Monday, July 8, 2013


By John McKee

Weekend of June 30th/July1st 2013 and time for the first 805 Criterium Weekend. In 2012 promoter Mike Hecker started with a one day race which was called the Avenue of Flags Criterium. It was held on a Saturday. Mike had the support of Firestone Walker Brewing Company, the City of Buellton, and the Santa Ynez Valley CC. In 2013 Mike added a 2nd race in Lompoc on a Sunday and got the support of the City of Lompoc there. Both courses are unique and fun. I believe Mike has a 5 year plan to make this a big event. There was $7,000 in payout to the men pro/1/2. He would like to get on the National Race Calendar.
Field waiting to start. You can see Eric Smith at his viewing screen. Eric is awesome at placing riders with his screen.

Field waiting to start.
2013 saw the 55s and 60s invited back to race. There was to be $500 to each category each day but a mix of cash and merchandise. It was decided after a little back and forth with myself and Mike that the 55s would get $300 cash and $200 in merchandise and the 60s would get $200 in cash and $300 in merchandise. The races were slated for a 8 am start each day. Most of us battled traffic on Friday to get up to the area. It took me 4 hours from Orange County. It took others longer that left later than I did. Travel time is the one stumbling block to this event. It takes a commitment of time and money for lodging and food but there are many pluses that can make this a very rewarding race weekend. The courses are cool and fun. The area has great wine tasting and some good restaurants. Santa Barbara is close and you could stay there if you wished. I think the whole idea was to get people to come up to the Santa Ynez Valley area and spend money and help their economy.
The 55s and 60s lined up 13 and 12 respectively. 25 total was not very good. There was a big event up north that drew away Norcal riders. One rider from Central and Northern Cal showed up. It couldn't take them any longer to get to the Buellton/Lompoc area than the people from Socal. Maybe the event needs to be marketed stronger to Norcal riders. I know Mike would like to move the event up to April to avoid hot weather like we got this weekend.
The weather in Buelton was just plain hot this year on June 30th! At 8 am for our race the temp was in the 70s and fine but the afternoon races would see temps over 100. The 55/60s lined up at 8 am. Rokform/Rock N' Road lined up a strong 3 man squad in 55+ while UC Cyclery lined up a very strong 60+ squad of 5 riders. Rokform had Mark Hoffenberg, William Ralph and Kim Bleth. Add to that always strong Breakaway from Cancer's Malcolm Hill, UCC's Steve Hensler, Gerald Finken from Minnesota, Brad "2nd Amendment" House, Fred Hoblit and Rino Barbagiovanni and you had a small but select field. In 60+ UCC had 3 riders that could win the race in Paul Rodriguez, Kal Szkalak and John Rubic. Add to that Swami's strongman Mike Marotta and Paramount's trio of Howard Miller, Monty Pettus and John McKee. There aren't many 60+ races in the country but if there were they couldn't match the strength of this field. There are candidates for National champions in both categories.
Whenever you have Rokform in a race you can expect a hot fast race and put that mindset with this course and you were going to see smoke, hard breathing, and high heart rates.
The course to be raced is .75 miles with 5 right-hand turns. One of them being a long sweeping U turn something like at MBGP but off a uphill stretch and not a downhill stretch like at MBGP. The left-hander is a fun downhill 90 degree turn that you can take a pretty good speed.  The finish is 800 meters to the line after the sweeping right hand turn and is slightly downhill.
The downhill left-hander was fun and way cool!

 The race was off at pretty close to 8 am. The fireworks pretty much started right off the bat. The first lap was pretty easy but after that killer. Gerald Finken, Brad House, William Ralph, Fred Hoblit, and Malcolm Hill were out front at various times the 1st number of laps making the race hard. Actually very hard to be exact after the 1st one. After the one left-hander is the one climb of the day and the 1st time or two up it didn't seem that hard but every lap it got harder as the pace didn't diminish. Mark Hoffenberg also got in the action and started to throw punches and that is when it got even harder. My heart rate was high but within my limits. Some of the 60s started to pop off the back. This is the downside of 60s racing with 55s. The pace can be brutal on a hard course but the upside is we at least have a race and our own finish list, Socal point competition and a separate prize list(some of the time).

Mark Hoffenberg testing the waters and putting the hurt on.
There were a few off moments as the attackers were caught and before another attack but sometimes the counter was immediate which kept the pace high and did I say before that it was hard. Lol. Yes, it was plenty hard. This was the hardest race of the year.
Hensler and Ralph away early. You can see Malcolm with his head down and Mark on his wheel off to the left.

Malcolm Hill going all in chasing Hensler and Ralph.

Kim Bleth leading  a all together field in the 1st half of the race.

