Monday, January 23, 2012


By John McKee

It's Sunday Jan. 22nd, 2012 and time for the 1st CBR race of the year and the 1st CBR race under the umbrella of the local USAC affiliate, the SCNCA. The 55/60+ racers had moved up the food chain in the off season and were going to start around 10 am. Awesome start time but as the winter progressed we got moved earlier and earlier until we ended up at 8:15 am. Better than the 7:35 am from last year. Since CBR was now a USA Cycling promoter a second license wasn't needed but Chris got creative and came up with the idea of the "Loyalty Club". For $50 you got a reduced fee at all the races. At 6 or 7 races it pays off. OK, I'm in. Chris and Vera produce good events so I don't have a problem with this.
I was surprised then to see what a large field the 55/60+ racers had. No Loyalty Club and no pre reg and the entry fee nears $40. Ontario had 48 racers for their 1st event and the Dom. Hills CBR event had 66! Wow!!! 9 short of a sell out. The large turnout was due to the 55s. The 55s are driving the field sizes. There were 19 60+ racers. Not sure why so many racers drop out when they get in their 60s. I say good job to all the 60s that came out and raced with younger riders.
There were cars and riders everywhere when I got to Dom. Hills around 7:10 am. Pretty long lines at reg but they moved pretty fast. I never feel like I have enough time to get ready for a race. By the time I got my number on I forgot about getting on my trainer and just started riding around. My stomach was killing me and my right leg wasn't feeling that great. I have had a short bout of sciatica this week and visited my chiro, Dr. Richard Olson earlier in the week. All week and  this is the worst my leg has felt. Damn and a large field to fight. We got called to the line and there were riders everywhere. Damn. The race started a little late but once the gun went off it started fast. I still wasn't feeling that good and was in the back. Everyone seemed to be going fast and I was thinking "Mother of this the end of Rico?". After a couple of laps I started feeling better physically and mentally. I started to get in the flow of the race. I have done this course so many times.
The pace was brisk early but not much happened. I just wanted to get the race over with. The standard blender action was going on with some snake moves, etc. A prime lap came up about half way through the race for a free entry. Gary Shuey of Spy-Swami's went for it and took the prime. Mark Hoffenberg countered off of Gary. Mark just aged up to 55 and was expected to make a big impact on this category. Mark has a long history of being a strong rider and his Sho Air/Rock n Road teammates are strong as well with just aged up Dan Nicolette and Henry Schnepf who is 57 in 2012.
Mark was soon joined by Mike Birditt and then John Luke of Santa Clarita Velo. We all know about Mike but John is new to us and just starting racing some last year. He gets the thumbs up by Mike Birditt for being a strong rider. Ricky Shorts of Velo Allegro made it 4. As I heard it, all the riders were taking pulls. The foursome was joined by Steve Cahill, Fred Hoblit and a party unknown at this time. Fred is also with Santa Clarita Velo so they had 2 members in the break group. The break group moved along but didn't make consistent headway. There were a lot of guys chipping away at the group. Surprisingly a number of 60+ riders started to act up and chase or maybe get across. Bruce Steele with Rich Stahlberg made a go of it. Monty Pettus and Doug Knox worked at the front for a bit.
With 3 laps to go the lead was quiet small. The breakers were getting ready to abandon ship. Steve Cahill didn't want to throw in the towel and pulled for most of the next to last lap. Wayne Rosenkrantz and Bruce Hartley of Pinnaclife were putting a lot of pressure on at the front of the peleton. Mike Birditt and Mark Hoffenberg were sitting in the break group waiting to get caught and assuming a bunch sprint.
This came true at the start/finish line with one lap to go. Everyone was all together. Who drove the pack after this is a little murky. The pace was good. Maybe even brisk but not fast going through turn one to three. By turn three Sho Air/Rock n Road had lined up their riders nearly perfect. Mike B. saw this and was thinking...uh oh! There was another solo rider ahead that was acting as a carrot(Lee Romans-Velo Allegro) but wasn't really a challenger. Sho Air was still lined up at turn four and after turning the corner slung Mark H. toward the finish line. Mike Birditt did what he could but wasn't making up any ground and Mark won the race. Mike was 2nd by 1 to 2 bike lengths. 3rd went to big man Bob Pellkofer. Bob only did 3 events last year but is a strong rider and rode a very good race. 3rd place showed originally as an unknown rider but that was because Bob waited to the last minute to get his license and his name didn't show up.
Mike Birditt(left) finished 2nd and Mark Hoffenberg won the 55+ race at CBR #1 2012

