Monday, April 25, 2011


By John McKee

It is April 24th, 2011 and the Chuck Pontius Criterium is scheduled on the calendar. Santa Clarita Velo produces a weekend of racing starting with the Devil's Punchbowl RR on Saturday. It has a lot of punch to it. I can attest to that. The Saturday race had a record number of 597 enteries. It was bedlam near the start finish/line but that is another race and story. You already have read Jim Morehouse's account of the 55/60+ race in his blog
55+ and 60+ racers line up for the Chuck Pontius Criterium
Sunday Santa Clarita Velo brought the racing community the Chuck Pontius Criterium. The course is fairly standard but a good racing course. It is .8 miles with a slight uphill section on the back side and a lump on the 3rd leg just before the last corner. From the last corner to home it is slightly downhill. It is a lot like the Brea Valentine's course. The flyer says there is good pavement. Maybe 5 years ago or so. Lol. After the start finish line are some real bad spots that you better have your butt lose on the saddle and take the jarring with your arms and legs. Near the center line was murder.
Early action with the peleton coming around turn 4
The 55/60+ race was 2nd in the lineup at Chuck Pontius and scheduled to go off at 7:45 am. 20 55s and 12 60s showed up on Easter Sunday. I am sure the date held down the field size. There were no glitches and no holdups so we were off near the start time and were to race for 40 minutes. Alex Collins started the race rollin' and the action came often with breaks and prime killing.
Early break action with Fred Hoblit, Glenn Baldwin and Ricky Shorts
There were a number of active riders in the race including Fred Hoblit and Tom Reilly from the host club, Alex Collins from UCC, Glenn Baldwin(60+) from a club in SLO that he sponsors with his gym and rehab facility. Also active were Ricky Shorts of Velo Allegro and Mike Crystal(60+) with his new black Trek. Pretty sure it is a Trek. Mike rode a purple Trek for a LONGGGG time. Don't know how many miles it had on it but Mike got his money's worth on that one.
The early breaks were chased down but the break that looked the most dangerous was about half way through the race. Alex Collins, Fred Hoblit,  and Dale Luedtke
Race winding down with Kal on Dale and VA's Don  & Ricky following
were in it and not only was the group strong but had a key grouping of clubs that wouldn't chase. They got a bit of a gap and I was thinking this could work. Velo Allegro didn't have anyone in the group and on the backside Ricky Shorty started a chase or was trying to get across to the group. Ricky got about half way and ran out of gas but got the pack reved up. John Huber of Velo Avanti took his turn and started out on his own. Mike Birditt got on him and brought everyone with him. John also ran out of gas but got the pack so close to the break group that the whole race came back together. A short time after the pack got together  Tom Reilly of the host club took off on his own. Breaks late in a race can be dangerous unless the teams with numbers don't pay attention unless they aren't racing for 1st place in 55+. The pace eased a bit and Kal was marking Dale with Don Denegal on his wheel. No one was chasing. At one point with about 3 laps to go the pack got pretty close to Tom but he kept applying the pressure and got some more distance between himself and the peleton. He knew the sprint would close some distance so he had to go all in. The pace was moderate coming into 2 laps to go and then Mike Birditt jumped hard solo. Alex Collins was pulling hard in a chase. UCC wasn't going to let Mike get away if they could help it. Alex got the group so close that Mike threw in the towel and was going to wait for the sprint to use the rest of his energy.
55+ podium- Birditt, Reilly, & Szkalak
One lap to go and Tom Reilly is out there and the pace is starting to heat up. Rounding turn 2 Doug Knox hit it hard up the right side. John Edwards of UCC knew he was going to do this and tried to follow. Mike Marotta saw this and came over the top of the peleton and got on Doug. Mike Birditt saw this as a perfect way to get an escort to the line. The small group was ahead of everyone and Doug shuts down temporarily and hits it again and swings wide at turn 3. After they rounded the corner Doug is gassed and Mike soft pedals it. So much for Mike's escort.
Ahead of everyone still is Tom Reilly and no one is catching him. Tom has tried this move I don't know how many times but it worked this year at Pontius. Nice job, Tom. 1st place in 55+. Back in the pack Mike Birditt decides it's now or never and swings down from left to right and was going to try and solo it in. Mike Marotta got it going again and tried to get on Mike Birditt. Dale Luedtke was winding it wide where the pavement was better and would give a fast clean shot past the last turn. Kal was on his wheel. Monty Pettus of Paramount was also in this lineup. I tried to take an inside line at turn 3 but got chopped and had to brake. Bad deal for me and then when I was on John Huber, John came out of his pedal. I had to go around fight my way to the finish line on my own with little mo going for me.
Pettus, missing Marotta(Claude Rains) & McKee
Mike Birditt saw Dale winding it up wide and got to turn 4 first and clicked up a gear and hit it as hard as he could. Dale's group took the corner faster and were smoking it home. Mike held them off for 2nd with Kal over taking Dale for 3rd and Dale 4th. Mike Marotta is riding very strong this year and was right behind these guys for 1st place in 60+. Mike must have been in a hurry because he didn't stay for the podium or pick up his envelop of cash.  Monty Pettus was in another finish pod for 2nd place in 60+. I was in the next finish pod for 3rd in 60+ with Glenn Baldwin close by for 4th place.
This was a good clean race that had some action and ended with a solo 55+ winner which doesn't often happen. Complete results below. Photos are courtesy of Alicia McKee as is the video I have inserted.  That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!

Chuck Pontius  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 60+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 72880 Mike Marotta Action Sports/Simply Fit 14
2 219074 Leo Pettus Paramount Racing 11
3 180386 John McKee Paramount Racing 10
4 45047 Glenn Baldwin SLO Nexus-Gym One 9
5 39024 Bob Wright Santa Clarita Velo 8
6 107852 David Lang DARE 7
7 61278 Mario Seri Herbalife LaGrange 6
8 45763 Robert Paganini Pasadena Athletic Assoc (PAA) 5
9 8283 Michael Crystal METALMTN Cycling 4
10 46547 John Edwards UC Cyclery/JW Flooring 3
11 50406 Michael Edwards Herbalife LaGrange 2

Chuck Pontius  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 55+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 155459 Thomas Reilly Santa Clarita Velo 14
2 47255 Michael Birditt Swami's Cycling Club 11
3 54522 Kalman Szkalak UC Cyclery/JW Flooring 10
4 47262 Dale Luedtke Swami's Cycling Club 9
5 16360 Fred Hoblit Santa Clarita Velo 8
6 93812 Donald Denegal Velo Allegro 7
7 46255 Alex Collins UC Cyclery/JW Flooring 6
8 107559 Rodney Malloy 5
9 288193 Ronald Carlson METALMTN Cycling 4
10 49110 Rino Barbagiovanni Santa Clarita Velo 3
11 206734 John Huber Velo Avanti Cycling Team 2
12 222764 Thomas Buescher South Bay Wheelmen 1
13 66553 John Sinz Canyon Velo 0
14 12354 Kirk Freeman Santa Clarita Velo 0
15 Mark Rice SCVelo 0
16 52251 Ricky Shorts Velo Allegro 0
17 9271 Pete Dern Herbalife LaGrange 0
18 47314 Gary Prideaux Lightning Velo 0
19 186482 Rick Skalak Santa Clarita Velo 0
20 174212 Brian Carrico PAA/REMAX 0

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