By John McKee
April 25th, 2010 and it's the date for the Chuck Pontius Criterium. Better known as the "Showdown at Pontius". I tried to build some interest for the event including the first episode of "Wackie" and "Shooter". Don't know what happened or why but the turnout exceeded expectations. Between 50 and 55 riders lined up to race at 8:15 am in Santa Clarita. 48 finished this year versus 35 last year. There was a good presence from some of the clubs from the Santa Barbara area. 2 clubs stood out in PAA and Velo Allegro. PAA had 7 racers and VA had 5. Thanks to everyone that made it out and especially those clubs that had a large presence.
As most of you know Monty Pettus of Paramount has been on fire in 60+ this year. John Rubcic of UCC has raced little but is undefeated so far this season. The two were going head to head at the Chuck Pontius Criterium. Besides the competition in 60+ UCC has had some very good competition in 55+ from Swami's Mike Birditt. You couldn't just pencil in Dale Luedtke or Kal Szkalak for 1st place any more. Add in many very good racers and you were in for a good show and race.
When the race went off I had this feeling of claustrophobia with so many riders around but quickly got over it. Alex Collins started off the race like a fast parade. There were some lulls through the race but the race was mostly on. The course is a natural for a fast race. Fairly short with 4 corners and wide streets except the bottom of the course after turn one. Pavement was ok except after the start/finish line. It was awful there and slowed things down a bit. The bottom of the course was the fastest area being slightly downhill. Speeds got up over 30 mph and led into a very wide street on the backstretch. It was slightly uphill but everyone kept their speed up and almost always smoked it uphill with speeds over 29 mph at times. The average speed for the whole race was over 25 mph thanks to a large field and some aggressive riding. Many riders were out there jumping and chasing. 2 that stand out were Pedro Ordaz(Unattached) and Kim Bleth of Platinum Performance(soon to be UCC-rumor has it). Alex Collins of Canyon Velo and Rick Swanson were also active but not the only ones. Glenn Baldwin of SLO Nexus and "Buns of" Steele of SBW both 60+ were always seen at the front of the race chasing and charging around. UCC played their hand close to the vest. Dale made one jump early and Kal made one late but mainly stayed in the flow of the race as did JR, Monty and Mike Birditt. All the firepower from so many different directions pointed toward neutralization and a "Bunchie". The pace and the chasing created a constant churn. More so than ever. If you weren't moving up, you were going backward. I guarantee the pace was the fastest ever at this race and I knew the last lap was going to smoke.
After all the racing and work by so many riders the lap card came up on 6 and everything was together. It brought a pall over the race. At first no one wanted to do anything. This nervousness can be dangerous although our cats have a very good safety record this year. Always safety first guys. The teams started to line up. JR got on the big guys at UCC. Mike Duck started to lead for Paramount with Monty and myself in tow. There were a few jumps in the last few laps but it was basically a very anxious time. Everyone was trying to get themselves in good position for the finish. The last lap came and Paramount had lost its train in the shuffle. UCC is a little more polished and was still together. Mike Birditt was marking them closely. Monty told me before the race that the race was going to be determined from corner 3 to corner 4 and this was to be true. I got buried in the bunch and Mike Duck was just ahead of me but I couldn't get to his wheel for a lead out. I was going to have to pass as many riders as I could when things broke up. The pace going up between turn 2 and 3 was modestly fast. All hell broke loose just before turn 3. UCC jumps wide left to get a good angle into the last corner. A few less knowledgeable riders broke right. As things broke up I got out of the saddle and tried to smoke through holes in the pack never quite getting to Mike Duck who had Mike Barnes on his tale.
All the results for Chuck Pontius are now posted on the SCNCA website . That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!