Mike Marotta(left) 2, Monty Pettus 1, John McKee 3
4th and 5th places went to the Sho Air duo of Nicolette and Schnepf. 3 out of the top 5 55+ places went to Sho Air. Nice work! Now actually Monty Pettus of Paramount finished 5th overall but Monty is a 60+ racer and would be put in that category. He did pick up a 5th place overall check though. Monty is riding super right now. 6 and 7 in 55+ went to Dale Luedtke of Spy-Swami's and Cyril Hunte. Dale and Cyril were fighting for Mike Birditt's wheel for a ways before the sprint to the line. Mark Hartley finished a very respectable 8th in 55+ in the large field.
Last year's 60+ Socal Points winner Mike Marotta finished 8th overall and 2nd in 60+. Mike looked strong as usual. I finished somewhere around 12 overall and 3rd in 60+. Rich Stahlberg of Ironfly and Mike Fleming of SBW were 4 and 5 in 60+.
The riding was decent with no close calls that I saw. Great size field. 55+ racing has really come alive in 2012. There are still a couple of heavy hitters that haven't joined us yet. It will get faster and that usually means safer. The finish lists are on my new facebook page- 55/60+ Bike Racing. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe! The video below is courtesy of Lee Romans's girlfriend, Maki.

Monday, January 16, 2012

1ST ONTARIO 55/60+ RACE- JAN. 15, 2012

By John McKee

It gets earlier every year. Too many races for the calendar to fill. The first Ontario Criterium series race had to be scheduled for Jan. 15, 2012. This time of year can be pretty cold in Ontario. I think many of you remember the race last year at Ontario in Feb. 37 degrees at race time. This year the temp was around 45. Not bad but still cold. The pre registration for the 55 and 60s was good at 38. 25 55s and 13 60s. We had some new riders age into 55. Nelson Alaan of Cal Pacfic, Rocky Bower of, Laszlo Lukacs, Bruce Hartley of Pinnaclife,  and Dale Raymond of SC Velo. Steve Borer now of UC Cyclery is 60. Besides Steve UC Cyclery added Don Kimper and Steve Hensler to their arsenal of riders. Paramount's Howard Miller aged up to 60+ and was looking for a good finish in his first race in 60+ with myself and Monty Pettus.
We saw some nifty new kits out there. Velo Allegro, Santa Clarita Velo and Spy-Swami's all had some nice looking new dudes. Swami's had better get their name straight or they are going to collect Socal points under 2 different names like Paramount does every year. Swami's has a new major sponsor in Spy sunglasses. Spy made a special run of sunglasses in Swami's colors with the name Swami's printed on the inside of one of the arms. Really cool looking racing shades.
Rain looked like a small possibility but most of the forecasts showed rain for later in the day. The clouds looked dark but didn't shed any tears. The pre race prep seemed like I had just done it last week. Only been to Ontario to race over 40 times. I think I have the route down now. Lol. I hadn't used my Trek race bike since Natz last Sept. in Bend, Oregon. I was adjusting the seat cap just before this race. Forgot my Garmin needed charging. Blank. Oh well. It doesn't help one pedal. It was working Sat. when I checked it. Damn.
I saw so many familiar faces when I got to Ontario. It felt comfortable. I knew just about everyone. There were a few new faces in 55+ but none in 60+. The overall showing of riders was good but disappointing for 60+.
48 riders lined up at 7:35 am for the 55/60+ race. The women 3/4s raced before us and had a good field and no crashes. Good for them and good for us. Ray Moreno the promoter had us doing the 7 corner grand prix course. The course is popular and wide/safe. Ralph Elliot was in his booth announcing the race action with the officials. Ralph always does a good job and makes the event more fun for everyone.
The race was off. The first race jitters seem to dissipate at the first corner but I actually didn't feel totally comfortable until 2/3 the way through my second race. The pace seemed hardy in the 55/60+ race. I had no idea how I would feel. I felt totally within myself after doing Roger Young's motorpacing at the track the prior 2 weeks on Thurs. evenings. I dropped out of the motor game at 32+ mph in a 49 x 15(88 inches) gear. 25 to 28 felt ok at Ontario.
The first break attempt was done by Swami's Dale Luedtke. Dale was trying to rev up his engine and was joined in his effort by Bruce Hartley of Pinnaclife. They lasted less then a lap. Don Davidson was very active in the race. Don had been doing tris, biathlons, and runs. Don will mix in crits and road races.  Don has a very ambitious schedule of racing. Nice to see guys with such enthusiasm for these activities at our age. Go Don!
