Friday, May 18, 2012


By John McKee

The ARCO Criterium produced by Velo Allegro was scheduled for May 13th, 2012. Mother's Day for 2012 and death to all bike races. Moms get more play than dads or maybe dads get to chose to race and moms can't say anything on his day. The pre registration looked light but the early fields didn't look too bad at Velo Allegro home race course which is called the "Hughes" course. The "Hughes" course is near the intersection of the 405 and the 710 freeways in north Long Beach. The course is a wide open thing with very wides streets that make the turns easy. The distance is about a mile. Velo Allegro did this old thing of a common purse for everyone and scored separate for Socal points between the 55s and 60s. Come on! That is way old hat. CBR doesn't even do that any more. The 60s pay the same entry fee but have to race down so to speak to get to the 55+ purse. Lousy set up.
The pre reg for the 55s was low and really low for the 60s. The hitters from Spy Swami's and Sho Air were not there and of course UC Cyclery was riding light with a race so far north of SD County like in Long Beach. Santa Clarita Velo had a good squad going in and of course Velo Allegro would have all their racers. Paramount would have 4 racers and all of their 60+ trifecta. I did say Sho Air didn't have their hitters here but was represented by Dan Nicolette. All of the 55+ Sho Air riders are really good so Dan riding by himself would still be someone to reckon with.
Rick Lilliberg moved down from Washington about 8 or 9 years ago and won his 1st SCNCA race that he did in Glendale in front of Dreamworks studio. Rick was on fire for a number of years and won 60+ Socal Cup in his first year. Rick hasn't raced with us in years but decided to come out and give it a try again. Nice to see Rick out there.
We came to the line as the 3rd race of the day which did show some respect. We are usually the 1st or 2nd race of the day. It was about 8:20 am when we came to the line and the race officials was giving us the pre race instructions and mocking us for not being with our mothers on Mother's Day. I pointed out to the official that many if not most of us don't have our mothers with us any more. Of course most of our wives are mothers that needed tending on their day as well. The early race would give us a chance to do that. I would like to say belatedly Happy Mother's day to all the 55/60+ mothers that are still with us and a remembrance to all moms that are not with any more except in our memories like my mother, Alta Faye Wright McKee.
Alta Wright(McKee) from Bucksnort, Alabama (early 40s)
Our bike race did start on time and 35 racers were off. 25 55s and 10 60s. It took no time at all for the race to heat up. Fred "energizer bunny" Hoblit teamed up with Dan Nicolette and soon Lee Romans. Lee never gets in break attempts but saw Dan as a real threat and decided to charge off and join the 2 before they got too far. Cleave Law tried to chase on and got close but ran out of gas. Dan, Fred and Lee are 3 strong riders and with Velo Allegro and Santa Clarita Velo having other riders it locked down chasing by the 2 biggest teams. The 3 quickly got a gap and I thought that maybe they were gone. I mean G O N E! Kal Szkalak came to the front. Not to chase but to wave his arm and try and get his troops to chase. There were only 2 other UCC riders in Alex Collins and Bruce Moore. Alex and Bruce started to chase. Not many legs left though the 60s could chase because it was a common purse but fate interceded. Fate in the form  of a rear tire puncture for Lee Romans. We came around turn 2 and Lee was off to the side and I could see his rear tire was way flat. This left the door open for VA to chase and only 2 riders to pull.
55/60+ racers getting the "lowdown" at the ARCO Criterium 2012

The breakers were caught but another group formed almost immediately and Fred was again part of this. Fred really has developed recovery powers. He would be a great points racer on the track. This new group got a gap again and this time the group included Kal Szkalak. There must have been 5 or 6 riders. Alex Collins saw this as an opportunity and came across a 100 meter gap. I got right on his wheel for a tow and Steve Diamond got on my wheel. Once all were together it was a mess and Kal is very particular about who he breaks with. If he doesn't like the mix, he won't work. It didn't take long before everyone was together again. The pace eased a bit with some flare ups though the 2nd 5 miles we averaged 25.1 mph after going 24.8 for the 1st 5. OK speed seeing that this is a fast course but not overpowering.
Early break action- Fred Hoblit, Dan Nicolette & Lee Romans

Mid race action in the 55/60+ categories
The next and last break attempt happened with about 5 to 6 laps to go. Steve Bernede got things going this time. Steve is 60+ and was soon joined by the "energizer bunny", Alex Gonzales, Don Kimper, and Pete Dern. The 5 of them gained a 10 second advantage on the pack. This is a dangerous time of the race because sprint favorites don't like to burn their matches late in the race and not have anything left for their finish. A few riders like Mark Planellas, Alex Collins, Howard Miller and Cleve Law did some work but there were 4 riders pulling hard ahead. This was a radically different mix of riders and 2 of them were 60+ which proved to be the deciding factor later.
Alex Collins chasing with Kirk Freeman riding his wheel

