By John McKee
It's May 23rd, 2010 and its the last day of the Tour of Amgen for the top riders in the world but for 55/60+ racers in Socal its another day to compete against each other in the Brea "Old Course" Criterium. The race is produced by the Velocity team. The usual players show up minus a few here and there. I am sure that some guys were attending the T of C race. The old St. Valentine's Day Massacre use to race on this course but moved and changed its name. The new early season course is but 400 meters away on connecting streets. I think the new course is more popular so they keep the race there but Velocity needs to get their race in so they brought back the "Old Course". The course is very much like Chuck Ponitus. 4 corner rectangle with a slight rise on the far side of the course and slightly downhill toward the start finish line. The ends of the course are fairly short but for this race the bottom leg between turn 1 and 2 was into the wind.
The temp was a little cool considering its late May and the race was to start at 8:45 am. Our field wasn't too bad at 30 considering the women 1/2s had 4. There were 3 women racing with us and 2 of them finished the race. Good for them. We want them to come back.
Our race was off. Right on time! 45 minutes of racing. It didn't take long for the real racing to start. No shadow boxing in this one. One of the riders said "You want a piece of me, A------? Come and get it!" This piece has been in quite a few movies lately but I believe it started in 1984 in "Swing Shift" with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. All about "Rosie the Riveter" and the women that occupied the defense factories like my mother and maybe some of yours as well.
The rider with the attitude was Alex Collins. Alex wasn't messing around and with 1/2 a lap into the race was off the front. Everyone was looking around at each other and scratching their heads thinking 'is this guy serious'? Well he was. Alex laid it out and pushed it as hard as he could and was going to try and go the distance. Don't think anyone has done this in a while that I can remember but Alex was out there lap after lap and starting to put in some good time on the field. UCC the strongest team in the race had 3 55s and 1 60 to work with. Most people were thinking that UCC had the most to lose by Alex being off the front so figured they should do most of the work bringing him back. They did do some work with Dale, Kal, John Rubcic and especially Richard Roberson. Wasn't sure if Richard was trying to get across the gap or help the pack bring Alex back. He was in no man's land for a while.
Mike Birditt, Steve Cahill, Larry White and Mark Planellas also did some work along with a few other riders. Alex was starting to get out of sight on the long stretches and got up to 28 seconds on the pack at the apex of the break. I think a combination of Alex tiring and the pack speeding up that the time started to come down and you could see Alex on the long stretches. This didn't necessarily mean we were going to catch him. The gap came down to 18 and then 15 seconds. Kal is very good at figuring out races and thought he could get across the gap and jumped. Steve Cahill got on his wheel and off they went. Things happened quickly in the race for a short span. 31 minutes of solo riding were coming to an end for Alex Collins.Kal and Steve made it up to Alex. Then Mike Birditt jumps thinking he can get across the short gap. He can and does so. Soon after John Rubcic and then Dale Luedtke also jump and get across the gap. This was the makings of a flying machine but they couldn't get themselves rolling right away.
Bruce Steele decided he was going to get across the gap or pull them back. Don't know which but I wasn't going to let him without myself clued to his wheel. Bruce was 5 points ahead in the Socal Cup competition in 60+ going into the race. Bruce made a nice pull and then looked around and I figured well it was my turn. I had ducked and covered wheels enough so I put in the last pull and brought us all back together. This was around 5 laps to go or less. Not sure Kal knew this because he put in a hard pull on the uphill straightaway. I was thinking damn. I just went into the wind and was winded myself and I have to put up with Kal putting the hurt on. I did hurt but Kal stopped and no one wanted to race for laps now. No team had extra guys to pull us around. Mike Birditt made a short move and Carlos Cruz went up to him but that was short lived.
With 2 laps to go Steve Borer went to the front and started pulling the group around. Thank you, Steve. With one and 1/2 laps to go Carlos Cruz tries to jump the field. Monty Pettus of Paramount was all over this as was Bruce Steele. The next half lap the 60s used this as their play time while the 55s lined up and watched with amusement. 5 60s were up front playing because no one wanted to lay it out yet.
On the back stretch was where the race was going to explode. It was 100% certain. Going up the slight uphill Steve Cahill attacked the field on the right side nearest the curb. Steve was going to try and take it from a long ways out. Dale, Kal and JR were just waiting for the right time to strike and they happened to be on the right side of the course and nearest the curb and this moved played into their hands perfectly. The race was on. I was on Monty and Monty wanted to bring me home and accelerated faster than I did. Mike Fleming and Bruce Steele filled the hole right at turn 3. Doh! Everyone was smoking it from turn 3 to 4 because the last stretch was downhill and wasn't that long. You weren't going to make up many places if any coming home.
Alex Collins had enough left to place 4th in 55s. Gary Prideaux of Lightning Velo had his best finish yet in 55+ with a 5th place finish. Gary and I go back to the early 2000s at El Dorado when Lightning Velo and Paramount use to duke it out in the 40+ category there every Tuesday.
This was a good clean hard race and was fun! I hope everyone else there did have fun as well. It was a good workout. Thanks to Velocity for the separate payout for 55s AND 60s. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe! Placings below(Possible vid might be added of the finish from one of the racers son-I will let you know if I can get ahold of it and put it in the story).