Friday, January 31, 2014


By John McKee

Its the 1st 55/60+ race of the year and back where we use to be. The Mothballs Criterium use to be the first criterium on the calendar but Ontario moved in front as did CBR so Mothballs had to take a back seat. Ontario and CBR use to include 55/60+ races in their lineup but there was a shake up for 2014 because of lower attendance by racers in 2013. Panic set in and ways were devised to get more racers at more events. 60+ attendance had been low in 2013 so they became the whipping boy. I knew that CBR was going to drop the 55/60+ race but was a little surprised that Ontario did as well. So many of us had supported their race for many years but they combined 50 with 55 and no 60. Just a few years ago after we would do the 55/60+ race at Ontario we would sign up for the 50+ race and they would have over 100 riders including the 55/60s as a second race.
We have what we have now for 2014 and the 55 and 60+ racers need to make the best of it. Many 55 racers from 2013 aged up to 60+ in 2014 making the 60+ category very strong this year. Without the 60+ category to shoot for many 55s would quit racing and I think that category would be in jeopardy as well if we didn't have 60+ as a viable category to race in and gain Socal Cup points.The important thing for both the 55s and 60s is to show up at the early races and demonstrate to promoters later in the year that we are viable categories and will show up at their races as well.

At the start line at Mothballs Criterium. Chris Black is giving pre race instructions

Lets get on with the race at hand. The Mothballs Criterium. I always liked this race and have developed at good relationship with the race director/promoter, Armando Requejo. Armando or "Mondo" as he is known to his friends has always given us a time slot and a small purse as well. He definitely deserves our fullest support. The turnout for the 60s was good at 20 but for the 55s it was poor at 10. The day before at the road race PCKRR the 55s had 25 finishers with just 14 60s. I don't know where the 55s went but back home. Too bad. Mothballs is a fun race but the 55s are the "new" guys and they know not what they do. The "counter" is on every race so some support is better than none.
At Mothballs we use to be the 2nd race off at 7:30 am and we faced cold weather, torrential rain, etc. We got moved back a slot to 8:15 am and that was much appreciated. I was able to drive to the venue from my home in the morning. The prior day I went to the Phil Richards Memorial Ride and the turnout was phenomenal. Over 200 cyclists participated in the ride and more showed up at a park for his life celebration. Phil was looking forward to the 2014 racing season and was on the road training for it on Dec. 29th when a drunk driver came ACROSS the yellow line and hit Phil head on. Phil succumbed to his massive injuries 2 weeks later. It was a tragic awful loss! Those that knew him will miss him so much. My condolences to his beautiful wife Annette(who I got to meet at the celebration)and all of his family and friends.

RIP Phil Richards (1947-2014) Picture courtesy of Arnie Shaw
It's hard to move on now. The memorial ride was harder than I thought it would be and then Rick Swanson and Gary Shuey beat up on me riding back from the park to the start area. 2 and 1/2 hours of riding and I was tired. Monty Pettus drove all the way from the park in Beaumont to Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon. Tough drive. I choose to just get home and drive to Goleta Sunday morning with my wife. It all worked out well. "Mondo" is thinking of moving us back another slot for 2015.
30 riders showed up at the line around 8:15 am. I am at the line with my back up bike. My race bike had a dent in it from the Ontario crash last year that I didn't see. The frame is toast. Oh well. Trek is giving me a good deal on a new one through a crash replacement policy. Trek has an even better policy with a new bike purchase that covers total crash replacement without additional cost to the owner/Trek policy holder. My Trek was a 2010 model and wasn't covered as well at that time.
OK, at the line. 55+ racing strong man Chris Black was an official for this race and gave us our pre race instructions. Once given the race was on! Let's go! Another season is under way!! Go Dog go!!! Every time I start a season there is always that question. Can you do it again? Everyone else is a year older but guys aged into your cat and you have a new crop of 55s. Guys that you use to race with drop by the wayside. Robert Paganini(78 this year), Dale Harless and Michael Edwards are the only racers older than myself out there. Rick Lilliberg is one year younger. Yikes! It just gets tougher out there. The 1st 3 laps were pretty tough and I knew that there is nothing that tests you like a race. I didn't look at my Garmin much because the heart rate numbers were so high. I was breathing hard but started to feel comfortable out there. Yes, I can do this again!
This race was like so many others. There were more new faces out there that I will have to get to know. Of the 10 55s 7 were just 55. Racers would charge off and everyone would chase and it would get hard. The rider would get caught and things would ease off and then more fireworks. Swami's new 60s Dale Luedtke and Mike Birditt were hanging out at the front which isn't new for Mike but is for Dale. My teammate Monty Pettus has been riding very well so I wasn't surprised to see him up front.
Swami's new 60+ duel threat- Luedtke and Birditt. It only gets tougher!
It looks like I am leading the pack but no.. just not following the wheel in front that close.

