Friday, May 23, 2014


By John McKee

What a difference a year makes. Last year Mike Birditt won the 55+ race and Dale Luedtke placed 6th. In 2014 both Mike and Dale are 60+ along with a number of other very strong riders making the 60+ category tougher than ever.
A real cutie at the race. Host team jacket there.
The weekend of May 17th/18th 2014 there were 2 competing blocks of races. In Bakersfield there was the well known Vlees Huis Ronde Road Race on Saturday and Bike Bakersfield Criterium on Sunday. In Torrance was the Torrance Criterium which was on Sunday. Not sure how long this race has been going but it at least goes back to 1980.
Lee Romans at Torrance in 1980. 35 years later and Lee is still racing there. I think he has learned how to pin his number on after all these years.
 The Torrance race is still on the well known Telo course. Much easier in the morning than it is in the afternoon but just to make things interesting on race day 2014 there was a decent breeze toward the finish line from the last corner. Tough sledding going toward turn 5 but fast coming home. One of the riders would get up to 38.2 mph at the finish. I wonder who that was. Lol. The race is produced and hosted by the Penisula Cycle Club.
31 riders signed up which wasn't bad and wasn't good. Only 4 55/60+ riders showed up at Bakersfield on Sunday and one of them was from Nor Cal. The scheduled race start time was 7:35 am in Torrance. Early start time. Everyone started off and Lothar "Blue Boy" Cramer didn't go to the whip but Kal Szkalak did. Kal started it. Kal is leading 60+ in Socal points but was racing 55+ this day. I know Kal would have a long explanation for this but I don't know what it is. Maybe he was thinking he could get away with Mike Birditt if they weren't racing against each other.
A number of riders went to the whip early in the race to either get things going or try and see if they could get away. Mike Birditt hit it early around turn 2 to 4 on a number of early laps. Nothing too serious but revving up those monster legs of his and putting them to good use. Bruce Hartley, David "I don't miss a race" Fetah and Dale Raymond gave it a go early on. Mike Birditt went to the block but Cyril Hunte and Lothar Cramer weren't having any of it and shut down the effort quickly.
Whenever Kal would jump, Mike Birditt would go after him. It wasn't the kind of jump that said "I want to get away and join you" but "everyone get aboard. Not today Kal". There was another nice move by 2 riders. Ricky Shorts, and an unknown assailant. Who was that masked man? After one half lap it was too much effort for Ricky so he dropped off. Mark Spivey of Stage One Racing lead the chase with David Fetah and "Blue Boy" on his wheel. Once the "Lone Ranger" was caught, David jumped with Dale Raymond and Mike Birditt coming aboard. After a few hundred meters Mike does his usual spin in the saddle and see what kind of damage was done. Well none actually. Kal brought the rest of the troops aboard.
A lot of good countering moves going on keeping the pace high. David "Shutdown" Fetah wasn't having any of it and would quickly discourage the efforts. "Blue Boy" was often on his wheel recording the action on his Go Pro. There were a lot of primes. Don't know what they were. It was very hard to hear Ralph "The Man on the Mike" Elliot spout out what the primes were for. A bell was rung so you knew there would be some action on the next lap. Even "Blue Boy" went for a prime and Kal countered off of it but Birditt and Fetah were right on it and everyone else upped the ante so no cigar here.
It was looking like nothing during the race was going to work but maybe something late like in the last 5 laps. It takes someone bold to try this because most riders would be shot for the finish but riders don't like to chase these efforts either and ruin their finish chances.
Kal got another good effort going mid way through the race and got a good gap. Bruce Hartley put in a good effort to get everyone going after Kal. Once Bruce ran out of gas it was a mini chase effort. I think Kal just quit when he saw he wasn't gaining ground or no one came up to help him. There was almost always something going on to keep the pace up. There were lulls but for the most part for a smaller field there was a lot of action. Howard Miller went on a solo effort for 3/4 of a lap. Not sure what Howard was up to but he was caught and he was spent. You had better stay tight on the wheel in front of you or you were going to get passed but that's the way it always is in a race.
