By John McKee
One of the funniest character roles ever in film was played by the actor Jon Lovitz in the movie "A League of Their Own". He played a scout for women's baseball during WWII. He had a funny wise crack for just about everything but he was seriously trying to tell Kit played by Lori Petty that she wasn't good enough but her sister played by Geena Davis, was the real deal and he wanted to sign her. He tells Kit "I know the goods when I see the goods. She 's the goods." I say that applies to the 2 winners at the 16th Annual Chuck Pontius Memorial Criterium on Sunday April 19th, 2009 in the 55+ and 60+ categories. The winners definitely have "the goods" and both ride for UC Cyclery/JW Flooring but lets start at the beginning.
Beautiful weekend for racing. A number of 55/60+ guys did the very challenging Devil's Punchbowl Road Race on Saturday. The winner in the 50+ cat was 55er Warren Wicks of Swami's. Nice going Warren. Warren raced pro(cycling) in Italy for a short time in the 70s but broke his leg badly in a motorcross race. That ended his pro career. He has come back as a masters racer in grand style. Other 55/60ers that did it in order of placing-Mark Huffman, Kal Szkalak, John Rubcic, James Morehouse, Jean Villiot, Richard Pollock, Stephen Horine, Bruce Steele, Mike Crystal, Paul Springer and Craig Jones.
I did a training ride Saturday morning and saw Kenny Fuller in the group. He is just starting to do some intensity in his training. He has another 10 pounds to lose. Yikes! He is going to get better? Kenny went off and did a climbing ride through Orange County canyons while myself and Leo Longo did the Intergiro sprint with 40 other riders. From there we went over to the start of the Foodpark ride and 2 policemen from the Irvine PD came to counsel riders about staying to the right, blab, blab, blab. The City of Irvine has a war going against cyclists with a zero tolerance policy and an ordinance against riding more than 2 abreast. Some of the SUVing residents are upset or so we are told of a large group of cyclists taking up a whole lane of traffic. The motorists have one or two lanes left to pass us.
OK, mini Foodpark for me and home to pack and off to Valencia and Santa Clarita to relax and get a good nights sleep before I race the criterium on Sunday. That was the plan anyway. Stay away from the cheap motels and bad experiences like at the "Inn at Mission Bay"- drunk surfers and their obnoxious girlfriends partying in the parking lot. Check in at the Hyatt in Valencia. Very nice place. Should be quiet. I get my room card and walk into the room and there already is a bag in the room. No one there thankfully. Got another room but it was near the elevator. Its OK until 12 midnight. I was in bed at 9 pm and getting some good sleep when I hear noise reminiscent of "The Night". I open my door and 4 or 5 people are partying outside the elevator with Coronas in hand. A quick call downstairs and security breaks up the party but am wide awake now. Oh well. I gave them so much static when I checked out that they comped my room. $104 charge plus room tax gone. Thank you, Hyatt.
Up at 5:15 am and over to the race course by 6. Its only 5 mins away. They are still setting up the course and have a lot of help. I always thought that Santa Clarita Velo and the City of Santa Clarita did a nice job with their event(They also promote the Punchbowl). They were going up against the Torrance Criterium. The club was smart enough to hire Ralph Elliot. If you are going to put on an event get the best announcer around. Thats easy- Ralph! The next is part luck. Hope that Eric Smith president of the SCNCA is going to be one of the officials there. His program for quickly placing racers is for what I have seen around Socal, state of the art. Accurate and quick. OK. Ralph and Eric are there. One thing that was puzzling was the coning of both sides of the street near the finish line. It has to be done for the announcer's trailer but the other side as well? Never heard why... bad pavement?? This created a smaller sprinting area for the finish. Registration went well. I hope the Mule was pleased. He is tough in this area.
The temp at race time when we lined up a little after 8 am was in the 60s and climbing fast. No need for arm, leg or knee warmers. Still air with little wind. Pretty near perfect weather for a bike race. The wind came up strongly about 10 am so we were lucky. This is the good part. 35 racers lined up to do the 55/60+ race. With another race about an hours drive away with the same cats, I would say that is a good turnout. Back in action were Phil Koppel who was out with health issues but is a strong rider in 55+. Cully White showed up after being out several years and it was nice to see Cully back in action. Maybe a few pounds stronger but he was there and looking forward to racing with us again. Mike Barnes and Glen Baldwin came down from SLO and of course many of you UCC and CVV riders came from the southern most areas of California. Good job everyone that came out to Chuck Pontius and the Torrance Criterium. 55/60+ racing is really taking off. The 55s were the #1 category at the Cyclo Vets Ominum and Eric Smith had this to say about it "Great news about those numbers! You have indeed come a long ways."
