By John McKee
The weekend of April 10 & 11 had a tough decision for 55 and 60+ racers. The Cyclo Vets Ominium was scheduled against the Dana Point Grand Prix which has become one of the most popular events on the calendar. The city of Dana Point pulls out all the stops and the promoters do a tremendous job bringing in vendors, sponsors, prize money, vols, etc. The Cyclo Vets board choose the wrong event to muscle up against and realized it too late. They tried to change their date but the Saturday RR at the Blvd. course was tied into a college race and it was impossible to change(This is per Eric Smith-president of the SCNCA). That made it rough on 55 and 60+ racers because our groups don't have many active racers to begin with. Most guys gave the Ominium the nod. That left a few of us to battle it out at Dana Point. Fewer than 20 pre reged for the DPGP. Somewhere around 25 lined up for the criterium around 8:40 am on Sunday April 11, 2010. The day before there was a short uphill time trial. Apparently there was some kind of ominium for the 2 races for the event jersey. I defy anyone to look at the Dana Point flyer and find that out. It was a mystery competition and I bet the person that won the 60+ jersey doesn't know it until he reads my blog story(Michael Barnes-he wasn't at the podium presentation to pick it up. Nice jersey!).
The racers went off without much fanfare and a "Hi-yo, Silver, away!" in Lone Ranger talk. There were more 55s then 60s(15 55 finishers and 9 60s). I believe there were one or two guys that didn't finish. Our field wasn't large. Originally the flyer had one payout for all finishers in our race but I got the promoters to split the purse to $400 for each of our categories and only 9 guys show up in 60+.
It was no secret that UC Cyclery/JW Flooring was going to play its 2 cards tailored to their talents. UCC has Paul(The Tongue)Rodiguez better known as T Rod. You have heard of A Rod that plays for the Yankees and likes to spank Madonna or maybe it was visa versa. I can't remember. There was K Rod that played for the Angels but he left the home team for a bigger payday in NY. Now we have T Rod. T Rod is an all around very strong rider and is a threat to win the 55+ in a number of ways. Dale Luedtke is also a very strong all around rider but is best known as a finisher and we all know that he is very good at that. Swami's has a twosome that is much newer to the 55+ racing scene. Steve Cahill and Mike Birditt are Swami's 1/2 punch. Their talents pretty much mirror UCC. Steve is very much like T Rod and Mike if very much like Dale. Match on! Throw in a few other aggressive riders like Alex Collins and Todd Schooler. Both 55s and don't forget about Richard Stahlberg who is also a very aggressive rider and is 60+ but races like he is 55 and is strong enough to do so.The Shorts brothers of Velo Allegro are here as is Henry Schept of Sho-Air.
In 60+ racing besides Richard, Monty Pettus and myself were there to represent Paramount and it must have been no secret we wanted a one two finish. Also there to contest in 60+ were Mike Fleming and Carlos Cruz. Both riding well and in pretty good form.
The course is similar in a technical nature to Redlands. I think Redlands is a tougher course but DP is more dangerous because of the space on Del Prado between corners 5 and 6. With a small field our race was not a problem. Bigger fields created bad situations that ended in 20 crashes. One crash happened right after our race ended which had nothing to do with the course. More on that later. The minimum width for a course that passes USA Cycling guidelines is 21 feet. The first year of the DPGP the course was 21.5 feet on Del Prado. It's downhill coming into Del Prado making it much more of a problem. They have lengthened it out a bit and put hay bales at the "Starbucks" corner(5) and at the last corner which is turn 6. The swallow angle coming into turn 6 is a problem for a large fast field. The women suffered a big crash on their last lap. Cary Albert's wife took the worst of it with a badly broken arm.
The 55/60+ race got going and T Rod and Alex Collins were the most animated riders. Alex was always up for a go at a break attempt and of course it was no secret that T Rod was going to out there. 1/3 of the way through the race and 4 or 5 guys are away. T Rod, Alex, Richard, Steve Cahill and Todd Schooler. Todd is a rather unknown figure in 55+ racing. He has been around for a long time but I usually just see him at Foodpark on Saturdays in Orange County. He did the SCNCA Masters Champ last year and placed 6th so he has some talent but also a temper as you will find out.
I maybe one strong in this group as I thought I saw 4 but none the less the group failed. I was trying to keep my eye on Richard as he was the most dangerous 60+ rider out there to contest Monty Pettus and I of Paramount. Todd Schooler sounded upset when he came back to the pack. He said something like "Those f------ wouldn't work with me". Velo Allegro was very active in chasing.