There was a group of about 6 guys that got going good with Birditt aboard. Dale Raymond was blocking and guess who decided to close it down. 3 guesses and the 1st 2 don't count. LOL. Old "long socks" himself and old really does come into play because I was the oldest rider in the race. I am usually covered by "The Ageless One" but he was in Bakersfield. One of 2 60+ racers. Mike Marotta won of course and I don't know if Pags stayed with the other 3 55/60+ riders but it would have been awesome if Pags could have won his category. Even if the fix was in. A lot of pro races have the fix in so to speak.
David "Ultra Man" Cranston of LaGrange went into the gutter a couple of times with 2 laps to go on a straight away and I really don't like seeing this when it isn't necessary and it wasn't. Dangerous move. Later in the lap he make Cyril "Wild Man" Hunte look like Mr. Smooth out there. Cyril is getting smoother out there with fewer "Cowboy" moves that can make a race dangerous like at Roger Millikan. I think most of us have seen the vid by now. A calmer Cyril is a good thing. He certainly is a strong and fast rider and doesn't need the extra "Cowboy" stuff. With 2 laps to go Tom "Flood" Gates came by me and tap me on the butt. I thought he was telling I moved in front of him but actually he was signalling for me to get on his wheel. He is a good wheel at the end of a race. He is like a major flood screaming toward the line.
OK. Bell lap. It will be over soon! All together. Bruce Hartley is out front. "Blue Boy" thought Bruce was having way too much fun and decided to take over. Oh Boy! I am out front. Maybe I can hold this to the line. Just joking! Lead out cannon fodder of course but someone has to do it. Ed Marcelo is the 1st person to come by Lothar. Kal soft pedals a little and Deo Asuncion moves in right behind Ed. Deo is in great position now. Ricky Shorts, Cyril and Tom Gates really heat it up between the next to last and last corner. They were overheated and couldn't take all that speed down the finishing stretch. They had to regroup and come out and sprint. Deo and Mike Birditt took a smarter and little slower line through the corner and cut tighter to the course and didn't have to trim any speed. Smart veteran moves. I am surprised that Tom took such a fast line but he was following Cyril and probably figured that Cyril had it all mapped out but we know that can be a bad move. Ricky Shorts quit. Cyril and Tom got going again. Birditt and Deo came into the middle in great position and waited a bit and then put in the message to the legs. Maximum power. In the movie "Ben Hur" our man Charlton was a slave and rowing in a Roman slave ship. They were going to attack another ship and the top speed that was beat out on the drum for the rowers in chains was "RAMMING SPEED". Charlton of course came out of that one smelling like a rose when he saved Alex Hawkins's life who was a high muckity muck in Rome. This lead to "The Man" getting in the chariot race. Stephen Boyd got his in that race but was so over the top smug in the movie that you couldn't feel sorry for him when he was suffering after his accident in the race. Oh yea I was writing about a local bike race. Back to it.
Birditt and Asuncion didn't panic when they rounded the corner and didn't start their sprint for a bit but finally hit "Ramming Speed" for sure and they definitely have that. Mike is ridiculous with the power and speed he has in his legs. Deo has great leg speed.
Mike Birditt is too fast for this picture. Deo bests Tom and Cyril. Close 1/2/3 in 55+. Dale is rolling in for 2nd in 60+. Photo courtesy of Maki Yamazaki.
Mike won the 60+ category easily while Deo just beat Tom Gates(2nd) and Cyril Hunte(3rd). Don Denegal just beat Mike Hines for 4th place and the last paying spot in 55+. Dale Luedtke got 2nd in 60+ and Mike Fleming bested myself for 3rd while I finished 4th.
There is a full video of the entire race from Lothar Cramer. You tube link:

