Its May 19th, 2013 and time for the mid season Ontario Criterium. This is the one time that the rather pedantic 4 corner course is used. To give racers a twist so to speak would be to ride it clockwise rather than the usual counter clockwise. It's surprising what a difference a change in direction makes to the feel of a course. It made a boring course come alive for one race. Good idea, Ray! The weather the week before was unbelievably hot as all of you know from watching the TOC but the temps were mild and it was a pleasant day in Ontario for the Mid Season Ontario Criterium.
24 55s and 15 60s showed to contest the race. The field was strong for both 55 and 60. Decent turnout but no Rokform riders. Rokform is rocking 55+ in 2013 so without them it would be quite a on the course chess match between Swami's, UC Cyclery and Pinnaclife. All the top 60+ criterium racers were in the field except John Rubcic. John had pre registered but was home in bed with a head cold. 60+ was seeing the return of Paramount's fastest racer, Monty Pettus. Monty won many races in 2012.
|Motley Crew- That's what Butch Stinton called us on facebook. The nerve of that guy. LOL! Butch misses racing with us. He knows the best overall competition in the country is right here.|
|TOC audience- Brad House, Announcer Ralph "Pharaoh" Elliot, Bruce Steele & John Rubcic|
|Mike Birditt looks across to Kal Szkalak. Word got around that Kal was going to hit it from the gun.|
After getting a mini lecture from Ralph "Pharaoh" Elliot on where the staging area was we did a warm up lap and lined up to race. Word had gotten around that UCC was going to hit it from the gun and Kal Szkalak did just that. Mike Birditt was all over this and I got going and was up there just in case. Nothing ever happens on the first lap but I guess there is always a first time. A half lap in and Kal threw in the towel. Kal just did what Lothar "Blue Boy" Cramer usually does.
All the teams knew how fast Mike Birditt is finishing races lately so they were going to try and isolate him and put him at a disadvantage. When is it almost always the best time to get a break going? Right after preem laps. All the break attempts included Mike Birditt. Mike can accelerate going for the preem and get on anyone trying to counter the preem sprint.
There were many formations and one that looked quite dangerous included Mike, Jay Wolfoff and Bruce Hartley of Pinnaclife and Mike Hines and I believe but can't be sure Mike McConnell of UCC. Strong group. SC Velo went into chase mode with 4 or 5 of their riders. Rick Swanson and Demi Hechanova were quarterbacking the chase. Mike Birditt was quite cautious in the break group. He was out numbered and at a disadvantage. SC Velo got pretty close and "Big John" Roest unleashed one of his patented ride across the gap moves. I couldn't allow this and see John connect up with the breakers and be the only 60+ racer in the group. "Big John" was in a break group at Redlands with one other 60+ racer and that was bad for me and my team. Here he would be alone and win the category. Kal Szkalak and Mike Marotta were sitting in the pack because team members were ahead. Rick Swanson was blocking for John when he made his move. John got about 40 meters away and I decided I had to act. I went around Rick and started a all out chase. I didn't know that everyone else saw this as the go signal! I was using just about everything I had to get to John. I got to him at the same time he got to the break group. I was totally winded. Out of breath.
I soon realized that the peleton was right behind me. The break group saw this and stopped working. I needed a break. For sure! I sat in hoping that the pace wouldn't pick up much. At least for a while. The catch was great for Marotta and Szkalak. The team that it hurt the most was Pinnaclife.
Ever wonder where Mike Birditt gets that jet like acceleration. Look at those legs!
" ONE LAP TO GO! ONE LAP TO GO!" Announcer Ralph "Pharoah" Elliot screams into the mic!
There seemed to be more preems than other Ontario races. The race started to dwindle down and no break had stuck. The lap cards came up. 5 to go. It looked like a bunch sprint but Mike McConnell wasn't convinced of this. With about 2 laps to go he jumped the field with a newcomer John Platero. John was sporting a Franco jersey and is a cat 3 and 55 years old this year. Hope to see more of him at future races. We need riders! They got a bit of a gap on the field. No one wanted to use their energy bringing them back. The thinking was that they would be sweep up on the last lap or in the sprint to the line.
The call for "ONE LAP TO GO" came and the twosome were still away. I wouldn't have thought Swami's would have sent a rider up to chase. The pace did pick up and after turn 2 Bruce Hartley went to the front and dug deep to really get things going. Mark was trying to set up his teammate, Jay Wolkoff. Bruce actually played into the hands of Swami's but he didn't know that at the time. By turn 3 things really heated up and the break group was toast. Between turn 2 and 3 I never found an opening to move up into better position. I was really bogged down.
At turn 3 Mike Hines of UCC hit it hard. Cyril Hunte and Kal Szkalak followed suit. Mike Birditt was nearby and keeping everyone in focus but wasn't unleashing the "hounds" yet. Mike saw Cyril nearing turn 4 thrashing his bike trying to get going. Mike thought this was the time to really push the "GO" button. Mike went wide at
turn 4. Kal Szkalak got on Mike's wheel and hung on for dear life. Mike Marotta wanted his teammate's wheel as well but he had to sprint for home solo. Once Mike got up to near warp speed no one here was going to come around him. Birditt 1st!
The 60+ race was decided quickly. Kal followed Mike in and near the line tried to come around but no. This wasn't going to happen. Kal was the 2nd rider across the line and the 1st 60+ racer for the win in his category.
The 3rd rider across the line was Mike Marotta. Another nice ride by MM. The next 2 podium placers for 55+ were Cyril Hunte and Mike Hines. The last podium place for 60+ went to myself. I was buried late in the last lap but saw an opening to the outside near turn 4 and saw John Roest and my teammate Monty Pettus. I knew I wanted to get by "Big John". I didn't see Monty get out of the saddle like he usually does. I went way wide and passed a number of riders. Mike Fleming was feeling very good and came up on my left but saw Jay Wolkoff up ahead. Jay had thrown in the towel for some reason and was going pretty slow(Mark's effort went for naught). We were coned from left to right so Mike had to give way. Mike finished behind me and 4th in 60+. I have a great series of sprint photos that were taken on my new Canon Rebel and my new teammate Viet Hoang took them. Viet took over 200 pictures and they all are posted on my facebook page 55/60+ Bike Racing.
This was a good hard race and fun for myself and most everyone. The average speed was a little slow at 24.7mph. I had a rude awakening about 200 meters after the line. I was rolling out after the race and was smacked by Cyril who momentarily lost control of his bike. I got some bad road rash but will be fine. Cyril didn't seem to get any road rash. Hmmmm...that's doesn't seem to be fair. Lol.
55/60+ racing is at a cross roads right now. There is a safety concern and that always plays out when you say criterium but we do have a good track record with cat 3 riders and better. There are few cat 4 riders and those that are would qualify for cat 3 status. I would suggest you do so in case races are restricted to cat 3 or better in the future. We need experienced racers that have left the scene to come back and race. The oldest racer that finished the race was myself and I was the 1st 65+ racer across the line. Complete results below. That's all for now folks!