Tuesday, February 1, 2011


By John McKee

It was January 30th, 2011 and time for the first criterium on the SCNCA circuit. The day after the successful Poor College Kids Road Race. The Mothballs Criterium 55/60+ race was to start at 8:10 am in Goleta, Ca. Just north of Santa Barbara.  I got there before 6:30 am. As I was spinning real easy with my running shoes on I felt some rain drops. What's this! On Friday the forecast was for possible afternoon showers. Well, things got moved up. It started raining harder and harder with the race time coming closer. I decided early on that I was there and I was going to do it. Some guys pulled out and I completely understand. I pumped up some weak soles like Mike Birditt and H and maybe a few others. When we went to the line it really started really coming down. In keeping with the rain I am going to take liberties with a song by the late GREAT Bobby Darin.... Here it goes(I feel like Chevy Chase in "Funny Farm". He is writing his story and laughing thinking it is real funny. Turns out it is terrible. My wife is calling me Chevy while I was rewriting the lyrics and laughin'.)

Splish Splash, I was takin' a bath
Long about a Sunday morning, yeah
Rub-a-dub, just relaxin' in the tub
Thinkin' everything was alright 
Well, I stepped out the tub, put my feet on the floor,
I wrapped the towel around me
And I opened the door, and then
Splish, Splash! I jumped back in the bath
Well how was I to know there was a criterium going on
They was a -splishin' and a -splashin'
From R to L-McKee, Lang, & Rino B.
Reelin' with the rainin', moving and a slidin'
Bing bang, I saw the whole gang
Racin' on the Mothballs course, yeah!
Flip flop, they was doing the chasin'
All the seniors had the racin' bug too
There were bicycles with a Mike and Kal
Goodie, Mister McKee was a even there, too!
A-well-a, Splish Splash, I forgot about the bath
I went and put my racin' shoes on, yeah...
I was a rollin' and a racin', reelin' with the rainin'
Movin and slidin', splishin' and a splashin, yeah!
Yes, I was-splishin' and a spashin'
I was a-rollin' and a racin'
Yeah, I was a-movin' and a slidin'...woo!
Until Luedtke brought the peleton home!!!

