Monday, March 21, 2011


By John McKee

It's March 20th and time for the 2nd of 6 criteriums in Ontario produced by Ray Moreno and Pacific Sunset Velo. This particular race is called the Spring Classic Grand Prix. March 20th is the first day of spring but the weekend in Southern California didn't seem to be so "spring" like. Lots of rain. Especially in the northern part of Socal. Ontario is pretty much right in the middle of Southern California and always draws riders from all over. The race series has planted roots and has a good following and in 55+ and 60+ circles as well. The first and previous race in Ontario had 50 racers in 55/60+ and that's with a 36 degree temperature. This race saw a fall off in attendance but rain was threatened and long trips in a car with the wind shields a going isn't a lot of fun. Of course racing in the rain takes most of the fun out of it unless maybe you are in Hawaii. Rain was forecast to hit Ontario around 7 to 8 am and the 55/60+ was to start at 7:35 am.
When we all got there it was dark of course because sunrise is 6:55 am after moving the clocks forward for daylight savings time the previous week. When it started getting light the clouds didn't look so ominous. It definitely looked like we would at least start our race without any rain or wet surfaces. YES!! I am tired of racing in the rain. It does make for a memorable experience but way too many negatives.
Hot 55+ rider- Mike Birditt
35 dedicated 55/60+ racers lined up at 7:35 including 2 women- Sanda Timbal and Hanh Nygyen. This was Hanh's first time in our group and I say welcome and I can tell you now that she did well but she needs to stay in the back of the pack on the last lap for awhile until she gets a feel for the last lap action. Sanda had just finished 3rd in the cat 4 women's race and is just back from visiting her homeland, Hungary.
We all started on time and on dry roads and the temperature was 20 degrees warmer than the first race on Feb. 27th, just 2 weeks before. The main 55+ teams were striped down. None had a full squad so would have to make do with who they brought. The pace early was brisk but nothing too fast. There were some early jumps and attacks especially from Santa Clarita Velo. A few small breaks formed with mini chase groups, etc. John "Clint Eastwood" Roest did a lot of work bringing back break groups or getting the peleton so close that we were effectively together. John is big and strong but needs to work on his flexibility and lose a "few" so he can ride leaner and lower.
The pace was frenetic with times at over 29 mph going between turn 1 and 2 which is slightly uphill. Other times the pace dipped to 20 or worse. The slow pace "trickled down"(sounds like the long time failed Republican economic policy-lol) the peleton with lots of braking. This lead to the first crash that took down- Monty Pettus, Richard Rodiguez, Pags, and the promoter himself, Ray Moreno. Monty and Pags got back to the officials area and got back in the race. This was half way through the 55/60+ race.
Hot 60+ rider- David Lang
Most of the early action were by the 55+ riders but I was closing some gaps and working it pretty good early. David Lang was marking me closely and when I went, David went. When David went, Monty went and that always triggered a mass chase. I think I was marked closer than the hottest racer in 55+. Without a doubt that is Mike Birditt. Mike is sprinting awesome, rolling it, chasing and moving across to breaks with ease. When Mike goes off that should bring alarm bells to every team and competitive 55+ racer.
Half the race is done and I believe that Rino Barbagiovanni of Santa Clarita Velo jumped off the front and Alex Collins of UC Cyclery with his new team Specialized bike took in chase. Mike Birditt of Swami's took off in chase after the 2 riders got together. No one else reacted. I thought about it and was going to make a move at the last corner which I like to refer to as the "slingshot" corner. A little dip that can catapult you forward. I didn't and the break stayed fairly close for a couple of laps. Mike didn't think it would work but Alex thought it could and would work with Mike. Mike and Alex stepped it up and Rino came off. The pace in the pack was dreadfully slow. Mike and Alex were pulling away and Rino was left in no man's land to cook. His teammates should have put him out of his misery early and kept Mike and Alex closer but... SCV was missing Tom Reilly and especially last races winner in 55+, Mike Gourley.
Only one rider would chase and that was Nour Tillo. Nour put in 2 hard pulls and the 2nd one formed a mini chase group between his group and the pack. I closed down to the mini group and David Lang was right on me as was the rest of the group. We needed "Clint" the enforcer to come forward but maybe he was tired from earlier action. Nour pulls made a dent in the gap to the break but would need several more strong riders and it wasn't going to happen this Sunday. Mike and Alex were working well together and needed to stay on it to stay away and they did.
A prime call came for the bonus Ontario series points. After the first race Dale Luedtke was leading the 55+ group and I was leading the 60+ group. The pace picked up. The bonus points were going to the peleton and not the break group. Dale Luedtke came around the last corner serious and turned on the gas to go for the points. David Lang was right behind him. Truthfully I didn't know if both cats got points or if the first person across the line gets points toward their category. After some research it appears that both do. David knew that because he got the prime points in the first race. So Dale and David got the prime points for race # 2 but David was gassed. The pace picked up rounding turn one and David was in a spot of bother but hung on the back of the pack. The next time around to the start finish line the 5 lap to go card came up. 
