Friday, March 28, 2014


By John McKee

It's been a while racing fans. I use to race and write almost every weekend but with Ontario and CBR dropping the 60+ category, I haven't been out there much. I could sure feel it when I raced at Chuck Ponitus on March 23rd, 2014. Santa Clarita Velo always does a great job promoting their 2 races. The Chuck Pontius RR on Saturday which was the elite championships and the Chuck Pontius Memorial Criterium on Sunday. This year Rino Barbagiovanni of Santa Clarita Velo decided to have separate races for the 55s and 60s. This was great for both cats. There were 27 entries in the 60+ category and 33 in the 55+ category. A might bit better than 7 55s at the rival criterium who dropped the 60+ category and made it near impossible for 55s to get a payday. I think almost everyone got the idea that CPMC was the favored race for all 55s and 60s. There is a new course which was started in 2013. A little kicker on the back stretch and a fast downhill corner leading to the finish. The course is a little short of a mile and way fun but can wear on you lap after lap.
55+ action with the Breakaway from Cancer strongman Malcolm Hill leading the way.
The 60+ race was scheduled for a 8:35 am start. Not bad. I was able to carpool with my buddy Leo Pettus and make it in plenty of time while from leaving from Orange County. I did remember to bring my shoes this race. Rino said if I didn't there was a tennis shoe only race at 1 pm but that was too late for me so I chose to stick to the 55 and 60+ races.
In 60+ races this year Swami's will have the most entries and have the best riders. They are actually stronger than they realize compared to everyone else. Since I haven't raced much I don't seem to have the mojo I need yet. Like I mentioned I forgot my racing shoes the prior week and this race I come to the line with my number upside down. I haven't done that in a very long time. Eric Smith just looked and me and shook his head. Someone said if I flipped at the line I could be read right and Eric pointed out that I did that a couple years ago in Carson but it wasn't the last lap so my 180  was without a finish but was good for a broken collarbone. I have had 3 in the last 12 years but keep coming back. I will have to give the toughest competitor to my teammate and friend Howard Miller. Howard doesn't seem to land on his collarbone but on his face. The last 2 times were at El Dorado. The very last one was the Tuesday before this race. I would show a picture of him after the crash but I just can't look at it any more. If you want to see it, go to his facebook page. When Howard came up to Monty and myself before this race I couldn't look at him straight on. Not before the race. I had to focus on positive thoughts.
Ok, we are at the line and the 60+ race is about to start. I have never done the course or done a recon lap so it was sit in and see what it was like. I knew the last corner was fast and downhill and had it mapped out in my mind but didn't know any of the rest. The 60+ race went by so fast. I found out what I suspected and that was I didn't have very good form. I felt better at Roger Millikan.
Pedro Ordaz was very active early in the race and really got things going. There were worthwhile primes all through the race and helped drive the pace. Swami's loves to kill the primes so whatever there was out there pretty much went to one team. There were a few break attempts and one or more included Tom Reilly. Tom teamed up with Swami's Mike Marotta and or Mike Birditt. All of the break attempts were shut down and I even took it upon myself to pull a break back. I don't slowly reel anyone in but get out of the saddle and try and close the gap before I run out of gas. It worked this time. I got within 20  meters and quit. Good enough.
Defending Natz champ Mark Hoffenberg in a custom made jersey. Pedro Ordaz is sandwiched between Monty and myself and we are in our new Paramount kits. This is my first race with my new Trek bicycle. I was asked if made a difference and I had to say no. I alway felt the wheels made more of a difference than the brand of bike. I took a ribbing too after the race because I still had the sale sticker on the bottom of the bike. You can see it in the picture. Lol. I decherried it after that.
 Mike Birditt tried a solo break attempt coming off of a prime. He was out there for 6 laps. I didn't feel like chasing and neither did Monty. What was the purpose. Mike would most likely win in a bunch sprint anyway. Chasing would waste bullets needed later. For whatever reason Mike came back to the group. I think it was a combo of Mike getting tired and a half hearted peleton chase.
The lap cards seemed to come up quickly for the 40 minute race. I was kind of hurting and was thinking I had to do this all over again but faster in the 55+ race. Wow! There didn't seem to be a Swami's plan of attack for late in the race but a more free flowing take the race as is given and react and kill it late. They certainly have the power to play that game.