Part 2 of the picture above.
Early prime sprint action. Don't know who got the wine.

It was inevitable that a split would happen and it was no surprise who was in it- Hoffy, Hensler, Rodiguez and Hill. Rodiguez was the only 60 in the group so if they could stay away he would win first place in 60+. As strong as these guys are and the teams behind them blocking for them, they were going to stay away to the finish. Gerald Finken tried hard to pull it all back together because he is an independent but no such luck. The pace in the peleton came down to a more manageable speed and feel.
The 4 break members- from L to R- Henler, Rodiguez, Hoffenberg & Hill.

Gerald Finken chasing the 4 break members.
The pack stayed together until about 3 laps to go. The pack had thinned quiet a bit by now. Some 55s were also off the back. Just when it looked like a mellow bunch sprint for the pack, Gerald Finken jumped the field. William Ralph, Kim Bleth and David Smith went with him. None of these guys were 60 and most of the remaining field were 60+ so they were let go.
In the lead group Paul Rodiguez took the reins on the last lap and kept up a hard pace. Remember Paul has the 60 race locked up. After the top of the course Mark Hoffenberg took the secret jets out of his back pocket and really got on it. He won the 55+ race by 20 meters and he states that his speedometer maxed out at 44 mph. Let me repeat that. 44 MPH. No wonder he won by so much. It is slightly downhill but the slope isn't that much. Steve Hensler bested Malcolm Hill for 2nd place. Paul Rodiguez was of course the winner of the 60+ category.
The 4 pack chase group finished with Gerald Finken leading and placing 4th in 55+. He was followed in by Ralph, Smith and Bleth. The main pack was pretty small now. Alex Collins and Monty Pettus had flat tires so it was even smaller. John Rubcic lead it out going uphill before the last turn. A long sprint was in order. JR had told Kal about the plan. This actually played into the hands of Mike Marotta. Mike has a very long sprint and he sling shotted by everyone and won the bunch sprint for 2nd place in 60+. Kal got 3rd in 60+. I tried to get by JR since he was tiring from leading it out but my legs were dead and couldn't respond. Brad House had some life left and shot by the 2 of us for 8th place in 55+. Eric Nelson of SLO and the only rider to come down from Northern Cal. was the last 60+ rider to finish in the pack.
It was a great hard race. The lead pack had an average speed of 25.3 mph while the main pack had more like 24.7 mph. Fun for everyone but those that got dropped. I wish we had more racers. It was worth the time and money. Winners got really cool 805 jerseys. Thanks, Mike Hecker! Some of us went wine tasting later but not Hoffy. He was out in the middle of the day with Kim Bleth, William Ralph and Kim's wife. It was hot but they were killing it. I did see Hoffy at the group dinner at Firestones. Monty Pettus and his wife Diana, Don Kimper and his wife Trisha and my wife Alicia joined him for a great dinning experience. All of the action pictures were taken by my wife of 35 years Alicia McKee. Thanks Hon! Complete results of the racing are below. This is part 1 of the 2 part 805 weekend racing weekend. More to come! That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
55+ podium- Henlser 2, Hoffy 1, & Hill 3
60+ podium- Szkalak 3, Rodiguez 1, & Marotta 2
Ave of the Flags  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 55+
PlaceLicenseNameTeamSoCal Points
145461Mark HoffenbergRokform/Rock N' Road14
215874Steve HenslerUC Cyclery/JW Floors11
3156650Malcolm HillBreakaway from Cancer Masters10
449239Gerald FinkenSt Paul Bicycle Racing Club9
5125834William RalphRokform/Rock N' Road8
6109008David SmithSanta Clarita Velo7
749191Kim BlethRokform/Rock N' Road6
816837Brad HouseBig Orange Cycling5
949110Rino BarbagiovanniSanta Clarita Velo4
1016360Fred HoblitSwami's Cycling Club3
1145552Douglas KnoxTIME - Velo Pasadena Team2
12177958Kevin RyanMETALMTN Cycling1
Total # of riders13

Ave of the Flags  (Rank 1.0)
Masters 60+
PlaceLicenseNameTeamSoCal Points
158847Paul RodriguezUC Cyclery/JW Floors14
272880Mike MarottaSwami's Cycling Club11
354522Kalman SzkalakUC Cyclery/JW Floors10
448760John RubcicUC Cyclery/JW Floors9
5180386John McKeeParamount Racing8
6108843Eric NelsonSLO Nexus Cycling Club7
7219074Leo PettusOCW/Paramount Racing6
849424Howard MillerOCW/Paramount Racing5
9195498Donald KimperUC Cyclery/JW Floors4
103793Raphael Gomez3
Total # of riders12

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