Monday, May 16, 2011


By John McKee

Weather has really plagued the Socal bike racing circuit this year and has been especially tough on 55/60+ racers because we race so early in the morning and it is cold besides being wet. The weather report didn't look that bad for Ontario for their Mid Season Criterium on their somewhat boring 4 corner course BUT the day of was something different. The date is May 15th, 2011 and the weather is suppose to be nice or maybe mild but NOT cold, windy, wet and rainy and that's what it was. It wasn't raining at home when I left about 5:40 am but got some sprinkles on the way to the course. When I got there it started to rain a little more and that feeling of dread of having to once again race in the rain was coming over me. My pre race morning did have some nice surprises. Richard Rodiguez handed me a 60 inch by 70 inch crocheted blanket. His wife Yvonne made it for me because I write this blog. Thank you so much, Yvonne. I had that going for me and then Steve Borer comes up to me with a folder. It had 2 very nice 8 X 10 photos of myself racing at Barrio Logan the prior week. Thank you Steve and Jodie Borer. Personally the day was starting out pretty good but the weather was depressing. Walking to registration I stopped and chatted a bit with Kal Szkalak and he was down on the weather. He said if it was raining at the start of the race that he wouldn't do it.
Looks lovely in Ontario on Sunday, right. Not! Photo courtesy of Hilary Crowley's I Phone
After I got back to my car with my number in hand the rain started to lighten up and then it stopped. Wow. Hallelujah! Monty came over and we started to warm up. The roads were still going to be wet though no matter what. We all lined up around 7:45am. 10 mins beyond our scheduled start time. No big deal. The cat 4 women had a massive turnout in the race before ours. Very impressive. Sanda Timbal who races with us quite often finished 2nd. Nice job, Sanda!
We had from my count 32 racers. 20 55s and 12 60s. The 60 cat is not doing well this year. There was another event on the calendar which was the Death Valley Stage Race. Most racers that would do that wouldn't be doing a short criterium but there are a few guys that do both types of races. Gary Shuey(Gary won the 55+ cat), Kim Bleth and Glenn Baldwin come to mind. They brag in the race flyer for DVSR that there are "no bogus FLAT miles". That is a direct quote and here we were in Ontario and were going to race on nearly pancake flat roads. As flat as it may be on this day the race at Ontario wasn't going to be easy and everyone wasn't going to finish it. You can read about the Death Valley race at Jim Morehouse's(Jim won the 60+ cat) blog:
The race was off at Ontario and almost immediately it started to rain lightly. Enough to keep the roads wet. The first break attempt was by Steve Borer, Rino B. and Pat Huber. After a couple of laps out there Steve and Rino felt Pat didn't have his heart in the break and sat up near the start finish line. Rino is with Santa Clarita Velo and per Captain Bligh's instructions when one attack is caught counter, counter, or counter. Just playing with Fred a little. Fred Hoblit is the team maestro, captain, playing coach or team race director, or whatever you wish to call him. Mike Gourley of SCV went off then and Kal reacted right away. Mike "The Godfather" Birditt saw the danger of 2 very strong riders getting away so he jumped on their train. Everyone else reacted as well. The got a bit of a gap but going into turn 2 they didn't seem to be picking up much territory. They were just getting started. Turn 2 was deceptively treacherous. There was a little dip right after the corner and with the wet conditions Mike Gourley who was starting to wind it up washed out his front wheel. He was down in an instant. Kal was right behind him and he went down. Mike Birditt was next in line and had no chance and went over the bars and landed on one of the guys down. Everyone else saw the crash and slowed and started toward the outside of the road but the 3 of them were sliding from left to right or inside to outside. We slowed more and aimed further out to get by. Monty Pettus thought he would cut inside the sliding riders and hit the same spot that Mike Gourley did with too much angle and slide out. Mike Gourley got up pretty quick. Mike Birditt and Monty Pettus also got up quickly. Kal didn't get up quickly.
Once the racers that were still rolling got by someone hit it really hard. It was fast. Coming back around toward turn 2 Mike Birditt was waving his arms in an attempt to get everyone to slow down and go by the crash site neutral. Everyone did. Kal was on his shins bent over with his head near the ground and obviously in pain. The next time around Mike did the same thing and Kal was in exactly the same position. Mike told me later that Kal was really hurting and it was his ribs. Kal wanted to get up and move to the side of the road. Mike and a few others helped Kal up. They got him to the side of the road where he sat down on the curb. He was still in a lot of pain but didn't want the paramedics called. He wanted to drive away himself which wasn't a great idea but that is what he did. As of the time of this blog story, I haven't heard anything on Kal's condition. Here is wishing Kal the best on what surely will be a fairly long recovery. Kal is one tough dude and races more than anyone. His number just came up. Mike Gourley had some scratches on his face and hip while Mike Birditt and Monty came out with very minor injuries. A number of riders were gapped off at the crash site because it was strung out getting by and the pace was so fast coming by there or maybe the site of the crash took the will to race out of a few of the guys.