We heard one to go and everyone but Howard Miller knew what that meant. Howard has done what maybe 1,000 races over the years and was confused on what "one to go" meant. That is a big LOL. Sorry Howard. That is a good one!
The pace picked up at the line with one lap to go and Swami's was pushing the pace with Dale Luedtke sitting in. Mike Birditt surged and then Mike Marotta took over. Monty Pettus was right there as was Jonathan Livesay. I got on Big John Roest's wheel but on the back side he couldn't keep up the pace and created a gap. I was thinking damn! If I came across the gap and brought everyone else with me I might not have anything left for the sprint. Wasn't feeling that great anyway.
Rick Swanson saved my day in a manner of speaking. Rick jumped and I got on his wheel. About the time we joined up Monty Pettus in his new red, white and blue Paramount kit took off when Mr. Marotta eased off the pace. Monty took it to turn 3 and 4. The distance from 3 to 4 was pretty short plus it was downhill to turn 4. Livesay took off and Mike Birditt didn't know who to follow. Mike kind of charted his own course. Dale Luedtke with some great form for 2014 decided it was time he stamped "Paid in full" its my time to win. Dale kicked the jets in and came around his teammate Mr. Birditt. Mike looked back to see if anyone else was going to contest but no. Dale Luedtke wins his first race of 2014. Nice job, Dale! Mike rolled across for 2nd. Monty was dying a bit coming home and thought he would be passed by more riders but he hung on for 3rd. Mike Marotta was still winded from taking the pace on the back stretch of the last lap and finished 4th. Jonathan Livesay hung on for 5th and Rick Swanson finished 6th. I was right on Rick wheel at the corner and couldn't come around him. I told Monty before the race that this was a 11 tooth finish for me and I ended up in a 12. Don't know if it would have made a difference. John Roest got back on and finished right behind me. Maybe he was playing possum earlier. 9th place went to steady Tom Reilly. 10th place went to Robert Mosier and 11th went to Phil Kopel. Phil hadn't raced with us in years because a prostate problem and then crashed last year in a training accident and had hip replacement surgery. Glad to see Phil well enough to race with us and do well. Good seeing you Phil! The last Socal Cup point went to Mike Fleming.
It was a good hard race. It was dominated by one team but it was fun none the less. The pace was 24.6 mph which was one click short of the 55+ race later in the program.
Pettus 3(nice kit Monty. Voler brand and made in the USA), Luedtke 1, Birditt 2.
The 55+ race was 2 races after the 60+ race and many of the 60s doubled up. 14 of the 33 entries were 60+ racers. Now this race was really a blur. I stayed in the middle of the pack most of the race and drafted as best I could. There were the usual prime killing going on and counters off the prime. You knew Malcolm Hill was going to try to start a break or get in a break attempt. Mark Hoffenberg seems to hang back somewhat through the first part of the race.
Malcolm Hill surged going up the hill and checks back for the damage.
The 55 race got even more heated late in the action and there ended up with a 6 pack or so off the front. The cards came up and and the gap was 150 to 200 meters. Swami's was butt sore that they didn't have anyone in the break. They were the main players in the chase along with "Blue Boy" Cramer(he was wearing a white jersey to just try and throw me off. Sorry Lothar but that old trick ain't working anymore). John Roest and Mike Marotta did some work and Mike Birditt finished off the chase on the bell lap hoping to spring his buddie Mr. Luedtke for another good finish. Mike pretty much connected the chase pack but the field was shredded compared to what we usually see. There were 8 to 10 riders off the back of this chase group.
Nice back drop behind turn 2 just before we hit the mini hill.
Mike Birditt doing some prime killing.
The group was  joined right after the hill by much of the chase pack but not all. The leaders were sorting it out and no one wanted to lead it out. The sprint for home placed the riders probably exactly where you would have predicted. Evan Teske winning in a close sprint over Mark Hoffenberg and Danny Nicolette. Malcolm Hill was 4th.
Sprint finish- from our left to right- Hoffy, Nick, Hill and Teske all pretty close.
There was a pod of 10 riders that finished together with another pod of 10 about 40 meters back and the rest of the field shrewn everywhere. The 55+ race was at 25.4 mph. Pretty good pace for this course. Thanks again to Rino and the entire Santa Clarita Velo club for producing this race and having separate fields for the 55s and 60s. The weather was great and everything else right on compared to that rival race somewhere else. The course was good, primes generous and the racing fun. Complete results below. Thanks to Lothar Cramer's wife for the great action photos! That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!