Friday, September 9, 2011


By John McKee

The criterium for the the ages 55-59 and lower were held on Sept. 2, 2011 in Downtown Bend, Or. It was a simple 4 corner basic course. Between turn 3 and 4 there was a little dip so there would be some speed going into the last turn. There was a long distance from the last corner to the finish line and the wind was into the racers faces coming home. The race was to start mid morning. There was a lot of interest from racers all across the country. In 2010 there were 26 starters and that nearly doubled for the Bend race with 49 starters. Cat 5 riders are allowed in this age group and though there weren't many it was a problem. With the rapid growth of this category cat 5 racers should not be allowed.

55-59 racers to the line in Downtown Bend for the criterium - 40 km
Many racers had come up from Southern California by car and plane. Swami's and UCC/JW Flooring had large squads. Definitely the 2 largest in the field. Having a lot of "boots on the ground" as the Republican prez candidates would say doesn't insure success. Most of the medalists from 2010 were here including the winner Charles Townsend. There were some notable riders that also aged up including Breakaway from Cancer's Malcolm Hill. Malcolm was a close 2nd in 2010 in the 50-54 category and has been training very hard. If Malcolm doesn't get in 3 races at a criterium, he doesn't feel he has gotten much of a workout. I am not talking about just sitting in either. Full boat all end racing. Malcolm did 3 races the Sunday prior to this event. I wonder if that wasn't too much or maybe that helped peak his fitness. Let's see.
The race was off and it didn't take long to see that Malcolm Hill was going to race aggressively. He attacked twice but was brought back. Others also made moves but were neutralized.
Early 55-59 action on the backside of the course near the dog park

Pressure is on. Home stretch- You can see Fred Hoblit, Craig Jones and Rick Swanson on the far side
There was a crash early on and it affected a number of Socal riders. Don't know who it was that went down but first he bounced off the barrier, went down and the bike separated from him and hit Dale Luedtke in the hip. Steve Borer went between the downed rider and the flying bike. The bike ended up hitting Alex Collins in the chest. Didn't knock him over but threw him off his stride and he was off the back. Officials will only give you a free lap if you go down.
The 3rd time in most anything can be charmed or a strike out. Malcolm charged off again for a 3rd time. This time he as joined by William Watkins riding for Team Army. William is a good size guy. Didn't look nearly as fit as Malcolm who doesn't have an ounce of fat on him. Looked like maybe a mismatch if they could stay away or would it be. Looks sometimes can be deceiving.
The pack didn't react to the 2  riders. Let them go. At natz most riders are riding by themselves. No teammates. Didn't look like Swami's or UCC was worried because Hill and Watkins started to build a lead.

You can see the 2 breakaway riders in the top 3 photos- In this photo Malcolm Hill is leading William Watkins

You could see Dale sitting in the very back of the peleton. Dale likes to save energy but he usually doesn't sit in the very back. Mike Birditt wasn't at the front like he always likes to race. More mid pack. Some of the bike handling was atrocious making many of the Socal riders nervous. As mentioned Dale had already been hit by a flying bike. Kal Szkalak was buried in the bunch. Paul Rodiguez was more prominent in the front.
It didn't take long for Hill and Watkins to get a 12 to 15 second lead. There was a lot of firepower in the pack behind them but it would only fire off sporadically. Kim Bleth and Rick Swanson of Swami's made pulls at the front and Paul Rodiguez and John Waganear of UCC did as well. No Dale, Mike or Kal. UCC had a strong rider that wasn't even suited up. Time trial and road specialist but could have used his strength in the race.
Some late action in the peleton- You can see Paul Rodiguez and Kal Szkalak of  UCC here
The 5 lap to go card came up and Malcolm Hill and William Watkins had lengthened their lead. They were going all out. Full boat. Take no prisoners and take no chances. From the side lines it was obvious that they weren't going to get caught. These 2 guys were the strongmen of the field. I know there were some really good riders and strong ones in the peleton but they all miscalculated the power of these 2 guys. The overall pace of the pack wasn't that inspiring coming in at a little over 40 km/hr. Slower pace than the 60-64s the day before at N/W Crossing and slower than the prior year which had a smaller group. There is always a chance the distance was a bit off but those are the figures.
The 2 leaders didn't take their pedal off the floor board until 1 and 1/2 laps to go. They had a substantial lead and weren't to be caught. They played cat and mouse for the rest of the race but at the end William Watkins was too much for Malcolm Hill. William  broke clear 150 meters or so from the line and became the champion of the 55-59 category.
The remainder of the pack were bouncing all over the place on the last lap. I hear it was really nutty from turn 3 to home. Robert Downs of Wi. won the bunch sprint for 3rd place. 4th went to a rider that was relegated and moved Mark Caldwell from 5th to 4th. Henry Schnepf was moved from 6th to 5th. Henry didn't show for the podium and his medal so I guess he didn't know. The first rider from Socal was Paul Rodiguez at 7th. Kal Szkalak was 11th and Mike Birditt was 12th. The race was a little slow and our local teams dropped the ball in not taking the 2 breakaway guys more serious earlier. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
55-59 Criterium podium- Socal rider Malcolm Hill is 2nd from the left(looking at the pic). William Watkins of Team Army and from Georgia is the champion.

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