, was there with three teammates also. Only three or four teams missed the break, and it was up to Fignon's new-for-that-year System U team to do all the chasing.

Hinault finally gets caught, and as he does, the World Champion striped Lemond rockets out of the field.

"Has he caught the field by surprise? No, Marc Madiot, the French Champion, is on his wheel."

Phil concludes this flat day's adventures with the following rhythmic phrase:

"The Tour will not forget the day the Badger came out to play."

What everyone forgets to mention is that the cameras out that day were no normal ones - they were movie cameras, filming "background" footage for the "soon to be released" movie, The Yellow Jersey, allegedly starring Dustin Hoffman. The movie, of course, never happened, but with a chance to immortalize oneself in a film, a bunch of racers broke away on what should have been an easy day.

Not only that, two team leaders were almost across but couldn't quite get there - had the break waited just a touch, with those two leaders in the lead group, pundits were saying that the break would have gained 15 minutes. Instead, those two team leaders threw their riders into the chase, and for a good hour or so two groups of Tour riders chased each other around Northern France.

I guess we brought tables to the start/finish area.

I'm the guy with the horrible haircut leaning against the table, a reasonably lean 140-odd pounds, fighting weight back then. Merto is behind me in the striped shirt and long hair. Abdul is in the sunglasses, and his bike is the one leaning on the table. They still come to the races, when they can.

In 2010 we'll be doing the 18th confirmed Bethel Spring Series (thanks to that flyer up there). I hope that things get even nicer than last year. The town's already given its permission, and now, for the first time in a long time, I'm looking to increase (just a bit) the amount of stuff we give away. Hopefully I have more news in the next month or two.

See you out there.


Connor Sallee said...

that was a great read man... especially the mazda 626!!

i still rock my '97, you can fit endless amounts of stuff in there.

Aki said...

Heh. I sold the 626 after a long period of zero maintenance and lots of driving (no money equals no maintenance). It was a poster child of what goes wrong if you don't maintain your car.

I'm glad I found that flyer. I wasn't sure if the Series started in '92, but now I know it did. Phew.