Howard Miller chasing
The 10 second advantage held up as the laps counted down- 4...3...2 and still they were away. Nicolette and Szkalak choose to play a waiting game. Hoping someone else would chase down the break group or maybe the buildup of the finishing sprint would be enough. Monty "Peter Sagan" Pettus wasn't willing to wait. He knew that 2 of the breakers were 60+ and within 200 meters of the finish line with one lap to go put in a very hard attack. Al Shorts got right on him as did almost all the riders. Before Monty pulled off he had closed the gap down. There was still hope for the breakers but on the back stretch next to the 710 freeway the pace picked up to 30+ mph for the chasing field. The "catch" came right after the 4th and last corner. 4 of the 5 breakers threw in the towel. Fred Hoblit somehow rewound himself again and took off. Dan Nicolette charged around the last corner in search of Fred. Ricky Shorts got going but coming home he dropped his chain and Kal Szkalak and Cyril Hunte had to come around. Cyril almost crashed into Ricky. Dan was able to over take Fred and garner his first 55+ win of the season. Nice job, Dan. Fred Hoblit was able to hang on for 2nd. Great performance by Fred. Kal rolled across for 3rd followed in by Alaan, Denegal, Valentin, Hunte and Collins. In 60+ action Monty Pettus rolled the last corner buried in 55+ racers and had to dodge some of the caught riders coming in. I was right on Monty's wheel and we weaved our way toward the finish line. I hit 35 mph 100 meters from the finish but couldn't hold it or even get out of the saddle to sprint because of the congestion. The last rider we went around about 70 meters from the line was Steve Bernede. We went around to his right and veered back left because the entire right side was blocked off by cones for the officials and announcers(Vera was announcing our race). Monty came in strong but I could tell he was feeling the effects of his earlier hard effort going into the last lap. I almost never can get around Monty and neither can most anyone else but if I had a straight line I would have had a chance. I finished with too many bullets left. Monty held on for 1st in 60+. Teammate Howard Miller was all the way on the left side. Howard likes to take a wide turn and the left side works out well for him but he got blocked off a some point as well. Howard and I arrived at the finish line almost in a dead heat. No big deal for 2nd. Chris gave it too Howard. Rick Lilliberg came in for a very respectable 4th place.
The overall pace was about 24.9 mph for the race on a fast course so things weren't pushed like it has been at some races this year. No close calls or any crashes. I am finding out that criteriums are one of the safest forms of bicycle riding. There was a crash at Fiesta Island if you can believe that. All the tangles with automobiles on training rides have been awful this year. I will take a criterium any day. All photos and the video are compliments of Maki Yamazaki. Thank you! That's all for now. Train hard and race safe!

Velo Allegro Crit  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 60+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 219074 Leo Pettus Paramount Racing 14
2 49424 howard miller Paramount Racing 11
3 180386 John McKee Paramount Racing 10
4 64127 Rick Lilleberg South Bay Wheelmen 9
5 126351 Steve Bernede Team Werks 8
6 61278 Mario Seri Velo Club LaGrange 7
7 101582 william carvin
8 195498 Donald Kimper UC Cyclery/JW Floors 5
9 203244 Cary Alpert South Bay Wheelmen 4
10 50406 Michael Edwards Velo Club LaGrange 3
Velo Allegro Crit  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 55+
Place License Name Team SoCal Points
1 26090 Daniel Nicolette Sho-air/Rock 'n Road 14
2 16360 Fred Hoblit Santa Clarita Velo 11
3 54522 KAL SZKALAK UC Cyclery/JW Floors 10
4 64439 Nelson Alaan Cal-Pacific Export Packers / LV 9
5 93812 Donald Denegal Velo Allegro 8
6 36299 Dan Valentin Citrus Valley Velo 7
7 52086 cyril hunte
8 46255 Alex Collins UC Cyclery/JW Floors 5
9 230085 Albert Shorts Velo Allegro 4
10 364856 John Erwin
11 49110 Rino Barbagiovanni Santa Clarita Velo 2
12 50532 deogracias asuncion South Bay Wheelmen 1
13 52251 Ricky Shorts Velo Allegro 0
14 202041 mark planellas Southern California Velo 0
15 178495 Steve Diamond Spy-Swami's Cycling Team 0
16 66553 John Sinz OCW/Paramount Racing 0
17 239426 Ted Young
18 12354 Kirk Freeman Santa Clarita Velo 0
19 61353 Reed Moore UC Cyclery/JW Floors 0
20 271566 Alex Gonzalez Velo Allegro 0
21 47314 gary prideaux Lightning Velo 0
22 9271 Pete Dern Velo Club LaGrange 0

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