By Richard Pollack
This race has always been very fast, hard and packed with strong competition. A slight twist this year is that the 45’s and 55’s would run together! Scored separately. The purse? Good thing we don’t have to live off our winnings! Or eat twice at McDonalds. The winner could eat like a king at McDo once though!
It’s early in the season and so weather can be a factor. Originally scheduled for rain, then just clouds, Saturday was very nice. We would be starting at 12:35 and for the 55’s who are used to starting at 7 or 8:00 at most races, this was quite a change. Made for a much more relaxed morning! However, in the Murrietta area, the wind had picked up pretty good by noon. Add to this the fact that the Crit was running the same course as last year, except backwards and that we’d have all the 45+ hotdogs and you have the recipe for a brutal race. The whole Amgen team was there, Cal pools, Sho-Air, UCC, which has lots of fast 45’s including newly added Steve Klasna and all the usual 55+ suspects as well as World Champions Kenny Fuller and Thurlow Rogers and National 50+ Road Champion Malcolm Hill. Oh yea, the field totaled over 70 riders!
The course changes amounted to this and I’ll try not to make it confusing. Turn 4 was still turn 4 or the final corner, except going the other direction. Turn 3 was now turn 1. After turn 1 the road went slightly downhill into a headwind and then turn 2 took you onto the narrow section that runs through the center of the park(?)and into a stiff headwind. The old turn 1 (now t-3), takes you through the gutter into what used to be the finishing straight, which in the past provided a wide runway that was perfect for a slightly downhill sprint. Except that they had constructed an island down the center of the road since last year and we had to stay on the right side. Maybe this was why the course was changed?
Meanwhile, my transpo for the day, Paul Springer and I are suiting up and getting ready for our warm-up. He has a mini-van with a rear hatch that lifts up to a perfect height for a humanoid of about 5’6” in height. Six foot? Not so good. I step full power off the curb which was a pretty tall curb by the way, effectively lowering the hatch/ lid even more and slam my forehead into the lid. It dropped me to my freakin’ knees like a brickbat! Throb, throb. Ok, so I get over that, clean up the blood which exposes a good sized crease in my melon and upon riding off the curb on my bike, I do a perfect endo/flip onto the roadway. WTF?! The actual warm-up was without incident!
Between the Cat 3 race and the Children’s community race, we snuck in a couple warm up laps which revealed one of the downsides of the course change. That would be all the bodies in the dirt, ambulance, etc from the Cat 3 race. A downhill fast entrance onto a narrowing exit. Hmmm? I wonder if that could be a problem? When we all lined up, Ralph announced that there would a mandatory “Sighting Lap” so that everyone was aware of the turn 2 dangers! We all rolled around, got our instructions and were off!
The actual report will be short! It strung out single file for 45 minutes. It would bunch up going into turn 2 with no crashes the whole race. Down that narrow straight, riders scrambled to the left side of the road to stay out of the side/headwind. Very fast through the last turn and then with the finish straight tailwind everyone was trying to do their catch-up, move-up position correction. The pace was fast and guys were getting shelled off the back at regular intervals. Many flyers and small break attempts, but nothing of consequence until about 20 minutes to go. At that point, 5-7 riders got away, including Thurlow and crew, getting a decent but closable gap. Fuller had been doing several hard pushes during the day and when 45+ eventual winner, Malcolm Hill attempted to bridge up, Fuller went too. Rubcic was near the front, saw the move and timed it right. The 3 were gone and on their way to “Breaksville City”. Lots of yelling and coaxing, but the gap was never closed. There were a few Primes and I personally went for the Girl Scout Cookie “Boxed Set”, but as I crossed the line counting my cookies, it turned out that a little, tiny rider was way off the front and I got zip-slant-doodley-squat for the effort! And felt pretty stupid. I’m sure nobody has ever done that before!
With 3 laps to go, you could almost reach out and touch the break, but at 2 to go, everybody start posturing for the last lap charge/sprint. The gap would open back up. The last lap was really fast and for some reason Kal was at the front with Steve Klasna, another 45 rider, Dale Ludke and then myself. Approaching the final corner, Dale was setting up for a bit of a wide line, so I tucked to the inside. I must add that the corner was not near as fast going uphill as last year’s downhill entrance. We blast out of the corner and Kal goes way wide, Klasna behind, the other 45 is right in front of me and Dale is going to fly by for sure. And he does. I think a couple more 45’s get by and it’s all over! I heard later that the average race speed was anywhere from 26.5-27.8 mph. Up a bit from the normal 55/60 pace!
The results are on line already for Saturday, but here’s the basic breakdown. Points for the 2 days were only awarded for 15 places. Three riders after that finished on the lead lap, the others were dropped and/or pulled. With 26 signed up for the 55’s, that gives you an idea how fast/hard it was. And I might add, that with a single file, windy condition race, if the guy in front of you leaves a gap, your race can be all over before you realize it! Some strong riders were among the discharged.
