By John McKee
The racing community have had so many close calls with the winter El Nino condition on the West Coast and this weekend was no exception. Chris and Vera of CBR have had great luck so far this year. 2 of the first 3 dates they have had have had rain forecast for the weekend. There has been plenty of rain on Saturday but on Sunday, the skies clear up and the course dries up. This was the case for The Go Fast or Go Home Criterium on March 7th, 2010. The event had been scheduled for the Long Beach "Hughes" Course but the City of Long Beach made some unreasonable demands on Chris and Vera 5 days before the event. Chris gave them a piece of his mind I am sure. You just have to read the CBR blog to know what his thoughts were. CBR was able to get the Paramount Dom. Hills course that they like to use for many of their races. It would have been nice to have a respite from the Dom. Hills course. The LB course is also a very safe course.
None the less the race went forward at Dom. Hills. The rain which had been predicted at percentages from 20 to 60% didn't show up! I got to the course around 6:30 am and the skies didn't look that bad and the course was dry. I could also tell that things weren't the same as the first 2 dates. The excitement of the cat 5s wasn't there. The cat 5 pre regs went from 120 to 70. Weather had to be a factor and maybe more. There was just one cat 5 race vs 2 in the prior events. The cat 5 race had a small but bad crash near the end and delayed the start of the 55/60+ race. Some poor new rider was knocked unconscious when he went down. A fire truck and ambulance was called in. That delayed everything by at least 30 minutes. I hope the fella is OK. It was quite cold and rolling around shivering didn't help any. I had lots of layers on. Some of these cat 5 guys had nothing underneath their jersey and some light arm warmers on. Oh to be young and stupid again.
The 55/60+ race got started about 8:15 am with around 11 or 12 60+ racers and 18 55+ racers. There was a pretty darn strong field of 55+ racers although I hadn't seen many of these guys very often before. New blood is certainly welcome and one of them today was a former pro by the name of Witold Czulak. He races for Amgen and was at the Brea race supporting Keith Ketterer. Also out were Mike Birditt of Swami's(Mike was 2nd at Ontario) and Mike Cicchi of Fast Fridays. All 3 of these guys looked very strong. It keeps getting nothing but harder. Doesn't it. LOL!
Kal Szalak who had gone back to his beloved rollers during the lull was warmer than everyone else and took off like a bullet once the start came. Everyone got on it and started racing fast. Half a lap later and Kal gave up but got the heart rates up and made everyone forget about the cold temp.
There was a lot of "give it the nudge"(aggressive racing in Aussie race talk) and it kept the pace up and the boredom down. I didn't get a average speed(if someone wants to give that to me I would appreciate it). There were a number of riders that picked it up including Mike Cicchi, Ricky Shorts, Dale Luetdke, Kal, Howard Miller and a few other riders that don't come to mind.
There were 3 primes in the midst of the 30 to 40 minutes of racing. They cut us short because of the crash. I know that Mike Cicchi won the first 2 primes which were a Simple Green cleaning kit and BAR points. Don't know who won the 2 bottles of Aussie wine. Ricky Shorts was up there each prime but he said he was just trying to get a break going. Kal and Dale were without a teammate so they would have to do some chasing but several others including Richard Stalhberg came to the front and pulled at the recalcitrant breakers. During the second half of the race Kal went on a solo break of his own and was away for several laps but the overall pace was pretty high and his effort for for naught.
The 5 lap to go card came up and it looked like the end was going to be a "bunchie"(Aussie for a group sprint) but the wine prime came in there and brought a few riders off the front. They were caught and the last lap came upon us. Everyone was there but one 60+ SBW rider who got dropped earlier. The pace wasn't high and wasn't snail pace either. I was able to move up easily and get myself near Richard Stahlberg who I felt was the rider to beat in 60+ although Carlos Cruz was there and he won Ontario last week. No team had a pacer to do leadout work and everyone was jockeying for position. Dale was dismayed at the lack of high speed which would favor a strong rider like himself. 2 corners to go(turn 3) came I moved up on the outside and saw Al Shorts start to the front with Richard Stahlberg jumping on him. I jumped on Richard feeling I was right where I wanted to be. Back in the pack Dale was boxed in at turn 3 and Ricky Shorts saw this and yelled at Howard Miller to go because Dale wouldn't be able to go yet.
Howard didn't want to go so early and die early and give Ricky an escort to sprint distance. The leadout wasn't going as fast as I thought it would between turn 3 and turn 4. No one came around. Al was leading it but wasn't going to burn himself out either because he wanted a placing. Al is very strong to lead out and finish from this far out.
Nearing turn 4 "the move" was made wide with Dale leading the charge. Witold Czulak was on Dale but Dale snaked to the left to get a good angle on the corner and brought him right in front of Mike Birditt. Mike was thinking this was great but Witold wasn't giving up the wheel and they were bumping shoulder to shoulder. Mike showed good sense and finally let Witold go and got on his wheel. This line passed Al just before the last corner. After the corner Howard Miller and Ricky Shorts came by me on my right. Kal took a line inside of Dale's and was solo coming home.
Mike Cicchi was also in the mix and probably on Mike Birditt's wheel.
Witold Czulak made his move off of Dale's wheel somewhere coming toward the finish line. I got a different story from Witold after the race but I am sure he had no idea I write a story on the races I do. I got some smoke about he took it solo from the corner in and you have to get momentum to beat Dale and can't come off his wheel but Mike Birditt's version was different and was more believable from what I saw. Witold of Amgen did take it too Dale and both went toe to toe coming in. Mike Birditt was charging the line as well. Hopefully Kenny BZ got some good photos. He usually does. Witold won with a nice bike throw. Dale estimated the distance at about 2 to 3 inches. Birditt was 3rd with Kal placing 4th. Mike Cicchi in his first 55+ action that I know of did a very good race and placed 5th. Al Shorts hung in there for 6th with Ricky Shorts and Howard Miller placing 7th and 8th. Richard Stalhberg also hung in there and was right there with Ricky and Howard. I was to Richard's left trying to come around but with no luck and no out of the saddle effort. Richard was first in 60+ while I was 2nd. Ron Carlson was 9th in 55+. Carlos Cruz was 3rd in 60+ but I don't know how far back from me he was.
Special kudos go out to Sanda Timbal of Velo Avanti who has been doing the 55/60+ races on a regular basic and placed 13th. Nice job! We can use more women to fill out our fields and make us more attractive to promoters. Women can race 20 years down. Bring out some teammates but let them know there is an initiation period. You don't just come out and win or even place. Experienced riders only. Please.
The placing for 60+ were(CBR only listed 5 and there were more 60+ riders out there but they must have been way back or off the back):
The 55+ placings were(there were 18):
That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!