Jimmy Walker and Cycling Pro......
Back in the day, I think it was one of my first criteriums as a kid(1981, 82 or 83??), Jimmy Walker was there watching the race - the Chico Criterium. At the time, he was a stud triathlete - as in, one of the best. I knew who he was, appreciated his accomplishments in triathlon, but had never really talked to the guy.
I was still learning the ropes about racing and training. I learned quite a bit from the members of the Chico Velo Cycling Club, and reading anything and everything cycling-related I could get my hands on(including French cycling magazines - hey, I didn't know French at the time, but those pictures in the magazines spoke a thousand words!).
Anyway, I was in this criterium as a Junior racer. We started off, and the darndest thing happened - I could not, for the life of me, get my foot into the toe clip! I kept trying to swing that pedal around and slide my foot in.........but just couldn't do it. I felt like a dork! It became a situation where you just aren't thinking correctly - I HAD to get my foot in that clip before I did anything else!! Before I knew it though, I was dropped. Half-lap into the race, I was by myself looking at the field take off ahead. Luckily, they slowed eventually....and I caught back on. Man, what stress.
It was Jimmy Walker who talked to me after the race. He saw what happened at the start and told me the following in a very compassionate way: "Practice your starts at every stop sign. Come to a complete stop, put your foot down on the ground, then start as if you are starting a race. Get it to a point where you can get your foot in(and out) quickly, easily, effectively. Do it at every single stop sign you come to - all of them!"
I practiced this - religiously. A month later, I was in the Vallejo Criterium racing with the Juniors(including the now-Masters stud Chris Wire......and I think Scott McKinley may have been there too). I was lined up on the start line - in front, right in the middle. As soon as that starting whistle went off, I pedaled like mad!!! Then, after the first turn, clipped my foot into the toe clip, tightened up the toe strap just before turn 2..........and I was out in front! Not dropped, not in the middle of the pack, not stumbling with my toe clips and cleats as the pack took off ahead. Nope - I was out in front that whole first lap. And although it was meaningless to everyone else, to me.......well.......it was victory!!!! LOL.
So, a big thank you goes out to Jimmy Walker. Sometimes the simplest advice yields some of the coolest results. Thanks Jimmy!