From R to L- Riley, Collins, & Harless
I am still laughing but my wife is deadpan when I sing her the song. At least she isn't crying like Chevy's wife when she reads his story. I got that going for me.
Back to the real race. There were about 25 to 30 very brave souls that started the 40 minute race. I thought we would take it easy and get a feel for the course in the wet conditions. Turn 1 was like a lake with water 3 or 4 inches deep at times. My idea was laid to rest by Doug Knox. Doug takes off like a rocket. We all had to take off in chase. It was really strung out. The first time I tried my cork brake pads on my Zipp carbon rims it was like nothin. I had taken my glasses off before the race which I need to see for distance but water on the lens would be worse in my opinion and was expressed by Phil Richards before the race. I agreed. Without brakes and glasses it was going to be harder. Water and stuff keep being shot into my eyes by the wheel in front of me. That was fun!
Doug actually did us a favor. Stringing it out and getting  us NOT to race tentatively was a good thing. Kind of like racing at the track. Bad group riding skills really stand out in these conditions and there was one guy. #837. Wow. He was all over the place but was strong enough to always ride back to the front. Local guy I assume. Never see him otherwise.
Doug got caught but the attacks kept coming. The rain started to dissipate. Turn 1 started to drain. Things were looking better. A few 60s had been shot off the back. It wasn't easy out there. Strength and bike handling were of paramount importance.
McKee followed by Collins
Some early efforts by Swami's Kim Bleth and Mike Birditt were covered by  Richard Roberson. Mike and Kim couldn't get him to roll with them. He was doing his team assignment and doing it well, I would say. Doug Knox was looking to mix it up. Kal Szkalak charged off a number of times just to be neutralized. The biggest threat of the day came when Mike Birditt and Kal agreed to roll it together with a little over 10 laps to go. They took off and started taking 1/2 lap pulls. In the vid you will only see Mike because he was taking the leg from the last corner past the start/finish line to turn one. Kal would take the backside. Kal had the easier leg. Very slightly downhill. Kal and Mike were working it hard. Kal was complaining a little that Mike was slowing it. Mike didn't like his climbing custer on his rear wheel. He didn't change out his cassette the night before to his crit cassette like I did. Only take 10 to 15 mins. Mike always seem to be between gears.
Back in the pack there were some major blocking going on from Kim Bleth, Alex Collins and Richard Roberson. Kim was the major player here. I suggest a little more subtle blocking technique though Kim wasn't stopping anyone from going around and leading the pace themselves. The course was plenty wide. There were some major chases put in by a number of riders: Rino B., Tom Riley, John Huber, Doug Knox and Phil Richards. Doug and Phil race like there is just one race eventhough they are 60+. I race against my rivals only. Kal and Mike are no threat to me. SBW new 55+ strongman Gordon Carr was not to be seen at the front. He was playing a waiting game.  The break and the chasing were working well for me. The chase would string it out and I was strong enough to stay near the front while the other 60+ riders would filter backward. Maybe they were just biding their time until the end. Don't know.
Birditt and Kal -Breaking it
Mike and Kal got caught with 3 laps to go. This was a shame in some ways because the pace dipped except for efforts by team soldiers like Richard Roberson, Kim Bleth and Alex Collins. Just inside 2 laps to go after coming around turn one the pace really dipped. I got swarmed and frustrated. That's racing. There weren't enough team soldiers to go around to do all the work. No one racing for themselves was going to go to the front except for Phil Richards. With one lap to go Richard Roberson was in the lead followed by Kim Bleth, Kal, Mike Birditt, Bob Wright(great position for him to win 60+), and Dale Luedtke. Dale's shadow for the day Vito Czulak was several riders back from Dale. Vito would get his wheel back on the back stretch. I was way out of position and trying to move up on the back stretch but got blocked several times and had to brake. Really getting frustrated.
Kim Bleth hit it on the back stretch with whatever he had left. Great team job done by Swami's Kim Bleth and UCC's Richard Roberson. Alex Collins in his new UCC kit went to the front to work for strongman Kal Szkalak. Alex and Doug Knox were the first to the last corner. Dale wasn't far behind and he was in full flight. He had already started his out of the saddle sprint. Dale has a long windup and a longggg sprint. Vito was right on him. Kal and Mike hit the corner about the same time. Mike was behind Alex on the outside and Kal took it close to the corner. Vito was blocked for a second but squeezed through to get back on Dale. This might have cost him the race. It was amazingly close at the finish. Dale was giving it everything he had. Kal and Mike's legs were shot from their solo effort and they faded. Alex was hanging in there quite well even though he had been soldiering it.
From R to L-Bleth, Roberson, & Carr
Both Dale and Vito threw their bikes at the end and when you see the vid you won't be able to tell who won but to just relive the suspense since I already let the cat out of the bag earlier it was Dale Luedtke for another Swami's win! Vito was second, Kal third with Alex, Mike and John Huber of Velo Avanti rounding out the top 6.
In 60+ action Harold Schneider better known as H came out of hibernation. H had been with Paramount for 4 or 5 years and I couldn't get him to come out to race with Monty and myself much. H changes team and he is now a major player in 60+ racing. H positioned himself nicely on the back stretch in the top 55s and turned it home with the win by a pretty good margin. Coming around the last corner I was still in play for 2nd. David Lang was on the outside and I took a tight line to the corner. Rino B. was just ahead of me. I was going around the right of Rino to the curb side and someone chops Rino to his right toward me and I blink. I put on my brakes and they actually worked. Damn. The mo was gone. David Lang came in for 2nd place. Raphael Gomez, Bob Wright and old number 837 came chugging by me to add insult to injury. Gomez 3rd, Wright 4th, Harless 5th and McKee 6th.
All in all it was an interesting experience. I was so cold afterward I couldn't stop shaking. My wife took me to the motel/hotel after the results were out for a much needed hot shower. It hadn't been a good night's sleep at the old Holiday Inn. The "climate change" unit was atrocious. I was laying there during the  night  trying to get some much needed sleep and I kept hearing what I thought were trucks driving by. I was laying there in a daze not knowing what was going on until about 1:30 am when I finally figured out it was the "climate change" unit. No denying the air needed warming but that had to be turned off. I am not usually a "climate change" denier anyway. I leave that to the Republicans.
I say great fortitude to all that started the race and probably good sense by those that chose not to race.
Great you tube vid by Peter Carlson. 8:40 seconds with some nice music.  
Pictures are courtesy of Alicia McKee. That's all for now, folks! Train hard and race safe!

55+ Placings

9-Rino B.
10- Reilly

60+ Placings
6-Darin, B.

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