Monday, August 1, 2011


By John McKee

Not sure exactly how this happened as the 55/60+ racers always race in the morning and often do so before 8 am. To change things up the promoter at the Torrance Criterium had us racing at 4:20 pm. I am going to stop bellyaching about having to get up so early any more. The entire day before the Torrance Criterium was pretty much honed around getting ready for the race. When we do it early like we usually do the rest of the day is ours to do whatever and I would have rather been at my grandson's baseball tournament in San Clemente in the afternoon.
The drama for the race scheduled for July 31th, 2011 started days weeks before. A lot of talk about the high fee for the race($30) for a unspecified amount of merchandise. Are promoters taking advantage of higher Socal point values in the later races? They know they have a built in customer base.
 A number of us had contact with the promoter and he assured us that we wouldn't be sorry about the race prizes. Word was passed around. (feedback after the race wasn't that positive as we all have helmets, bibs, jerseys, and hats. Gu and bars were good.)It didn't seem to spur the pre reg. 5 60s and 10 55s but somehow a lot of racers wanted to race Torrance. There were a lot of same day signups. Mike Marotta seemed to have a fire lit under him by the his Socal Cup standing. He was in 2nd by a few points overall and passed myself with some great finishes in 60+. He had said he wasn't going to race after Paramount but.... those intoxicating Socal Cup points got in his blood. He is addicted now. By the time I got to the race there were 55s and 60s everywhere. 16 55s and 15 60s including one host team member which would be able to enter for free(Bruce Steele- Mrs. Fredell's favorite 5th grade student. Have to see his facebook page. Which boy is Bruce in the class picture?).
55/60+ racers line up at Torrance Criterium- Dale Luedtke is posing. Is this good luck or??
By the time the 55/60+ race was to move to the start/finish line the wind was blowing big time. It had completely blow up the 45+ race which was right before ours. There were pockets of racers all over the course. Last year there was some wind at a CBR race and it split the 55/60+ field wide open. It looked like our race was going to divide the strong from the weak. One thing though that came into play at the Telo course used for the Torrance race was a long stretch downwind. This would be the difference in the race from the CBR course. Easier to chase down riders. The upwind portion which was very hard of course was broken up by a chicane. The off wind portion which were short really made the bikes unstable. Knowing how to use the wind was going to be important per Fred Hoblit. Definitely, I say.
The group was sent off by the officials on time. I had heard that there were a number of crashes through the day but the 55/60+ have had a good history this year except the rain crash at Ontario. A number of guys have been taken out by training crashes but I always hear how dangerous the criteriums are. In any event the majority of the racers once off and into the race played carefully on the new course with the wind. There were a couple of brave souls that sprang away right from the gun. Tom Buescher and Rick Swanson decided to give it a go and had a gap by the first chicane which wasn't far from the start/finish line. After a couple of laps Phil Richards decided to come across the gap and make it 3.
1st break of the race- right from the gun-Rick Swanson, Tom Buescher and Phil Richards
The break group just hung out there with Mike Marotta at the front doing race tempo. Everyone seemed fine with sitting in. The threesome weren't getting anywhere. They were out there for about 5 laps. Swami's and SBW were out there so no chase from them and they had the biggest teams there.
Mike Marotta leading the chase of Rick Swanson, Tom Buesher and Phil Richards
Not sure who chased them down but they were. Steve Borer was very active in chasing throughout the race. The rest of the race was a series of small group breaks. We only had one solo effort and that was from Fred Hoblit. Rick Swanson put the chase on Fred. I assume he was trying to get across the gap and make it 2 but it all failed. The effort level in the race varied more than usual. Most the race was pretty easy. I was expecting a harder race like Eldo when it is windy there. The upwind sections weren't that hard when you had a good draft and there were a lot of tall guys out there. The down wind section was where all the mini breaks were chased down. Pretty easy to go fast there. We got to over 32 mph at times while the 35s got to over 36 at the same stretch.
Fred Hoblit going it solo midway through the race
Rick Swanson putting the chase on Fred Hoblit
The race counted down to 20 minutes to go and then it was 5 to go. 5 laps to go and it is customary to hit the snooze alarm and except for a few brief efforts this was true here. Whatever effort one made to stay near the front early meant nothing as the group churned endlessly late in the race. The lap card hit 2 to go and it was no surprise that Bruce Steele made a move. Solo move but he a had a tail gunner. It was Mr. Robert (tail gunner) Paganini. They had been hanging out together in the back. Robert is expert at sucking wheel and he was doing his best to hang on to Bruce. The lap card hit one to go and Bruce was still out there the tail gunner. It looked assured in a race that included faster 55s that Bruce would get sucked up. Rick Swanson went to the front to bring the Swami's guys home. Bruce did get caught but not sure exactly where it was.
The pace really didn't rise that much until going into the next to last turn. I had been in good position but was losing it quickly. Mike Fleming chose to hang onto Mike Marotta's wheel and Monty Pettus was nearby. Mike Birditt seemed to struggle staying near the front especially on that last lap. Mike is really focusing on his prep for Natz. Dale was moving into good position. Don Denegal was signaling to Ricky Shorts to get on his wheel. Deogracias Asuncion of SBW was threading himself in good position. Not a lot of wind draft there. Once the group hit the last corner all heck broke loose. It was well over 400 meters to the line and all into the wind. Unless you were in good position you were going to be hard pressed to do much about it because you would have to get in the wind. Dale Luedtke showed some early season form and smoked all racers for 1st place. Good job, Dale!
 Luedtke/1st 55+, Hoblit/2nd, Asuncion/3rd(Behind Dale), Birditt/4th- Marotta behind Asuncion placing 1st in 60+
Fred Hoblit came in close to the cones for 2nd. Mike Birditt was right behind him but placed 4th. Deogracias Asuncion had his best race of the season as he placed 3rd coming in to the right of the other 3 riders. Deogracias should race with us more often.
Mike Marotta came in pretty far ahead of the other 60+ riders for 1st in his category. Monty Pettus held off a hard charging David Lang for 2nd. David was 3rd.  The 60s were quite competitive. After the 1st 4 55s, 6 of the next 8 riders were 60+. Ricky Shorts was 5th and Don Denegal was 6th in 55+. Mike Fleming was 4th in 60+ and Bob Wright bested myself for 5th place. I saw Bob about 150 meters from the line. Bob is easy to pick up because he is tall and throws his bike from side to side more than anyone. Tip to Bob... Reduce the throw and you will go faster. I tried to make the best of the situation and at least pick up a point and a half on Bob but was 20 feet behind. I got within less than a foot at the line. Racing for 5th place like this. It's the Socal Cup point addiction. Lol.
The race was different in the wind and there were no close calls that I saw. The overall speed was slightly less than 22 mph so the wind really made a difference. I wish the last laps were harder but you need large teams with a master plan to do that. Photos are courtesy of Alicia McKee as is the first vid. The second vid is compliments of Laurie Lang. Vids below. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!

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