Monday, August 17, 2009

Al Shorts Gets Dragged Out to Ladera and Wins!

By John McKee

Al Shorts thought he was through with racing for the 2009 season after the Brentwood Grand Prix but his younger brother Ricky Shorts wanted to do the 2009 Ladera Grand Prix and wanted Al to join him. Ricky agreed to pay Al's entry fee so you know Ricky really wanted to be there but not sure about Al. Ricky and Al have had great form all year and are always a factor in any 55/60+ race they are in. Al is probably the strongest overall rider but Ricky has tremendous acceleration and can hold the top end speed for a pretty good distance as well. Their unique abilities came into play in the Ladera Grand Prix but lets start at the beginning.
This is the 4th year for the Ladera Grand Prix and the promoter does a pretty nice job with the race. He has a few things to learn but overall does pretty well. 100% of the proceeds of the race go to charity so one can fault the high entry fee($30). The problem that Dale Luetdke saw in advance was the lack of return love by the promoter for our cats. No money for finishers and medals for just 3 places for our cats. Dale worked with the promoter got a few concessions. $200 in prime cash was the main concession and I got the promoter to verify that the 60+ winner got a winners jersey just like the 55+ winner. The jersey was pretty nice as well. A step up on the one awarded at the San Pedro GP. The sign ups went slow but I tried to cajole everyone to get some racers out there. Having a race without many racers makes us look bad so we ended up with 19 pre reged riders. Not bad considering the Ladera course has a reputation for being somewhat difficult and has some narrow stretches that add to the danger. The course is .7 miles with turn one being the most difficult. The road that you turn into is quite narrow and must be the minimum for a course width. The last corner is also narrow. The pitch of the course is very slight. Nothing over 2 %.It is down going out and up coming home. The leg from the last corner to the finish line is deceptively long. The grade like mentioned is not steep by any means but it makes your tires feel like they are going through mud. The road is straight and you think you can see the finish line but there is a little curve to the right and the ride to the line is longer than it looks at the bottom. The 55/60+ riders were scheduled to start at 8:50 am but they had trouble getting the set up ready for the officials. Needless to say the promoter didn't hire Ralph Elliot. When was the last time Ralph wasn't ready for a race. The delay was a half an hour but didn't concern anyone actually. Just gave everyone a little more relaxed time to get ready.
Between 25 and 30 riders came to the start line at about 9:20 am on August 17th, 2009. UCC/JW Flooring lined up 3 riders and didn't have the numbers to dominate the entire race like many other contests. Citrus Valley Velo had Don Davidson back in their lineup and Don is riding well. Newly married Rick Swanson lined up for the second time since his wedding. Rick looked pretty good at Orchard Hills last Tues. night at a training session so Rick might he able to mix it up. The 60+ race was also wide open with John Rubcic giving his sore hand another week to rest.
I had a good week of training and Monty joined me a couple of those days. Doesn't seem to matter how Monty's training looks. He is always sharp on race day as long as the course doesn't tilt up too much. Mike Fleming is as cagey a rider as there is around. Mike has been racing since 1961. I would say he has some experience. Bruce Steele is riding very well this year and any tilt to a course gives Bruce an edge but Bruce doesn't like technical courses like this. Loren Stephens packs a hell of a wallop at the end of a race so he can never be counted out and Phil Richards can always be a factor.
The race started and the pace from the get go was fast. No let up. Flat out fast. After a lap or two I was a ways back, breathing pretty good and thinking how the heck was I going to be able to move up if the race keeps up like this and with some narrow streets and tight corners just made matters worse. The answer and it always is that the pace can't keep up like that because no one wants to wear themselves out before the finish. After 3 or so laps the pace did calm down and I and others moved up and the churning began. This always happens as well. Part of racing. There were going to be a few key factors in this race and they were break attempts by the 55s and prime killing again by the 55s. These two things drove the race. There were a number of riders that attempted breaks and I might miss a few but Don Davidson, Rick Swanson, Al and Ricky Shorts, Kal Szlakak, and Steve Bernede were very active throughout the race. Dale and Kal were the most active when it came to the money primes and thats where 100% of the cash was.
The race went by quickly without any crashes although turn one was hairy. The officials didn't have Ralph Elliot's lap count down thing and used their fingers to indicate the laps remaining. I didn't even see the hand until he put up 2 to go. Wow! I felt like the race had flown by. The earliest break attempt that looked like it had the horse power to make a go of it included Al Shorts, Steve Bernede and Kal Szlakak. This was half way through the race. The peleton didn't let them get very far away although they were out there for a number of laps. The next collection of breakers formed with about 6 laps to go and included Rick Swanson, Al Shorts and Don Davidson. These 3 guys put their hearts into the break and as happens so often with the race coming down in laps to go the motivation to chase is reduced drastically. No 55s went after them that I saw. Bruce Steele and reincarnated racer Rick Lilleberg(nice to see Rick back out with us) came to the front and put in efforts to chase but both are 60+ and SBW didn't have a 55+ racer so the burden was really on UCC/JW Flooring because they would have the most to gain by a bunch sprint. Who has much of a chance against Dal and Kal except maybe Al and Ricky Shorts.
Like I mentioned earlier the official signaled 2 laps to go and the 3 breakers were away with a good lead and it didn't look like it was possible to bring them back. I was looking for Dale's wheel about then and found it. Monty asked me the day before what my plan was to win because he thought the way my training went through the week that I had a chance. I told him I was going to try to find Dale's wheel and ride it in. I talked to Dale before the race and he said he didn't mind. He and Kal didn't have a set plan and were going to figure things out on the fly depending on how the race went. Everyone went around the next to the last lap at a good pace but not real fast for sure. Coming to the finish line with one lap to go it was a forgone conclusion that the break was going to decide the 55+ race with places one through three but the 60+ race was wide open.
Dale moved up on the left of the pack and I stayed on his wheel. Kal went to the front and drove the pack with Steve Bernede and Phil Richards between Kal and Dale. Kal set a good pace but again wasn't really fast and I was worried that riders would move up but after 3 turns and one corner to go no one had moved up. Coming toward the last corner Mike Fleming started to move up on the right and was right next to me but in the wind. Monty was on my tale.
Up ahead the 3 breakers worked to the end but Don and Rick weren't going to beat Al Shorts with the form he has right now. Al came flying across the finish line with the 55+ win. Don Davidson came free wheeling across the line for 2nd and Rick Swanson came in a number of meters back with a solid race and 3rd place in 55+.
Kal was still driving ahead of the bunch and everyone made the last tight turn ok. Dale started to turn it on as did Mike Fleming. I was playing a bit of a waiting game trying to find the right gear.
I had a borrowed rear wheel(had a blow out just before the race started and Steve Borer was kind enough to loan me his training wheel) with a 12-30 cassette. I didn't even know Shimano made these. In crits I prefer a 11-21 or 11-23 with small changes in gearing. 1/3 of the way up toward the finish line Kal decided his team duty was done and slowed way down which is often done and no big deal. Dale and Mike went to his right to go by and I followed to the right. As I was going by Ricky Shorts hit the hole at the same time but was accelerating and going faster than myself. Ricky caught my front wheel and it made a loud noise(so loud that Steve Bernede heard it several bike lengths ahead), broke one spoke and sent my bike into what I call the "death spiral wobble". I hung on for dear life and quit pedaling and righted the ship and felt quite relieved that I didn't hit the deck. I am not blaming anyone as our sport is inherently dangerous. I know Ricky is not out there to hurt anyone. The hole ended up smaller than it appeared.
Since Monty was on my wheel he decided it was the time to strike and when Monty is in striking distance of the finish with a chance at a win... well lookout. I tried to get going again but my mo was gone as was a good finish. Monty took aim at Mike Fleming who was starting to tie up. Mike had been in the wind was a long time and it was showing. Monty passed Phil Richards and then Mike Fleming for the 60+ win. Nice job, Monty! Loren Stephens used his finishing strength to come by myself, Phil and almost got Mike but finished 3rd. Phil Richards was 4th and I was 5th in 60+ Dan Crain of Paramount had a good race and came in right behind me for 6th.
The bunch sprint for 55+ was lead in by Dale but Ricky got around him for 4th place. Dale was 5th and Howard Miller had another solid race and finished 6th in 55+.
The winners got jerseys and Monty was all smiles with his on. The promoter did the 55+ podium right away and the cameras weren't on them but myself and Jodie Borer were able to photograph the 60+ podium with Mike Fleming, Monty Pettus and Loren Stephens. The pictures are complements of Jodie Borer and Alicia McKee as my wife Alicia also did the video(See at the bottom). Thanks to all the 55/60+ racers that came out! Complete results were:

