By John McKee
The Memorial Day CBR Criterium which is usually held at the Long Beach "Hughes" course was brought back to Dominguez Hills. Don't know all the details but here we are using the Dom Hills course over and over and over. Doesn't make me real happy because it is also the Paramount home course. Pre reg was a little light. Especially in 60+. The 60+ CBR BAR points leader, Richard Stahlberg is still on the mend and can't race for a while longer. He is just starting to get back on his bike after that spill at Dana Point. Dale Luedtke the 55+ BAR points leader was pre reged and expected to make the race. Was there going to be going to be a challenger at the race to take Dale on. Mike Birditt was going to be there and beat Dale? He did the last race in the Paramount SCNCA Criterium Championship. Kal Szkalak does every race on the calendar and did the Barry Wolfe race on the 30th eventhough there wasn't a cat for 55+. Kal could win with the right set of circumstances. In 60+ plus was there going to be any challenge to the Paramount twosome of Pettus/McKee. All of these questions were going to answered in 45 minutes of racing on May 31st, 2010 at 7:45 am.
I got to the race course at 6:20 am and the early season buzz that was in the air has really died down. 2 cat 5 races of 75 are down to one so our cats are not the only ones that are feeling the effects of the mid season malaise, injuries, burnout, etc.
After I signed in and got my number, I set up my bike on my trainer to warmup and Keith Ketterer walks by. Didn't expect KK to make it. He doesn't do many local races and has his sights set more on the track nowadays. He wants to do the Madison at the elite level at age 55. Awesome. Go for it! I asked Keith what we could expect of him and he said "I am just going to go round and round". Hmmm. Sure. Round and round but how fast. Here was a counter balance to UCC. Would KK team up with Mike Birditt?
The cat 5s raced across the line to finish without a crash and that's always a good thing and it was the 55/60+ racers turn to show what they could do. Rolling to the line Paul Rodiquez of UCC is right next to me. He asked me how I was feeling. The last time I saw Paul was at Barrio Logan on May 2nd and myself and my bike did a somersault over his body. We shared small talk about our injuries and it turns out we had a similar delayed reaction to the crash with both of us seeking out our chiropractors with complaints about lower back and hip pain. This was Paul's first race back. I have done everything on the calendar since then. Some with decent results and some with not so good results. Especially a Sunday race after a Saturday race.
Both Paul and KK are very strong riders and very aggressive and I knew that we were in for a good race.
Finally a break group formed and of course it had to include a UCC member and KK. The other members were the always aggressive Tom Riley of PAA and Phil Walters of Encino Velo. The UCC member was Kal Szkalak. A mistake on my part may have affected the out come of the race. I mistook Phil Walters for Michael Barnes. Michael is 60+ and Phil is 55+. I have made this mistake before so I should have known better. After a lap of this group together I put a chase in solo. Mike Birditt was at the front doing tempo to support KK and I flew off the front on the down stretch in pursuit of someone that wasn't in the race. Lol. I didn't think I could do it but I actually got across to the group. They had to have had major problems working together. About the time I got across Doug Knox shows up bringing everyone else with him so its bunchie again.
Sleepy Monty Pettus came to the front and put in a hard pull knowing 60+ 1st place was up the road. Phil Walters then pulled through as I did at turn 3. I turned around about half way up the hill and the group isn't on my wheel. I am thinking... what is going on. Tom Riley saved the day because I didn't have enough stuff to get competely across. Tom came by me on the inside and I got on his wheel and the 4 person chase group was back in the pack. Kal wasn't happy at all. He wanted to get across the gap to the lead group with the help of Mike Birditt but not today. Payback was in order if you get my drift.
5 laps to go and it looked like the first 3 places in 55+ were up the road. 60+ 1st place was still out there in the pack. Nothing of note happened late in the bunch until the last lap. In the mean time up front they were fighting it out for 1st place in 55+. There was a prime with 3 laps to go for a free entry. KK figured that one of the UCC guys would go for it and he would attack off their effort. Neither Paul or Dale went for it so KK attacked before the line. He got the prime(which he gave to Mike Birditt) and kept going. KK is on form and UCC couldn't catch him. KK comes across the line to win the CBR Memorial Day Criterium in the 55+ category. Very strong showing.