OK. The race is off for 40 minutes of racing for separate purses for the 55s and 60s. $150 and $100 respectively. The top 5 places get an event T shirt as well. Cool! The attacks start early but nothing long lasting works. A lot of prime killing going on. You would think that the king of the prime killers was out. That was Bob "Errol Flynn" Barney. A lot of effort and then a lull. Nice job on the primes as well by the host. Nothing spectacular but something for the effort like a Kool N Fit kit. Thurlow Rodgers secret weapon.
Craig Jones, Paul Springer, Rick Swanson and Richard "Mule" Pollock were active in the race. Dale Luekte took off once to bridge to 2 riders that ended up just on a joy ride. Nothin! Dale's teammate Kal Szkalak was there and lurking. Kal actually seems to do better when the pace is faster like in a 50+ or even 45+. Kal is strong. There were a few unknown faces and a few home folk from the host club as would be expected. Free racing except for the USAC insurance($3-50% increase this year). The Mule was looking for the right time to strike like at Ontario and was trying to stay aware of where Dale was. I saw Richard turn his head like Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep in "Death Becomes Her". (Goldie and Meryl were dead and could turn their heads completely around.) Now Richard is plenty alive but he did a good imitation. Pretty sure he was trying to locate Dale.
The course is nothing special but still good for criterium racing. A little downhill to the finish and uphill on the back side of the course. Very much like the old course in Brea that we use to do the St. Valentines race on. There is as a little riser before the last corner but nothing difficult at the Pontius course. There was the standard blender mixing of riders going on during the race. Every now and then I would see Peter "I love to visit Cuba" Volpe. I mentioned to him afterward that maybe anyone could visit Cuba freely soon.
The pace was good but not overwhelming. Surge, regroup, surge, regroup, etc. The lap counter finally stared at us with 5 laps to go. Primes inside 5 laps make it interesting and they had one. I believe that Craig Jones, Tom Reilly and Eugene Poyonrena took off after the last prime and created a gap. Tough situation. No one wants to close the gap and take away the energy needed to finish the race but what if they stay away and win OR do you figure that the pace on the last lap will overtake the break group. Craig dropped back soon thinking it was hopeless but Tom and Eugene kept going and were doing well. With one lap to go the pace heated up. Turn one was a little tight with Rubcic sandwiched between Kopel and another rider on the other side but John is cool under race stress. The back stretch saw some jockeying going on. After turn 3 the leaders were ramping it up and got out of the saddle to fight for good position going into the last corner.
There were a few cloggers in the mix that were going to die down the stretch but this happens a lot especially at El Dorado on Tuesdays in Long Beach. What about the break twosome? Unfortunately Tom and Eugene were caught right at the last corner. Nice try. After blasting down the straight away to the finish Dale Luetke bested everyone including the Santa Barbara flash, Carlos Soto. Carlos finished a solid 2nd. Brad Holland a completely unknown name from PAA finished 3rd. The 55s rolled in like this- Mule, Szkalak, Swanson, Miller and Shorts.
The 60+ race was won easily by John Rubcic. I was a bit back and finished second. Had some riders to go around which was again reminiscent of El Dorado. Couldn't get a good line to sprint out of the saddle. Mike Barnes was 3rd and Cully White was 4th. Paul Springer was 5th but had some energy taken from him by helping the peleton chase down the break two.
The 2 winners today were the real "goods". John Rubcic is the best finisher I have seen in 60+ and I have been to Natz the last 3 years and raced 60+. Dale would have to be if not the best finisher in the country in 55+ at least one of the very best.
Everyone stayed upright and I believe everyone finished together. Excellent day. No 55/60+ race next weekend but the following weekend is Barrio Logan/San Luis Rey. Great races that show a lot of respect for 55/60+ racing. Please understand that Barrio isn't an easy course and of course SLR is very challenging. I will see many of you there.
The remaining 55s at Ponitus were:
9 - Vanlandingham
The remaining 60s were:
Thats all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!