It didn't take long for a few 60s to pop off the back. It is tough out there. A small group of riders formed off the front. At first I didn't know whether the riders were off the back or front but when you see them still ahead of you after a few laps then they are off the front. They were all 55+. Young guys. I don't know who they were unfortunately but I will get the names down soon. I do know that one of the breakers was Kim Bleth. Kim is on another team again. This was half way through the race. 60+ racer from SBW Rick Lilliberg thought he would try and get across the gap and he did! Nice going Rick. Rick is 67 this year. 4 guys are off and the race is winding down. Is that it? It would be 1, 2, 3 in 55+ and Rick Lilliberg would win the 60+ race over the heavy favorite Mike Birditt.
Monty Pettus thought he would test his legs and he went off the front to try and chase down the foursome.  The break group didn't seem to be working that well ahead. As the laps counted down Monty was still in no man's land. Mike Birditt started an effort to bridge to Monty. He got some help from a few other 55s. The one picture below kind of sums it all up. The foursome was failing. Monty hung in there and was actually almost with the foursome but the pack was just a few bike lengths behind him with 2 and 1/2 laps to go. We turn the last corner and we are all together again. Doug (Time) Knox went to the front and gave it what he could. Definitely picked up the pace when it was needed. I wondered if my teammate Monty would be able to recover and sprint at the end.
Monty in between the break group and the pack. Seconds before it was all together again.
The bell lap came and we were all together. No one wanted to go to the front. It got so bad on the back side of the D shaped course that we were snaking. Snaking late or actually at any time is dangerous. We all weathered the storm. We all came to the last corner and there is a ways to the line from there. 3 different sprint lines formed. Monty was the first one to jump and he did it the short way. On the inside after he turned the corner smoothly but sharper than the rest. Dale Luedtke took the "long" line. Way to the outside. Mike "Mama Bear" Birditt took the middle route. When Monty got out of the saddle everyone else also got out of the saddle and it was a long ways home. I had been on Kirk Freeman's wheel and got around Kirk but felt a little under geared. Monty was going good but got passed by Mike Birditt, Kal Szkalak,  and Dale Luedtke. In that order. Kal complained that the lead up to the sprint wasn't fast enough. Kal likes a long fast lead in to the final sprint.
2 55s Wayne Steely and David Cranston finished between Monty and myself for 1/2 in 55+. I rolled across the line for 5th in 60+ but the 8th person to finish. The 55s were basically crushed. The 1st 4 finishers were 60+. Wow! Never seen that before. Kenny Steward rolled in for 3rd in 55+. Good thing the 55s had their own finish purse. Robert Paganini hung on at the ripe young age of 78 to finish 13th on the finish list but one woman was listed ahead of him. She and a friend raced for Sisterhood of Cycling. One of the gals got lapped and one didn't. Robert wasn't sure if the lapped gal was the one that was placed ahead of him. He could have gotten on the board so to speak otherwise.
The overall speed was around 25.3 mph on a fast course. There were just 2 corners on the course. Good start for the 60s. Pathetic for the 55s. There were 3 60s that don't show on the results. Doug Knox, Carlos Soto and Ron Carlson(We could have used his son out to do pictures and video. He was good). The unknown 60 was Mike Fleming. Mike looked good out there. Thanks to all that came out. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!