Monday, July 26, 2010


It is July 25th, 2010 and the San Marcos Circuit Race is scheduled. Pre reg of the 55/60+ racers was at 24 and by the time we all lined up there were somewhere around 33. 25 ended up finishing. The day was overcast and slightly cool but the weather wasn't the focus of the racers. The difficulty of the course was on the minds of many. That surely is the reason for the low turnout of 60+. The course is 1.7 miles and the stated climb is 65 feet per lap but that doesn't do justice to the course. The power climb after turn 4 is hard enough but when you turn for home after turn 5 there is no rest. It feels like your tires are stuck in tar. There is a false flat to the finish. Another 300 meters. The only rest on the course is after turn one which gives you a very short rest before flying around turn 2 in an off camber turn. The infamous pothole we saw last year was gone so everyone could focus on making a fast and safe turn.
The race was off after the officials eliminated a 60+ rider because he was wearing a yet unapproved Catlike helmet. I believe that after July 1 it will meet the necessary testing standards. The Cervelo Test Team and the Euskaltel Euskadi team use the helmet and we all saw it in the Tour De France. Kal Szkalak and Steve Horine took off and opened an immediate gap and 3 UCC riders formed a blocking formation at the front. Something akin to the flying wedge formerly used in football kickoffs before it was banned. Alex Collins had trouble getting into his pedal and Mike Birditt was snoozing somewhere in the back. No one else would move to the front and take over. That included myself but I was saving myself for the climb. I didn't really care if 2 55+ riders went up the road. Alex Collins did go to the front between turn 2 and 4 and take a hard pull. The first power climb was fairly slow and I was thinking alright. I stayed with the main pack the prior year so I wasn't too concerned about getting dropped but the climb was harder than I remembered and the leg to the finish line made it all the worse. On the bottom of the course the next lap Mike Birditt made it back to the front and took a long hard pull. To Mike a race that might be hard for myself like this one could be no problem for him. He is riding very strong right now and planning to peak for his Natz race on August 8th in the 55+ criterium race. Dale Luedtke will also be there.
Steve and Kal took turns pulling and tried to take maximum benefit of having just 2 of them on the corners. The fourth lap Mike Birditt took another monster pull after turn 2 and got his speed up to 35 mph. That area is slightly downhill but I know this put me under a lot of pressure. Mike looked to Alex to pull through but Alex tried to jump across since Kal and Steve were getting pretty close. Alex didn't make it and the pressure came off before we dove into the power climb. I got popped along with Raffy Gomez. There were 4 60+ racers left in the pack including John Rubcic, Bruce Steele, Jim Morehouse and Monty Pettus. Monty got dropped last year but traded places with me. There were a few other riders that got dropped earlier.
Steve and Kal kept working it and the pace actually slowed a bit. Lap 4 turned out to be the fastest of the day. UCC was doing a nice job of blocking. They had 7 other UCC riders left in the peleton.

Somewhere around 6 laps to go Mike Mueller jumped across the gap. Mike Birditt had a loose federation with Warren Wicks(also on Swami's), Steve Cahill, and Alex Collins. They let Mike Mueller get away. Mike got going quickly and got up to Steve and Kal. Soon after the connection Mike got a flat tire. Mike went to the wheel pit and got to sit out one 1.7 mile lap. The racers per the officials instructions got a free lap for a flat up to 3 laps to go. Once Steve and Kal came back around a fresh Mike got on it and they really punched it. Steve decided to go back to the pack. I was riding off the back with Raffy Gomez and Kal and Mike came by going quite fast just outside of 3 laps to go. They had a gap that wasn't going to be bridged.
The main field caught Raffy and myself with 2 and 1/2 laps to go. Raffy jumped in the middle of the group but I hung on the back and eventually fell off the pace. I didn't see the point. I wasn't going to stay in the pack so I could race for 5th place.
On the last lap the pack kept a moderate pace between turn 2 and 4 until Paul Rodiguez of UCC started his jump for home near turn 4 which would take everyone into the power climb. This is where confusion reins as to what happened next. What we do know is riders started piling up and those that didn't go down all have their own stories of a close call. Those that I know of that went down were Bruce Steele, Richard Gentili, John Rubcic, Warren Wicks, Monty Pettus(3rd this year), Richard Roberson, and Steve Cahill. There were probably others but these are the only riders I am aware of. Lots of road rash, broken frames, wheels, helmets, pedals, shoes, & kits. The worst of the whole thing happened to John Rubcic. John ran into Bruce Steele who was one of the first to hit the deck. Warren Wicks came into the riders down and tried to jump them but to no avail. John went flying over Bruce and broke his left collarbone and 3 ribs. John stayed down until an ambulance was able to take him to a local hospital. After X rays and a consultation with a specialist, John was released and spent the rest of the day at home with his wife, Laura. He wasn't in a lot of pain because he was so shot up with drugs.
Back to the race. Kal Szkalak and Mike Mueller came to the line with their hands together and obviously quite happy. Kal was given 1st place and Mike took 2nd. Of those that got through Mike Birditt found the wheel of Mitch Weinstock and was able to jump off of Mitch and get by Paul Rodiguez for 3rd place. Paul was 4th with Mark Planellas taking 5th place and Mitch coming in at 6th place. Dale Luedtke barely got by the crash and was slowed to a crawl and couldn't get back on the leaders. Dale was 7th and Alex Collins 8th.
In 60+ action Don Kimper was the first 60+ rider up the hill and was thinking of stardom but Jim Morehouse chased him down and passed Don near the finish line to win the 60+ category. Bruce Steele and Monty Pettus remounted and finished 3rd and 4th.
This was a hard race for me but maybe easy or moderate for others. The crash overshadowed the finish of the race. Are there lessons to draw from this. Surely! Safety first over the lust for a good placing. One really bad move can snowball and bring down a lot of racers. Complete placings below. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!

55+ Placings

1- Szkalak
2- Mueller
3- Birditt
4- Rodiguez
5- Planellas
6- Weinstock
7- Luedtke
8- Collins
9- Wagenaar

60+ Placings

1- Morehouse
2- Kimper
3- Steele
4- Pettus
5- Gomez
6- McKee
7- Pags

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