The first prime of the day was for the coveted Ontario Series T shirt. Ricky Shorts thought he needed one and pulled it home. Then the race series points prime came and I finally saw Monty Pettus and David Lang. Monty likes to sumber early in a race and David does as well. Mike "Thunder Thighs" Birditt took the 55+ points and Monty took the 60+ points. Mike has been going through a very hard block of training and wasn't sure how he would do but I knew. Lol. You will too but later.
The race pace kept up nicely. There weren't a lot of break attempts. The high pace made it hard to stay away. I just hung near the front most of the time and on Ricky Shorts's wheel a lot. Ricky was always at the front. Steve Borer had decided to mark me and followed me through the entire race until 3 laps to go when he banged bikes with Alex Collins and fell back.
The 5 laps to go sign flipped over and we were all together. UC Cyclery seemed disorganized. Racing without a plan. Their race leader Kal Szkalak had injuried himself the prior week during a training ride and wasn't in attendance and will be out for a while. We miss the "Muscle Head". UCC still had Alex Collins and Steve Hensler. Swami's was going to work for closers Dale Luedtke and Mike "TT" Birditt. Paramount's goal in 60+ was a sweep of the podium with Monty, myself and Howard. Ricky Shorts was riding with but one teammate and Don Denegal seemed to be lacking some form this time of year. There were a lot of independents in the mix looking for a good finish.
Once the 1 lap to go card came up the pack was bearing down on 3 guys that were off the front. Not far away and it didn't look like they were a threat. I never got the names of the guys that were in that group(anyone want to help me out here). It was probably a good thing to give the peleton a carrot to ride too. Once the small group got caught though the pace slowed and there was some jostling. Unnerving for sure. I lost some position and looking to get on Dale but Bruce Hartley also wanted Dale's wheel. We both got moved off Dale and I was starting to feel buried. Steve Diamond of Swami's went to the front and started working for his team. The pace picked up. Gary Shuey of Swami's was next in line for his club. The pace was good. I was trying to move up on the right side of the pack.
Dale Luedtke and Mike Birditt- Mike 1, Dale 2 in 55+
 Rick Swanson was the last man for Swami's to move forward. Really good teamwork here. Mike and Dale are right there waiting to pounce. Ricky Shorts is on his own and has stayed at the front the entire last lap. Ricky was right next to Rick Swanson and getting very nervous. He knew the big push was coming right after the last corner. Ricky decided to jump just before the last corner. Mike Birditt jumped out of the saddle quickly and got right on Ricky. Dale was right behind him. Rick Swanson's job was done. Good job, Rick. Could Ricky take it all the way to the line. This was too far a sprint for Ricky in the wind. The win was a foregone conclusion. Ricky dropped back and Mike and Dale came across the line 1/2. Dan Nicolet came quietly across the line for 3rd place. Cyril Hunte was quite fluid in the last lap jumping wheels. Cyril got himself in good position and used his power to come across the line in 4th. Nelson Alaan of Cal Pacific in his 1st 55/60+ race got 5th. Good job, Nelson. Alex Collins was next across and the 1st UCC rider. Monty Pettus followed up and was the 1st 60+ rider for the win in 60+. I was 3 places further down overall for 2nd place in 60+. David Lang was right behind me and charging hard and got 3rd place. Howard Miller had gotten himself in good position late in the last lap but had some fuel problems and got passed by Monty, myself and David.
John McKee and Monty Pettus- Monty 1, John 2 in 60+
The icing on the cake for the day was Mike Birditt winning in the 50+ race. Many of us did the 50+ race for training but Mike went for it at the end and pulled a double win home for Spy-Swami's. What a day!!
The speed in the 55/60+ was a good 25.3 mph while the 50+ race which had 84 riders was 27.7. Good day of racing and a good start to the season. We need better participation in the 60+ category though. I know a lot of guys are fearful of crashing but from what I hear all the time of riders getting taken out on our roads, criteriums are pretty safe. NO CARS. Thanks to everyone that did come out and for those that didn't but were thinking about it, next time! Top 12 places are below for both cats. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!

55+ Finishers

60+ Finishers
8-Seri(Mario was out for 5 months after his crash at MBGP last yr. Glad to have Mario back!)
9-Pags- Pags racing age is 76 and he did both 55/60+ and the 50+ race. Way to go, Robert!