By John McKee
It was August 1st, 2010 and CBR is having its 8th of 9 criteriums at Domiguez Hills. At this time of year you are left with the hard cord racers. Guys that do all the races. In 55/60+ there were more 55s than 60s that have the stomach, moxie, stupidity, or whatever label you want to put on it. No one of course races more than UCC's Kal Szkalak in 55+ but I am pretty close and definitely out log any of the 60s in 60+ races. Kal's teammate Dale Luedtke is pretty close in racing miles and was looking as the favorite in this event along with Paramount's Monty Pettus. Monty is reasonably healthy and when he is can smoke any 60 around at the end of a flat crit. Monty has got his training and racing cycle down. He sucks on the Tuesday training ride while his teammate shines but his teammate sucks on Sunday and Monty wins. Wonder who that could be. LOL. Velo Allegro's Ricky Shorts has been in good form lately and he had the most teammates of any squad with a new team strategy to bring him home for the win.
At game time there were 20 55s and 9 60s. The lowest total of the year for CBR but all the races would have the same problem. At the begining of the year racers were all over the parking areas, clogging up freeways, Starbucks(if you could find one in this area), etc. This especially applies to the cat 5s but our one of our cats as well. The 55s have been pretty steady through the year including the Aug. 1st race but the 60s were half the showing of the 2nd CBR race in Feb. I guess the older guys wear down faster.
The 55/60+ race which had been scheduled at 7:45 am most of the year got moved up to 7:30 am but no big deal with the weather being no problem in August. The 30 +- racers were off on time. Now please understand that its hard to make a crit at Dom. Hills sound exciting. The difference in ability is closer between the best riders and the pack rider in 55/60+ racing unlike the 50+ category where "Turbo" Rodgers and a few other 50s dominate the racing although I will say that "Turbo" is willing to put it all on the line to get away in a break. We have a lot of fairly conversative racers that will try to work it out front but not go all in. This course of course isn't near as hard as San Marcos but does have a little power climb going counter clockwise. The course is a litte harder this direction especially in the afternoon wind but we only did that once(late start) this year and it was hard.
Kal Szkalak got us off quickly again but everyone was pretty aware of his start the prior week at San Marcos and Mike Birditt who got caught snoozing at San Marcos was right on him. Everyone else jumped as well and it was lined out for a short time when Kal threw in the towel. After that the race was pretty tame. Kal was the most active racer with Steve Horine the UCC patrolman and Dale "36" Luedtke sitting in and waiting to clean up a bunchie. Dale's father showed up to watch and it turned out that Dale and I lived on the Kaneohe Marine Base at almost the exact same time(the last 50s). I am 8 years older than Dale so no way we could have known each other back then. Small world sometimes. Also turned out that Mike Birditt was also on Oahu at about the same time but not at the Marine base.
OK back to the racing. Velo Allegro had their own plan which they don't wish to reveal but it surely was to get Ricky Shorts to the finish line first unless one of their teammates could get in a break. Al Shorts was surely the team "enforcer" being as strong as he is. Paramount's strategy was for Pettus to work for McKee. PAA had the twosome of Tom Riley and Cully White. Both are back from a cycling vacation watching and riding at the T d F locations. Both were pretty excited about how much fun they had. Tom is a breaker and Cully is mostly a sprinter. Pags is also a PAA member but has left for Natz already. Pags likes to drive so he wasn't at our race on Sunday.
The race had its ebb and flow and none of it was really hard. The few break attempts were short lived. I was in a 4 pack with Mike Birditt but was quickly chased down. Didn't have a VA or UCC member in it. Cardinal sin! The only break that looked dangerous included Mike Birditt and Kal Szkalak but they couldn't work that well together and Al Shorts went to the front to put the damper on this effort. This was 3/4 the way through the race and the last chance for a small group to get away. It was a bunchie almost surely unless a sole brave sole could hold everyone off.
Mike Birditt looked very strong throughout the race and collected all the primes but the 2nd one which was won by Al Shorts. Mike was doing his last hard effort before Natz and was using the primes to simulate the chase recover that is necessary at Natz 55-59. Natz 55-59 is hard. Very very aggressive with guys doing what seems like kamikaze moves but some of them have paid off. Kenny Fuller rolled off the front with 10 minutes left and then the spent field couldn't chase him down. That was Kenny's last year in 55-59 in 2008. He is now my problem at Natz in 60-64.
The last lap bell in Sunday's race came and Tom Riley was off the front. Tom went with several laps to go. Steve Borer tried to come across the gap to make it a twosome but couldn't quite make it. Mike was routing for them but it was up to Tom alone and he surely would be caught. The last lap was not fast but most riders held their position unlike the last Ontario race. I had been on Monty the last few laps but when he started getting buried I left him and went up near the front. Between turn 2 and 3 I could see Kal was on Dale and just sitting in and waiting. Monty reappeared coming up on the inside or left side. No one followed him and I got on his wheel and back to plan A. At turn 3 Mike Birditt chased me off Monty but I stayed on him. I figured Mike was a good wheel to be on so no big deal but it did cost me later. Monty was leading the charge up the left side but in a controlled fashion. Approaching the last turn which is 170 meters from the line "the move" came on the right side and Velo Allegro started it. Mike Birditt decided to jump ship and leave Monty and go with the flow on the right side. I hestiated and didn't know whether to follow Mike or get back on Monty. I decided to stay with Monty but Carlos Cruz the strongest 60+ besides Monty and myself got between us. I figured ok I will follow them closely and try and come around after the turn but racing this direction the race is mostly TOO the last corner.
Velo Allegro was trying to spring Ricky Shorts but Dale likes to get to the last corner first and he did. Ricky was right on his hip with Kal following closely. Don Denegal also was in the hunt and cut the corner closely leaving Mike Birditt to choose between being aggressive or being safe and saving his body for Natz. He choose to save himself and his legs were pretty shot anyway from the prime killing. Dale kept Ricky on his hip all the way to the finish line winning the 55+ CBR #8. Ricky was 2nd and Kal 3rd. Don Denegal was 4th and Mike 5th.
In 60+ action Monty had been in the wind for a long time and hit the last corner first with Carlos and myself right behind. When I got up to jump out of the saddle I was in a 50 x 13 and coudn't go. I needed to be in a bigger gear but with the finish so close an error like that was fatal. Monty hung on for the win and Carlos was 2nd. I finished 3rd and T d F chaser Cully White was 4th.The complete results are below. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!