Unless Alex and Mike fell apart they were going to decide the winner of 55+. The pace in the pack was respectable but not earth shattering. David was in the back recovering and planning a return to the front. The laps counted down- 4, 3, 2, and 1 to go! In the mean time the rain started with 2 and 1/2 laps to go. Not hard but enough to wet down the road. It almost stopped as we headed to the last lap. With one to go Alex and Mike slowed down and Alex stayed on Mike's wheel. The old cat and mouse game. Mike decided to take it wide around the last 2 turns to make Alex jump on their left side if Alex was going to make an early move. They stayed in place around the last corner and Mike opened it up from the front when he came near the opposite curbside. That's about 200 meters or more from the line. Mike has a quick acceleration. Alex has a long sprint but it takes him longer to get up to speed. It was Mike Birditt first across the line for another win for himself and Swami's!
The pack was now racing for 3rd place in 55+ but the win in 60+ was still out there. John "Clint" Roest took the pace for the pack. The pace was decent and I was in good position but in the middle of the front group. The pace started to slow going into turn 2 and riders were moving up the outside and got worse going into turn 3. I had to get out and move up. I came out to the left and got in Leo Longo's path but he saw me coming and let me go. I moved up but not far enough. Rick Swanson came to the front to start pulling the pack. The pace picked up again. Kal Szkalak(Kal was feeling around 85%. He had bronchitis/pneumonia several weeks prior and was starting to get his form back) was up near the front with Monty on his wheel. Monty had torn shorts and bloody hands but was ready to launch his sprint at the end. I didn't even know he had crashed. It had happened behind me and I hadn't seen him for a while but that was not unusual. Dale  Luedtke and David Lang were moving up and into position. I was 2 back from Monty and on a wheel I didn't like. 
Should have moved up and Monty would have let me in but I stayed put. We made the only right turn and then 2 more lefts and no early jump like the last race from Mike Gourley. Right about the last corner Kal and former track rider Cyril Hunte jumped hard. Cyril use to ride for his home country of Guyana. Dale Luedtke started to wind it up behind Kal and powered home across the line for 3rd place. Kal followed for 4th place. Monty Pettus launched his sprint coming home and was out of the saddle 10 meters from the line when his chain came off the chainring. Yikes! No power. Something was damaged in his crash. David Lang came by him for 1st place in 60+ and 5th place overall. Steve "The Black Knight" Hensler also got by Monty for 6th place overall and 5th in 55+. 
A little further down the food chain was a small bunch of riders that rounded the corner and were trying to sprint for home. It was congested. A result of too slow a pace on the last lap which wasn't the case the previous week. Don't know what exactly started the carnage but something happened to Nour Tillo and he bounced off the right side of Fred Hoblit slammed to the pavement. Joe Wells of Paramount nailed Nour right in the back and went flying. Gordon Carr of SBW also went down. I was on the left side of a group of riders before the crash and and there was movement out away from the group and I had to also move out to the left and took my foot off the gas.  The 4th time this year that something has happened in front of me that interrupted my sprint. The main problem was behind me and to my right. I got out of my saddle and tried to get going again. Mike Fleming started to come by me and I saw Bob Wright just ahead and to my right. I got by Mike and was coming at Bob but Bob took 3rd, myself 4th and Mike 5th. 
After the warmdown lap I stopped to see how the crashed riders were doing. Joe Wells was scraped up but ok. The Paramount jersey I loaned him was toast. Gordon Carr was sitting on the curb and it looked like a broken collar bone. Nour Tillo was laying on his stomach on the grass in a lot of pain. He had movement in his legs but was really hurting. David Lang's wife who is a nurse was there helping out. The paramedics were there and put him on a flat stretcher on his back. He didn't want to go to a hospital. Later he was able to get up and walk. 
The overall pace of the race was slightly less than 25 mph which isn't bad on this course but the slower pace of the race was a factor in both crashes especially the last lap. If Alex Collins had been in the pack I am pretty sure he would have led it out hard from a long ways out. Taking over from Rick and stringing it out and making it safer like at Cattle Call. That was a long lead out and he didn't quit before the line. The complete results are below. Sorry. No action pictures. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
Spring Classic GP  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 60+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 107852 David Lang DARE 14
2 219074 Leo Pettus Paramount Racing 11
3 39024 Bob Wright Santa Clarita Velo 10
4 180386 John McKee Paramount Racing 9
5 129293 Michael Fleming South Bay Wheelmen 8
6 243425 mark wisnosky ACQUA AL 2/SDBC 7
7 189814 Leo Longo South Bay Wheelmen 6
8 171652 Stephen Whitsitt South Bay Wheelmen 5
9 46547 John Edwards UC Cyclery/JW Flooring 4
10 45763 Robert Paganini Pasadena Athletic Assoc (PAA) 3
11 57726 Ernest Hoffer Herbalife LaGrange 2
12 50406 Michael Edwards Herbalife LaGrange 1
Spring Classic GP  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 55+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 47255 Michael Birditt Swami's Cycling Club 14
2 46255 Alex Collins UC Cyclery/JW Flooring 11
3 47262 Dale Luedtke Swami's Cycling Club 10
4 54522 Kalman Szkalak 9
5 15874 Steve Hensler Team Redlands 8
6 16360 Fred Hoblit Santa Clarita Velo 7
7 52086 Cyril Hunte 6
8 178495 Steve Diamond Swami's Cycling Club 5
9 95649 Ken Burns Southern California Velo 4
10 47314 Gary Prideaux Lightning Velo 3
11 49110 Rino Barbagiovanni Santa Clarita Velo 2
12 294290 Pey-Lih Littler Celo Pacific 1
13 66553 John Sinz Canyon Velo 0
14 9271 Pete Dern Herbalife LaGrange 0
15 277180 John Roest Rock N' Road Cyclery 0
16 34753 Rick Swanson Swami's Cycling Club 0
17 289270 Sanda Timbal Team Simple Green/Bike Religion

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately Gordon Carr's injuries were more extensive -- in addition to broken collar bone, he suffered a broken rib, a small lung puncture and partial lung collapse, and some deep punctures on calf from the chainring.

    He'll be laid up for a while -- we all wish him a speedy recovery.