Ladera Grand Prix (Rank 1.0)
Masters 60+
Place
License
Name
Team
SoCal Points
1
219074
Leo Pettus
Paramount Racing
14
2
129293
Michael Fleming
Coates /On Deck Foundation
11
3
234791
Loren Stephens
EDGE Racing
10
4
238828
Phillip Richards
Citrus Valley Velo
9
5
180386
John McKee
Paramount Racing
8
6
246256
Daniel Crain
Paramount Racing
7
7
236498
Bruce Steele
South Bay Wheelmen
6
8
188249
Cully White
PAA / RE/MAX
5
9
64127
Richard Lilleberg
South Bay Wheelmen
4
10
101582
William Carvin
Unattached
3

Ladera Grand Prix (Rank 1.0)
Masters 55+
Place
License
Name
Team
SoCal Points
1
230085
Albert Shorts
Velo Allegro
14
2
48278
Donald Davidson
Citrus Valley Velo
11
3
34753
Rick Swanson
Acme Racing
10
4
52251
Ricky Shorts
Velo Allegro
9
5
47262
Dale Luedtke
UC Cyclery/JW Flooring
8
6
126351
Steve Bernede
Team Simple Green
7
7
49424
Howard Miller
Paramount Racing
6
8
297255
Mitchell Odell
Unattached
5
9
23055
Reed Mayne
Swami's Cycling Club
4
10
3793
Raphael Gomez
Team Simple Green
3
11
49110
Rino Barbagiovanni
Santa Clarita Velo
2
12
245777
Steven Borer
Citrus Valley Velo
1
13
54522
Kalman Szkalak
UC Cyclery/JW Flooring
0



video

2 comments:

  1. Hi John. Sounds pretty exciting, glad you stayed up after that front wheel collision. I decided not to take any chances given that the Skull Valley Road Race is this weekend (53 hilly miles) and I've been pointing towards it since last August! Wish me luck.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi John. Sure glad you were able to maintain after that close call. NO MORE CRASHES! Good video by Alicia. Hope you've entered a race on your big day next week.

    ReplyDelete