1. Kenny Fuller
2. John Rubcic
3. Dale Ludke
4. Richard Pollock
5. Warren Wicks
6. Nels Guloien
7. Howard Miller
8. Kal Szkalak
9. Eugene Poyorena
10. Rick Swanson
11. Craig Jones
12. Leo Longo
13. Pedro Ordaz
14. Paul Springer
15. Steve Horine
16. Bill Tippetts
17. Bob Rosemeyer
18. Mark Huffman
Sunday: Back to the weather and a semi normal start time, we had a good rain coming down going through the Immigration checkpoint. But it dried up before we got to Murrietta, although it wasn’t warm! Our start time was 9:35 and while warming up, I wondered if I would race in my jacket. Ralph announced that the temp had dropped over 20 degrees in 2 hours! The low clouds were very dark and it didn’t look good. Ended up to not be a factor and was just about perfect! We all lined up, got our instructions and were off for 39 miles of racing on the same 3.5 mile circuit as last year. That would be 11 laps with the average lap time usually running around nine minutes. At the point when we departed for the day, our 45/55 race had recorded the fastest lap time at 8:05! It was fast and stayed fast. Starting near the back of the group. It took me 2 laps (7 mi), to get into the top 10 riders. With a bumpy, narrow road in sections and a center line rule in effect (however lightly it was enforced!), it was hard to move up much at all. Once again, there were several break attempts of small groups including some by the top 45+ riders, but there never seemed to be quite the right mix or there were just too many strongmen left in the field to allow them to get away unchecked. I think it was probably about lap 3 or so, entering the hard right just after the bridge, with maybe 20 riders ahead of me, I heard squealing, sliding tires as riders were going down and off into the dirt. Kal left the road at speed and rode down into a gulley. I thought I saw him go down, but he later told me he just stepped off and had to run back up the banking. Myself, I went sideways into the dirt, rolled fairly quickly around the carnage and got back into the attacking group ahead of me. I’m sure this spread the group out, but I didn’t look back to verify. Shortly after that a Cyclo-Vets rider went down leading towards the last corner. He was laid out in the road for at least 4 laps on a gurney with face rash and who knows what else. It appeared he was being transported and soon the vehicles and rider were gone.
Battling the wind and lots of questionable riding (close with the occasional bumping), surges, attacks and high speeds made this a “Man’s” race. Which brings up a couple thoughts. First, the Cat 1-2 women left the line 5 minutes after we did. And very quickly we were lapping them for the first time. Then as we approached them lined up and neutralized for the second time things got weird and soon a break of 3-5 women were catching and trying to pass after the first turn into the wind. It got confusing, we accelerated, they were getting yelled at for being on the wrong side of the centerline by the official on the motorcycle and then we were intermingled with a yelling official trying to separate them out while in motion. It didn’t work out well and protests were flying when the women’s break was relegated, etc. I’m glad I wasn’t a woman today. Actually, I’m glad every day, but today especially! You know what I mean.
Now for the strategy. Fuller was leading the points from the day before, Rubcic second and Dale third. Then me and Kal. Kal and Warren both waxed me at Las Vegas, so I was keen to at the least, finish the 2-days ahead of them. I hadn’t seen Dale the whole race and wasn’t sure if Kal got going again or not. So with 3 to go (10.5 miles), 300m before the biggest of the 3 rollers on the back straight, Fuller takes off. I was about to let the others chase as I see Warren go by! Oh shit! I gotta go. And when we’re going 33-34 already, chasing Fuller down is a bitch, let me tell you! Warren makes contact with him and they hit the roller at speed. I just close the gap as we reach the next flat section. They swapped the lead once, both saw me, then everyone else chasing us 3 down and the party was brought to a close. Thank God!
Last lap! The speed picks up, slows down, speeds up, bunches up, strings out. I try to move up as does everyone else and going into the short straight after the bridge, things get serious! The line is single file, nose to tail with little if any overlap. The most jockeying took place leading to the last corner and if you weren’t in the right spot by then, you weren’t ever gonna get there. Fuller, with fazers on stun, went to the inside and in a rare sprint finish for him, handled all the 55’s which were mixed with 45’s across the line. Kal was in second, Dale third, I got fourth, Rubcic fifth and Warren was sixth. I couldn’t get a print out of the results or GC as the officials were dealing with the women’s protest/relegation/cluster-party, but as quick as they were getting Saturday’s results up, you’ll be able to see for yourself in detail by Monday I would think.
In the overall GC for Saturday/Sunday: This is all I can remember J
1. Fuller (1,1)
2. Ludke (3,3)
3. Rubcic (2,5)
4. Pollock (4,4)
5. Szkalak (8,2)
6. Wicks (5,6)
Last thing. I notice that there are still no 55+ results posted for the Ontario #1 race and that Kal hasn’t got Cup points for Imperial which he won. I’ve emailed twice, called and left a message once with Pacific Sunset Velo and have gotten no response. Same with Eric Smith. What’s up with the no response policies?