Just seeing all this put a pall over the race but we did continue to race. Some of the favorites were out in both 55 and 60+. The rain lightened up and we kept going around and around. The wind did pick up and it was in the racers face after turn 4 and made that stretch from turn 4 and by the start/finish line very difficult. Everyone was looking for cover in this area. A few brave soles were attacking in this area and made the racing hard. It was a hard day all the way around.
Most of the rest of the race it was attack and chase but nothing major happened until after the prime sprint for the Ontario series points. Dale Luedtke and David Lang pulled those home. After that all hell broke loose. Fred "Captain Bligh" Hoblit and Rick Swanson got away. Decent gap. John Roest put in the chase all by himself. He was out in the lead for several laps and got everyone so close that there tenure as race leaders was effectively over. Don't know who finally closed them out but when they were back in the fold the Santa Clarita Velo playbook was followed. Aye, aye Captain. Tom Riley jumped off and was followed by Brian Carrico of PAA I guess. His kit is way old.
They got going pretty good and eventhough Rick Swanson was quite tired from his last venture he started to try and close the gap to them by himself. He was eventually joined by Pat Huber. The 2 of them worked hard and finally caught Tom and Brian. Four off the front with 2 to go. Steve Cahill tried to come across solo but got caught in no man's land. Dale Luedtke put in a hard effort to try and catch Steve and came toward the start/finish line with one to go and since I was on Dale's wheel, he wanted me to pull through but I didn't. I figured that if I pulled hard into the wind and got Steve who is a 55+ racer I would be in oxygen debt and there would only be one lap to go and my rivals, Bob Wright, David Lang and Mike Fleming would get a free ride up. I choose to hang back and I know Dale wasn't happy with me but that is what I did. After turn one Steve Diamond of Swami's came forward and offered to lead Dale around but Dale choose wisely I believe to hang back a little more. I got on Steve's wheel and was 2nd wheel going down the back stretch.
Back up front where the win for the 55+ cat was unfolding Tom Riley put in a hard surge going into the last corner and got a small gap and made it stick to the line. Nice job, Tom. 1st place, 55+! Rick Swanson was 2nd, Brian Carrico was 3rd and Pat Huber was 4th.
1st place in 60+ was still out there and I was hoping that Steve Diamond had a lot of stuff left because I know what happens when a lead out man dies. The 2nd man has to take over or gets passed like he is standing still. After Steve took us around turn 3 I asked him to ramp it up but whatever speed was called into Steve's engine room, it wasn't there. At turn 4 Fred Hoblit came by with my rival Bob Wright in tow like I was standing still. Dale Luedtke and Craig Jones did as well. I got going as best I could and was aiming at Bob and gained some ground but he was effectively too far ahead. Bob Wright was 1st in 60+. I was 2nd. David Lang was 3rd, Mike Fleming 4th, Don Kimper 5th and Pags 6th. Side note- Pags comes driving in 5 minutes before the race is suppose to start and luckily we started 10 minutes late. Now that was what I call cutting it close. He made it.
6 out of the 12 60+ starters finished means it was tough out there.
Dale Luedtke won the field sprint for 5th place catching Steve Cahill before the line. Fred Hoblit also passed Steve for 6th while Mr. Cahill got 7th place. I only have one photo now but may have more later and will insert them. There will be a vid available as early as Tuesday. Complete results are below as best the officials could do them. The camera wasn't working that well. It was a bad day for racing although we have raced at many venues this year with wet and or rainy conditions and had no accidents but not at Ontario. Again I wish Kal a speedy recovery. If someone hears anything about Kal, let me know and I will spread the word. You tube vid added thanks to Mike McKinney. That's all for now! Train hard and race safe!

Mid Season Criterium  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 60+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 39024 Bob Wright Santa Clarita Velo 14
2 180386 John McKee Paramount Racing 11
3 107852 David Lang DARE 10
4 129293 Michael Fleming South Bay Wheelmen 9
5 195498 Donald Kimper ACQUA AL 2/SDBC 8
6 45763 Robert Paganini Pasadena Athletic Assoc (PAA) 7

Mid Season Criterium  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 55+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 155459 Thomas Reilly Santa Clarita Velo 14
2 34753 Rick Swanson Swami's Cycling Club 11
3 174212 brian carrico PAA/REMAX 10
4 206734 John Huber Velo Avanti Cycling Team 9
5 47262 Dale Luedtke Swami's Cycling Club 8
6 16360 Fred Hoblit Santa Clarita Velo 7
7 204724 Steve Cahill Celo Pacific 6
8 18156 Craig Jones Velo Avanti Cycling Team 5
9 one day   4
10 49110 Rino Barbagiovanni Santa Clarita Velo 3
11  Unknown 2
12 277180 John Roest Rock N' Road Cyclery 1
13  unknown 0
14 9271 Pete Dern Herbalife LaGrange 0
15 52086 cyril hunte

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