Tuesday, February 21, 2012


By John McKee

The Imperial Valley Classic has quickly found a place dear to my heart. The organizers/promoters give bags of veggies to all money winners. In 2011 it went to the podium placers but in 2012 it was veggies all around. 5 placers in BOTH 55 and 60+ got large bags of veggies in a reusable tote bag. All the veggies were donated by the Farm Bureau and tote bags were provided by Vons. THANK YOU! There were 22 finishers in 2012 in the 55/60+ race and 10 got the bonus gift.
In 2011 the promoters came up with 2 events back to back. The Imperial Criterium in the City of Imperial and the Cattle Call Criterium in the City of Brawley. The Cattle Call Criterium was a new event and a new course. The course was around a rodeo arena. One mile with a mini power climb and a near 180 turn at the top. Not bad. The area is open so winds would definitely be a factor depending on when one's race would be. In 2011 there was wind in the morning so the 55/60+ race was quite hard. In 2012 the promoters decided to drop the 2 day event and just do one race at the rodeo arena in Brawley on Sat. and leave the path open for the CBR race on Sunday. There is talk of bringing back a 2 day event. I would support the proposal. It's a long ways to drive for one race. 3 hours and 40 minutes on a Friday for me from my place in central Orange County.
10 60+ racers and 12 55+ racers lined up to do the 55/60+ race at the 2012 event. Green and white were the prevailing colors(8) which was UC Cyclery with 3 racers from Tenn. racing for the MOAB Masters Racing team. In 2011 Tom Gates of MOAB raced in the Imperial Criterium. This year he brought 2 more riders with him. One being 55+ and the other 60+. All very good riders as everyone would see. Tom has gotten to know some of the Socal guys and is staying with UCC's Paul Rodriquez while out west. Paul was taking the week off from racing doing a skiing trip.
The race started and UCC and MOAB had one common theme. Kick Michael "The Sailor" Birditt's butt. Beat him up. Knock him down. Kick him in the kidneys, groin, etc. until he couldn't ride in a straight line any more. Would the strategy work. Everyone was going to see but everyone was going to suffer as well. Attacking Michael and making him chase would make all the riders chase though not all the time. It seemed that Steve Horine of UCC and and Robert Gregory of MOAB were the most active attacking but many played the game. Tom Gates chose to sit in and watch the feastivities. Don Davidson in the 60+ group was very active attacking and chasing. Don didn't have a anti Birditt agenda. Don is an equal opportunity rider. Attacking and chasing everyone except a teammate of course. Speaking of a teammate. His attacking twin, the other "Everly" brother Phil hasn't raced with us yet this year but is rumored to be coming back soon. Angela Wimberly the only woman that raced with us teamed up with Don once and looked strong. Good job, Angela.
Once Mike would get on board in a small break group it was soft pedal time. This game went on for 3/4 of the race and "The Sailor" was up to the task and then....Mark Helvie attacked solo. Mike was a little tired and tried many times but would quit in a huff and use some colorful language with Mark still lurking off the front. Mike said he certainly understood but didn't have to like it. I would have thought MOAB would chase as well but they didn't. Maybe they had some kind of non chase pack with UCC. Don't know.
Off the couch comes Don "Superman" Davidson to the rescue. Don jumps into the phone booth and puts on the cape and off he goes in hard chase. If there was a 60+ only race this day, the 60s wouldn't have seen him until the podium ceremony and he was stepping atop the tri box. I was feeling lame. Trained hard on the road and track on Thurs. and I was just plain tired. The long drive on Friday didn't help me. I didn't drive 3 hours the morning of the race though like Robert Paganini. Robert was the oldest rider by a long ways and came the longest distance for the 55/60+ race. What would a race be without the "Ageless" one. Hardly a race goes by that Pags doesn't ask me "if I am going to be gentle" on him. Like I tell him, it isn't up to me. Blame the "other" guys.
OK. "Soup" charges off in pursuit of Mark Helvie. Mark must have been getting tired because one additional strong rider was all the "Sailor" needed to finish off the last major charge of UCC. It was all together with less than 5 laps to go. I was thanking the bike racing gods that this race was going to finish soon and the pain would be over.
Late in the race UCC's John Wagenaar was saving himself for the finish. The prior year John tried a Helvie type of solo effort and almost pulled it off. This year it's one lap to go and everyone is there including Pags and race promoter, Brian McNeece. Brian got dropped in the previous year but hung in there in 2012. Big improvement. Easier this year without the blowing winds though. Coming off the mini power climb and the slow turn, the race was downhill for a while and Jim Swigart of SCBC went to the whip. Jim was showing some real strength and keeping the speed high. I was really hurting.
Once Jim was spent the pace slowed. No UCC rider was going to give themselves up for some reason to set pace. Don Davidson jumped and jumped hard. Mike Birditt got on Don and the pace quickly picked way up. Jim and Don are 60+ racers. Where are the 55s. Sitting in! Tom Gates was in the back of the bus and  by chose and not because his skin color was dark and he was in Alabama or his home state of Tennessee prior to 1955 and the year Rosa Parks said enough was enough. She wasn't giving her seat up front to a white man. This courageous act and the subsequent bus boycott by the African-American community in Montgomery, Ala. helped turn the corner for civil rights in this country.
OK, DD is out in front killing it. Fred "Base sticker" Nicolet came up the outside near the front. I was thinking damn. These guys are 60+ and I am hurting. What do I do now? Tom Gates decided to come off the bench seat in the back of the bus and sliced by Pags on the inside not making the "Ageless" one too happy. There was no lip between the asphalt and the dirt. Just A and D. Tom kept moving moving forward like a heat seeking missile with a mission in mind. Whip by the "Sailor" before the finish line.
We turn for home with less than 125 meters to go. It's out of the saddle if you have anything left. Birditt vs. Gates and I don't mean Darryl Gates of the LAPD. Tom Gates of MOAB. Mike was tired and Tom was fresh and fresh wins the day. Gates 1st! In 60+ action John Wagenaar got himself in great position in the front pack and rolled across is 1st place. His first win as a 60+ rider. Nice job, John. I thought Nicolet was the 2nd 60+ rider across the line. I got out of the saddle with Fred in mind but had nothing. 2nd place went to another MOAB rider in 60+ and that was Victor Rodgers. Fred was 3rd and I was 4th. Steve Borer 5th in 60+.
3rd place in 55+ went to another MOAB rider, Robert Gregory. Great day for MOAB. Wish they would race with us more but will be traveling home. 4th place went to Alex Collins of UCC. The first UCC rider to finish in 55+. 5th went to Kasey Haws of Team Redlands.
It was a pretty hard race. I got 24.7 mph and Jim Swigart got 25.1. Jim got 25 watts less than Roger Millikan and I felt better there. Cooked at IVC. Thanks to all that came out to a great event. Mike Birditt came back in the 45+ raced and finished 2nd to the "machine". 2nd bag of groceries for Mike and $215 besides. I actually don't know how he got it so ask him. Full results below. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
60+ podium- Rodgers 3, Wagenaar 1, Nicolet 2- check out the bags of veggies...awesome!

