By John McKee
It was August 23rd, 2009 and the last criterium of the season was being held in Ontario, Cal. for the Socal Cup series and the Ontario points race series. The weather in SoCal has been unseasonably cool for August and this held true for Ontario as well. It can be blistering hot this time of year in the Inland Empire and racing a bicycle in it is hard. Cooler weather definitely makes life easier at least when you are racing in Ontario in August.
The last race brought out a good field for the 55/60+ race which was scheduled for 8:05 am. At least 37 racers lined up to duke it out including 2 women. Most of the field from Ladera last week were there and then some. Al Shorts the winner of the 55+ cat at Ladera also came out and Al mentioned before the race that he had never done Ontario before. Wow! Michael Edwards has done just about every race in Ontario for 13 years which would be well over 60 races. I have done at least 30 so to hear that Al hadn't done it before was more than a bit of surprise. Didn't seem to matter out on the course. Al looked like he had been doing it for years. You've seen one crit course you have seen them all or so he made it look like!
The field was good size but lacking a little punch from usually strong UCC/JW Flooring. Kal Szlakak is at World's and with some injuries and other reasons leaving Dale Luedtke somewhat vunerable. John Rubcic also of UCC/JW Flooring was back in action in the 60+ field after taking a week off to give his hand another week to heal. Also back in action was Warren Wicks of Swami's who hasn't raced since SLR. Nice to see Warren back and you have to figure that Warren would join other known "breakers"- Don Davidson, Craig Jones, Tom Reilly, George Chester, Rick Swanson, and the Shorts brothers to make life miserable for Dale Luedtke. Everyone knew if the race came down to a bunch sprint that it was 90% chance that Dale would win. Attack! Attack! Attack! That would be the watch word for the more aggressive of the 55+ racers. Phil Richards of Citrus Valley Velo was the only known 60+ racer that could also mix it up with a small group off the front of the peleton.
At a little after the scheduled start time of 8:05 am the race was off and I mean off. Today's race was one of the fastest races of the year that I have done and the average speed and wattage indicated this. The first lap saw Don Davidson start in the back of the field and Don just slowly moved up along the right side of the pack and rolled off the front. First lap and there he goes. The "Energizer Bunny" has been sharp lately and we know from past races that when Don is on form the rest of us pay and that also can be said for his partner in crime Phil Richards. Phil has been getting better lately and when these two tag team it, yikes!
The first part of the race saw many of the above mentioned riders trying their hand at forming a break group that would stick except maybe Warren. Warren as I heard hasn't had a lot of saddle time or so the story went. Mr. Wicks did well in the finish but didn't mix it up during the race. Ontario had a small amount of money for us but only for a mixed result which meant the 60s would for the most part be left out. Ontario is also known for lack of primes so the prime bell didn't go off much. Primes often are the seed that a break would grow from. Added incentive to go fast and separate from the field. The first prime and the only one that had something of some tangible value was for a T shirt. This was about 60% through the race and Craig Jones was out there and not because he cared about the shirt but because he wanted to get something going in the way of a break group. Rick Swanson came on to win the T Shirt. I would bet one of my bikes against the T shirt that it wasn't made in the USA. No result as far as the a break. Was it going to happen today?
Paramount had its own plan and its was to win the 60+ overall series. Monty and I studied the rules and the standings and figured who would be eligible, who had what points and how we were going to approach the race. Simple. Win the points prime and do as good as possible in the final.
When the points prime was announced the field wasn't that concerned because only a few guys had any chance in 60+ while the 55+ series was locked up by Dale Luetkde. I got on Monty's wheel and followed him around. After the one right hander we were moving up on the right side and closing in on the next corner and Rick Swanson hit the field hard. Very hard. I was thinking that was a long ways out to hit so hard but Rick was going very fast in a short time. Monty took off in chase. I had to dial it up and chase Monty. I felt like yelling out like we did when we were kids "Hey wait for me!" I couldn't quite get on Monty wheel and was hitting a lot of wind. At the last corner Rick turned it off and I got close to Monty's wheel but my legs weren't feeling so good. We started to close on the finish line and about 60 meters from the line John Rubcic came whizzing by.
John was hardly even seen in the first half of the race but John has a lot of ability and came up along the right side and as soon as I saw John flying I shut down. Dale came by of course to make mince meat of everyone in 55+ as far as the overall series was concerned. Much of the time after everyone collects themselves and no break group is off the pace is pretty easy. Not this time!
Thanks to Craig Jones and some of his "I love pain" buddies the pace went up. Not just for a short time either. I was hanging in there but after that prime thing I starting to really hurt.
My heart rate was going up to my threshold limit. The only thing that helped me mentally was something I always try and convince myself of and that is if I am hurting then most of the other riders are as well and it can't keep up. Can it? Alas, No! After a short breather some of the fools were at it again to make things hard. The only thing was they weren't fools. They knew that everyone was tired so hit em' again. Not sure who started the final break but most likely it was Don Davidson or Craig Jones. Al Shorts joined quickly and they developed a little gap. Tom Reilly of PAA thought he wanted in on the break and came across the gap to make it four. About this time the race got the 5 laps to go. Not much of a chase although Howard Miller put in a pull to try and get the pack close but no. The pace overall actually went down and with 3 laps to go my heart rate was lower than it had been at the beginning of the race although my legs weren't feeling that great. The break group was going to make it for sure now.
The lap cards then read 2 and then 1. Dan Crain of Paramount came to the front but a little premature of the Paramount plan. Dan was soon overwhelmed but would surface later to help at the moment he was asked to start a move for the red, white and blue. The pace was fast on the last lap. Just 2 years ago the pace as I remember was pretty tepid for the first half of the last lap.
Up front it was a fore gone conclusion who was going to win. Not only can Al Shorts ride strongly overall he can sprint very well too. Nice combo to have, I would say. Don't know exactly how the group played out but Al won again and I would have put good money on that in Vegas. Don D was 2nd, Craig Jones was 3rd and Tom Reilly was 4th.
It was pretty much a formality but Dale raced in for 5th in 55+ with John Rubcic on his wheel and finishing 1st in 60+ and 6th overall for the last payday. Loren Stephens put on his usual late but fast sprint and over came Monty Pettus for 2nd while Monty was 3rd. Monty had been trying to help me but I couldn't get on his wheel. He did his job but I floundered. Cully White and Rick Lilleberg came on nicely at the end to finish 4 and 5 in 60+. Warren Wicks had enough mustard to finish after Dale in 55+ for 6th place.
Overall the pace like mentioned was quite fast with my cycle computer saying 25 mph on the dot while Monty's read 25.48(Only 1/2 a mph slower than 50+ which had a much larger field) and George Chester's read 26. I think George's was high but George showed a reading of 290 watts as an average. Very high and showed what a strong race it was. There were a few lulls but not that many. Good clean race without any real close calls. Sorry but no photos or vids this time. The remaining places were:
8th- R. Shorts
That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!