Wednesday, May 30, 2012


By John McKee

the 55/60+ riders getting ready to race
The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix was scheduled for May 27th, 2012. BWGP is produced by Conejo Cycling for Health and Wellness. BWGP was moved from the former site at Warner Center to Westlake Village. A one mile, flat, 4 corner, wide street,  fast course. It could be the fastest course we do all year. The organizers had taken the 55/60+ group out of their event about 5 years ago and that was fine with me. The old course was dangerous with the next to the last leg downhill making the last corner too fast and sketchy. The organizers did this really old thing of giving the 55s money and the 60s "medals" like they use to do at Ontario. Even the medals that were on the flyer were most elusive.

35 to 40 55/60+ riders showed up on a beautiful day for bike race. Only 10 were 60+. The race director did a great job in many ways but didn't have enough vols for registration early on. I got there early so I didn't have a problem but many racers waited in a line 20 or so long. The field in 55+ was loaded. Mike Birditt is still laid up with a bad back and Mike was a big part of the 55+ racing scene the last couple of years. Wishing Mike a speedy recovery. Mike can be that Hoffy slayer. There were most of the top 55+ riders in Chris Black, Keith Ketterer(KK) and his teammate Ed Morris(Ed is mainly a tt specialist), Mark Hoffenberg, Dan Nicolette, Ricky Shorts, Cyril Hunte(Cyril had his brand new black aluminium Cannondale-Didn't look quite as new after the race. Lol.), Fred Hoblit and many others. In 60+ the Paramount 60+ trio was there along with Mike Marotta and Mike Fleming. The 60+ group included former Olympic track racer, Tim Mountford. Tim was a national champion on the track in 1969. Tim turned pro in 1970 and raced for Team Raleigh. Tim did a number of 6 day races and one of them was in Los Angeles in 1973 at the LA Sports Arena. Tim placed 2nd. Tim is 66 this year(same racing age as myself).
Tim Mountford in action in the late 60s- Looks like a national champ jersey he has on
Racers from L to R- McKee, Freeman, Mountford and Denegal(a track rider at the highest level in his day as well)

The racers were off a little later than the scheduled 8:05 am scheduled start time. 40 minutes were promised more or less. I was ready for a hot start but it didn't happen as quickly as I thought. There was a lot of probing going on. Chris Black was the most active. Chris would start most of the break efforts and work his tail off, get chased and caught by the field and then fall back through the pack. He would be back again doing the same thing. Small break efforts formed but didn't last long. Too much firepower to bring everything back together. The 1st 5 miles was done at 25.5 mph with a max speed for myself of 32.9. Monty got over 34. There were lots of primes and this always keeps the pace high and discourages breaks. Riders aren't necessarily chasing but trying to win "stuff" and the pace picks up near the end of a lap.
Chris Black leads the race out and really gets it going
Everyone is lined out and the pace is over 30 mph

The 2nd 5 miles was done at the same average speed of 25.5 mph with a lower max. 10 miles takes us into the 2nd half of the race and Chris Black went all in on a solo break like at Chuck Ponitus. Would he win again on a solo? With no teammates and a strong field. Probably not but he went out there and got a 20 second gap and the pace wasn't slow though it felt like it. A fast course will do that. Chris hung out there for lap after lap. Chris eventually got caught because of the primes and hard chases by KK, Kim Bleth and several others. He could have gotten tired and slowed as well but it was a great effort. Amazing speed by himself.  The 3rd 5 mile segment was the fastest of the race at 26.5 mph. It was in this segment that Chris was caught. He was flying.
Squirrel taking advantage of a lull in the race action
Chris Black on a solo break effort- He is really motoring

The chase of Chris Black is on with KK leading the charge
 Unfortunately Chris got caught too early. In the pro races the catches are made as late as possible to keep the field from bunching up and increasing the danger. The last 5 laps didn't feel hard. I am pretty sure the pace was relatively high but no team had a strategy for a bunchy group late other than chase anyone that tried to get away. A bunch sprint was a sure thing now. Chris couldn't have enough to get away again and would be marked anyway.I would have thought KK might try something here. If he got a gap, well... it would be hard to bring him back. KK was heavily marked.
The lap cards started to count down. Monty was marking Mike Marotta and I stayed near Monty. Howard Miller wasn't far away from me. The Paramount trio knew that Marotta was a tough nut to crack but we figured Monty could out sprint him if he was near Mike. My job was to get Monty near MM if he couldn't do it otherwise. Sho Air was looking to bring Henry Schepf forward to lead there train. Kal and Dale were on their own. I don't know what Santa Clarita Velo and Velo Allegro had in mind but they looked disorganized.
The lap card showed 1 lap to go. The bell lap. It was bunchy and very edgy. It was like one big beehive. There didn't seem to be much movement on the sides. Everyone was pretty close together. A powder keg waiting to go off. The spark that set off bike carnage was a missed shift by a rider in a green and white kit. An honest mistake but his bike didn't track true or smooth and another rider with a brand new Cannondale hit him. The Cannondale wouldn't be new anymore. The carnage started. Monty T boned the unattached rider. Ricky Shorts came into it and his bike flew ahead 20 feet. Landing on the shifters. I put on the brakes but there were riders left, right and center on the ground. I fell on someones bike. Mike Fleming went down and got his arm chewed up in someone's bike. Mario Seri's front wheel looked like it exploded. Henry Schepf's bike was tacoed. Busted. Gone! At least 12 riders went down. None were hurt seriously as far as I know. All but 3 of the small 60+ field were down including all of the Paramount 60+ trio.  Mike Marotta, Tom Herman and Tim Mountford were still upright and riding. Mike was just left of the crash and lucky for sure. Tom and Tim were far enough back that they were able to go aound.
I think most of the riders still riding were in shock now. There is no sound as nasty to me as bikes grinding on the pavement. The pack stayed together after the first turn. Someone had to act. Chris Black came forward and started to set a fast pace. It was a long ways from turn one to the next to the last turn. Chris rounded that next to the last corner in the lead. Dan Nicolette was on his wheel with his teammate Mark Hoffenberg next. Kal Szkalak and Dale Luedtke were vying for Mark's wheel. A prize possession for sure.
Chris ran out of gas before the last turn. Dan was now in the lead. Dan rounded the last corner 1st. Mark took the last corner wide. If everyone stayed near him, his teammate would win. Dale jumped hard. Mark got back on Dale coming down the stretch. Mark came off of Dale's wheel as everyone was closing on Dan. Dan had gotten an amazing gap after the corner but it was coming down fast! Mark passed Dan before the line making it a 1/2 finish for Sho Air. Nelson "Tailgunner" Alaan came out of nowhere to finish ahead of Dale. Kal was 5th followed in by Mike Cicchi and KK. The 60+ race was no contest for Mike Marotta. Tom Herman came in with the pack for 2nd in 60+. Tim Mountford was at the very back of the group finishing and as I saw it 3rd but the officials missed him. A number of the 60s got up and got going again with Mike Fleming given 3rd. Monty was 4th, myself 5th and Howard 7th.
It was a fast race on a very good course. Great field of 55s. The 60 fields are really flat. Club rides seem to be more popular to many of the guys.  The photos are courtesy of Peter Carlson except for the 2 old photos of Tim Mountford.That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
Mark Hoffenberg(blocked out) 1st, Dan Nicolette 2nd and Nelson "Tailgunner" Alaan 3rd
Dale Luedtke 4th, Kal 5th

Mike Marotta was the 1st 60+ rider across the line

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