55+ podium- Birditt 2, Gates 1, Gregory 2
Imperial Valley Classic  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 55+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 45364 Thomas Gates MOAB Masters Racing 14
2 47255 Michael Birditt Spy-Swami's Cycling Team 11
3 50141 Robert Gregory MOAB Masters Racing 10
4 46255 alex collins UC Cyclery/JW Floors 9
5 189931 Kasey Haws Team Redlands 8
6 61353 Reed Moore UC Cyclery/JW Floors 7
7 66553 John Sinz OCW/Paramount Racing 6
8 15760 Mark Helvie UC Cyclery/JW Floors 5
9 126668 Joey Valdivia UC Cyclery/JW Floors 4
10 167453 bob estupinan Citrus Valley Velo 3
11 195618 Stephen Horine UC Cyclery/JW Floors 2
12 180041 Angela Wimberly CALCOAST Bikes San Diego 1
Imperial Valley Classic  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 60+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 61193 john wagenaar UC Cyclery/JW Floors 14
2 58954 Victor Rodgers MOAB Masters Racing 11
3 26089 Fred Nicolet ACQUA AL 2/SDBC 10
4 180386 John McKee Paramount Racing 9
5 245777 Steven Borer UC Cyclery/JW Floors 8
6 48278 Donald Davidson Citrus Valley Velo 7
7 195498 Donald Kimper UC Cyclery/JW Floors 6
8 223941 P Brian McNeece Imperial Valley Velo Club 5
9 228631 James Swigart ACQUA AL 2/SDBC 4
10 45763 Robert Paganini Pasadena Athletic Assoc (PAA) 3


  1. Truthfully, I only jumped on Don's wheel because he looked strong and was off the front without UCC. I didn't want him to solo away from the group without UCC and I figured that there was no way he'd take a chick to the finish line. He kept looking back, but I wouldn't work, so he finally sat up. Other than that, I didn't want to interfere with your guys race. I was just trying to get a warm up and learn the course for the women's 1/2/3 race. I did go to the front once to help block when a couple UCC had been away for awhile and it seemed like it might stick, but they wound up getting brought back, I think by Birditt. I was glad for the warmup, since the women wound up racing with the 45+ men. Yikes!

  2. You did well, Angela. You should race with us more. Good training. As a cat 3 you can race up 20 yrs and get in the 60+ cat. Cat 1 and 2s can only race up 10 yrs.

    1. thank you! It's seriously good training! I'll do some more, but I have to pick the course wisely. If there's a bigger hill I can't hang with ya'all. :)