In the early 90’s I raced for Richard Sachs on the bicycles he built by hand in his workshop in Chester, Connecticut. As a junior, I had always dreamed of racing on one of these bikes as part of Richard’s Connecticut Yankee Bicycle Club, which was the elite regional team at the time. When Richard offered me a spot on the team during my final junior season, I did not hesitate to take it.
Richard called his signature road frame the Strada Immaculata.
The frame had a traditional “European” road geometry, developed from Richard’s experience with Wittcomb cycles. The angles were kicked back. The fork had lots of rake, which absorbed road shocks and vibration. And the frame had a VERY low bottom bracket that made it extremely stable on descents. It was a beautiful piece of work: oversized True Temper steel, bright red paint job, yellow logos, with a white panel on the down tube, Richard’s signature on the top tube and the stylized “RS” head badge. I still wish I had one.
There was one draw back with the bike. It was impossible to pedal through the corners, especially with the Time (one of our sponsors) clipless pedals of the era. For long road races on the twisting, rough New England roads, it wasn’t much of a problem. But for the tight corners of the criterium courses that were the staple of our racing program, it was a liability. Normally, a racer would pedal through the corners to maintain as much speed as possible, to limit the braking and acceleration that would rob energy. In a breakaway situation, it was a clear advantage where each corner could be used to gain a little more distance over the field.
On my Strada Immaculata, if I tried to pedal through, I would inevitably hit the pedal at the point of maximum lean on the apex of the corner. At best, it broke my rhythm and was rough on my nerves. At the worst, it could cause the rear wheel to kick out, losing contact with the road, and could put me on the tarmac in a very undignified manner.
I finally learned how to properly use the Strada Immaculata by following my teammate, Brian Hansen. I had started to notice that he would pull-clear in corners, appearing somehow to pedal all the way through. I asked him what was the secret. It was very simple: you just had skip the ONE pedal stroke at the apex of the corner, the one where you would otherwise scrape your pedal. Everything else, you pedal. It seemed improbable that I could get the timing the right for the momentary interruption while pedaling with a cadence of 100 rpm. But as I started to practice it, I developed a feel for it.
The Gloversville Criterium in New York state was the first time I had a chance to try it in a race. I had soloed away from the field half-way through the 40-mile crit. I was flying through the corners and carrying great speed, especially through the downhill turns on the course. After a few laps, I overtook some riders. As I passed them, I asked, “Are you guys lapped?” They looked at me like I was crazy. One of them said, “We’re the breakaway!”
“Not anymore,” I said and pulled clear of them.