Newsletter - 2004 Archive

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After Wim and Harold's exchange on the latter's part in Alex Stieda's early cycling life, Harold mentioned that there was a little more to this story. I encouraged him to write it down... and here it is. [Eric F.]

Connections and Coincidences

by Harold Bridge

               In 1971 the Bridge family moved from Port Coquitlam up the hill into Coquitlam. After getting settled in our new home a neighbour introduced me to another neighbour who had a distinctly English accent despite her Teutonic sounding surname. I was introduced as a "Cyclist" whereupon the new neighbour, Gerry Stieda, said; "I used to be a cyclist" Sure, I thought, everyone used to ride a bike.

               I asked where in UK she came from & she said she considered Chichester, in Sussex, home despite her Dad's job with the Ministry of Supply moving them all over the country. I mentioned that I knew "Chi" quite well as I was stationed close by there when in the Fleet Air Arm & that in 1950 I rode the Chichester Club's 50 mile time trial. At the time my best 50 was a rather pathetic 2 hours 17 minutes & I had plans to improve by about 5 minutes on the rather fast course along the South Coast.

               A problem arose when the early morning start didn't jive with the bed & breakfast hosts' idea of the right time to get up on a Sunday morning & they grudgingly allowed us a bowl of cereal for breakfast. My scheduled 2-12 was looking good for about 40 of the 50 miles then the hunger knock got me & I staggered into the finish with a 2-18 ride. I told this story to Mrs Stieda & then she floored me with; "2-18? I think that was my time for a 50!"

               Eventually I got to know the family, Gerry's husband Hans, her eldest son Alex & his 3 sisters, Carolne, Jennifer & Margaret. Margaret became, & still is, a close friend of my Daughter's. Didn't see much of Alex, he was always doing something away from home. If not playing hockey he might be partnering Jennifer in figure skating or touring with the Centennial School band..

               There is a 10 mile tt course that uses that awful road up to Pitt Lake - good Paris-Roubaix training. We used to use it for mid-week events & in 1976 I took 14 year old Alex out there on a Bitzer he had built up himself. He was riding in runners & with no toe clips. On the way out there I suggested to him if he rode like we were at that moment but about 2 sprockets smaller in the gear range he would get round inside 30 minutes.

               I was on a decent bike equipped with sprint wheels & tubular tyres (sew-ups). My plan was usually to at least get inside 30 minutes & I did. So did Alex, fortunately about 15 seconds slower than me! In 1977, his first year of competition, he won most of what he entered & in his first year as a Junior, 1979, he won all but one of the National Championships; Sprint, 1000m tt, individual pursuit, team pursuit on the track as well as the road race & individual tt on the road. Quebec, I think, beat BC in the team time trial. As a result he went to the Junior World's in Buenos Aires & finished 5th in the pursuit. 1980 & he was still eligible for Junior status & had a repeat of the previous year plus the TTT.

               By this time I had met his Granfather, Ernie Baker, when he was visiting from UK. He & I discovered mutual friends in the English cycling fraternity. Gerry showed me a photo taken by the Cycling press during the mid-thirties. It was of her father finishing a time trial ahead of 3 other riders who were spread out by a few metres. Ernie knew that one of the other riders in the photo had the same surname as his but didn't know the details.

               It was in the summer of 1980 we got a phone call from an old clubmate of mine, Bill Kay. He was stranded in Vancouver due to labour trouble preventing him going on the Alaskan cruise he had booked.

               He came & stayed with us for a week. One mid week evening I took him with me over to 41st & Marine where I was planning to ride the evening "10' that went up through UBC to turn on Chancellors Blvd. Bill took a few photos & after my 28 minute effort we drove home. I suggested we call on the Stieda household. But Gerry & Jennifer were away to Zero Av where they too were riding a "10" & Hans was at home alone.

               I asked Hans to show Bill the photo of Ernie Baker & asked Bill if he recognized the other riders. He put uncertain names on the 2nd & 3rd ones. Before joining my Club, Bill had been a member during the 30s & 40s of the Bath Road Club. He was in no doubt about the 4th rider in the picture: "….and that is Len Baker of the Barh Road , the **** who gave me this dent in my skull when he knocked me off during a club run!".

               Alex went onto a successful professional career with the all powerful 7-11 team riding with our own Ron Haymen & Brian Walton as well as the gold medalist speed skater Eric Heiden. Alex was a close friend of Davis Phinney & was right there to witness that horrendous crash when Phinney went through the rear window of a team car during Paris-Roubaix [note]. Alex quit & got in the ambulance with his team mate to support & comfort him.


[note] Alex Stieda contacted us - yes really - to mention that it was actually Liege Bastogne Liege that he had quit, not Paris Roubaix.