The middle of the race was rather uneventful. Alex Collins was always looking for action and with about 12 laps to go he decided to take a flyer. Solo action. I am sure he was hoping that someone or group would join him but everyone left him not that far off the front to dangle and suffer. Alex kept it up lap after lap. With less than 5 laps to go T Rod, Steve Cahill and Todd Schooler made a move to catch Alex. With 2 laps to go they were closing in on Alex and Todd got a flat. Todd was so upset that when he dismounted his bike that he slammed his fist down on his saddle and broke his carbon seat rails(you can see him in my vid across from the finish line with his bike minus a saddle). After Todd was out T Rod and Steve joined Alex. Alex had to be tired after being out there solo for 9 laps. With one lap to go the 55+ winner was going to come out of this threesome and the 60+ winner was going to come out of the pack in a field sprint. Mike Birditt and Dale Luedtke were in the pack waiting to pick up the crumbs. Their teammates were ahead. There wasn't anything else they could do.
The most pressure of the 3 leaders had to be on T Rod. If he won, great and another UCC win BUT if he doesn't then a "bunchie" would have given UCC the best chance in 55+ with Dale Luedtke. Tough situation to be in, I say. T Rod decided to take it to Steve Cahill and Alex Collins from way out like at Redlands. Was the result going to be the same(Swami's win) or was he going to be able to pull this one off. Steve Cahill doesn't have the rep as a top sprinter like Mike Birditt. In a short time Mike has shown what he can do but not much is known about his teamate. T Rod wound it up half way down Del Prado with one corner to go. This was the right stragery against Alex because he was tired from his solo effort but was it the right move against Steve. I am not sure anyone knew the answer to that. I don't think even Steve knew although his teammate Mike Birditt had a lot of confidence in him. Steve mustered all the "French's" he could to close the gap as T Rod was smoking by now. Steve was able to close the gap and got back on T Rod's wheel before turn 6 eventhough he had to go deep to do it and was breathing hard. T Rod just kept it up after rounding the corner hoping to break Steve. Alex was long since off their pace. Unfortunately for T Rod he started to falter a bit coming toward the line and Steve Cahill came around him for the biggest win of his season. Nice job, Steve! You did your team proud. T Rod was 2nd and Alex was 3rd in 55+. T Rod gave it everything he had and just came up a little short. T Rod won the overall title and event jersey.
That left a field sprint for 4th place in 55+ and all 3 spots in 60+. Before turn 5 Mike Fleming and Carlos Cruz worked ahead me. I was thinking damn I don't see them much the entire race and here they work their way ahead of me. They were between myself and Monty. Richard Stahlberg was up front and like at LA Circuit got the lead out duties. Somewhere down Del Prado Dale Luedtke came to the fore. I knew he wanted to take it home from the last corner to the finish line in the lead. Dale won the 50+ SCNCA Championship here in 2008 doing the same thing. I was near the last corner watching and he was absolutely flying and took the corner so smooth and fast. I had to admire his bike skills which are almost off the charts. No one could come around him then and no one would be able to on April 11th, 2010 either but lets back up just a bit. Once Dale got out of the saddle before the last corner the race really heated up. Mike Birditt was right there along with Henry Schnepf of Sho-Air. Monty Pettus was also right there. Monty is on fire in 60+ right now. Once they got going they gapped Mike Fleming a bit and Carlos Cruz was right on Mike. Mark Planellas of SC Velo looked he was going backward and I was on his wheel and I quickly moved to his left to go around him. I was close to Carlos but not right on his wheel as we rounded the last corner. There was only 150 meters or so to the finish line.
Dale as you can see from the picture won the field sprint by a pretty good margin with Mike Birditt besting Henry Schnept to finish 5 and 6. Monty figured out that the best line toward the finish was near the rail because the concrete culvert that crossed the road was flatter there. No one in 60+ was near him anyway. Mike Fleming, Carlos Cruz and myself came in pretty tight with Mike taking 2nd place and Carlos besting myself by about 5 inches for the last podium spot in 60+. After the first 3 55+ racers across the line in the field sprint the next 6 out of 7 finishers were 60+ with Richard Stahlberg taking 5th and Glenn Baldwin taking the last paying position in 6th place. Glenn came all the way down from SLO to do this race. Thanks for traveling like that Glenn to do this race! The bad thing about this race was after the finish line Richard Stahlberg crashed trying to make the right turn after the finish line. Richard was hurt pretty bad. Richard is a great guy and very strong rider and this is definitely bad news.
Our race was clean and hard. Thanks to all that came out. I wish we had a larger field but the Ominium is a great race and popular. The complete placing are below.