There is a another vid of the finish on my 55/60 facebook page courtesy of Maki Yamazaki. Thanks to all that came out. The race speed was a little over 25 mph but this was a fast course. Complete results below. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
55+ podium- Denegal 4, Gates 2, Asuncion 1 and Hunte 3.

60+ podium- McKee 4, Luedtke 2, Birditt 1 and Fleming 3.

Friday, May 16, 2014


By John McKee

The 805 Firestone race series started in 2012 with one race and a lot of money for all the racers. Promoter Mike Hecker started with the deceptively difficult Ave. of the Flags course.  The turnout was modest for 55/60+ racers especially in 60+ but the entire event was a success. It looked like the 805 event was coming back in 2013 with the one race but Mike added an event on Sunday following the Ave. of the Flags race which was held on Saturday the prior year and was scheduled for Saturday for 2013 as well.
Mike added a criterium on Sunday in Lompoc with big money like he had for the Saturday Ave. of the Flags race. Both races were great and the area is fun to visit because of the wineries. For 2014 Mike added a afternoon/twilight series at a police/sheriff practice oval in Lompoc on Friday to make the 805 Firestone race series a 3 day affair. Awesome event for all racers. One mile track with some banking on the oval ends. Great course but at 2:40 pm on May 9, 2014 the winds were howling at 25 to 30 mph. Warm but not hot. The winds made the course super difficult for most riders but of course the stronger riders can show their stuff in these conditions.
The 55/60+ race was scheduled for 40 minutes and was the 2nd race of the day. A few trial laps and pretty hard ones at that 4 riders slipped away. All 55+ racers. One of the racers dropped off quickly and left Mark Hoffenberg, Chris Black and Randall Tinney. I knew Chris from other races and knew how strong he was but I didn't know Randall Tinney. Randall showed amazing strength through the 3 day event. We all know Mark and how strong he is.
The pack shredded a few riders. It was brutal out there. The break group was going an amazing speed. In the end Chris Black gave out first. Randall tried to sprint with Mark but Mark took the 55+ race. The 60+ race was decided in a sprint in the pack with speedster Ricky Shorts winning. Dale Luedtke took 2nd and Paul Rodiguez was 3rd.
Chris Black starts the break. You can see Mark Hoffenberg at the front and will pounce on Chris shortly.
Black, Hoffenberg and Tinney in break. Going very fast.

Field sprint. Bob Kubinski is the 1st 55+ racer placing 4th. Ricky Shorts bests Dale Luedtke for 1st in 60+.
The 1st day was very hard and uplifting for some and discouraging for others. At least the 2nd day of racing would be at 10 am in the morning and the wind wouldn't be blowing as hard.
The 2nd day of racing would be at the Ave. of the Flags course in Buelton. The start time was 10:05 am. There was a breeze that would be a cross wind for most of the course. It made a pretty hard course that became that much harder.
Ave of the Flags 55/60+ start. Official Greg Alden is giving instructions.
The race started and the 1st couple of laps were modest for this course but then things heated up. A fairly large break group formed and was joined by some of the stronger 55+ riders that could get across the gap like Mark Hoffenberg. One 60+ racer was in the break and that was Paul Rodiguez. Same as the prior year.
One thing that is always apparent when I am at races with riders outside of Socal. They don't corner as well as riders from Socal. As a general rule. We do more criteriums then anyone and fast corners are the norm. I see guys braking going into the corners and I think WTF. I had to add that. It is always worse at the national level and gets even worse with the older groups because they do fewer crits than anyone. That grand prix course in Bend, Or. in 2011 and 2012 was way over the skill set of a lot of the senior racers and we saw what happened there. It was carnage.

Break group on the Ave. of Flags course.

The defining picture above shows 7 helmets. 6 55s and 1 60(Paul Rodiguez). There was one rider in between and that was Steve Hensler. The pack kept pretty close until the last few laps. Kal Szkalak took a flyer but Monty Pettus got on him and pulled through but Kal didn't want to work with Monty. Kal is very particular about who he goes on a break with. Rick Swanson was pulling from behind anyway to close it down. Pack all together.
The break group finished in a sprint with Mark Hoffenberg winning the sprint. Randall Tinney was 2nd. Jonathan Laine of Truckee and the 3 ft.- It's the Law team was 3rd. Paul Rodiguez didn't need to sprint and rolled across for 1st in 60+. The pack sprinted it out and Ricky Shorts got 2nd in 60+ and Monty Pettus who was feeling good this day got 3rd. Monty didn't do the Friday race and was fresh.
Hoffy wins sprint from Randall.

Paul Rodiguez wins the 2nd stage in 60+.

Ricky Shorts wins field sprint for 60+. Pettus and Szkalak follow in.
55+ finishers- Laine 3, Hoffenberg 1 and Tinney 2.
60+ finishers- Pettus 3, Rodiguez 1 and Shorts 2.
Another hard day of racing was wrapped up. Now it was time for relaxing or maybe some wine tasting. Monty Pettus and his wife Diana hosted Rick and Karen Swanson and myself and my wife Alicia(the photographer) at Demetria Vineyard Winery in Los Olivos. 
Ate a picnic lunch while tasting wine. Some really good stuff but of course it was expensive. I throw up my hands. Whatever my wife thinks is good and wants to buy is alright with me. I like white like Karen Swanson. My wife likes red.
We were going to have a group dinner at the Firestone restaurant near the Sat. race course which would be packed with racers this weekend but it was closed for kitchen renovations. I think that was bad timing. 
The 3rd day of racing would be a get away day. Race and get away home or maybe do more wine tasting like Monty. The 55 and 60+ categories were close for the ominium so there was more at stack then just the day's results. The 55 cat had Mark Hoffenberg ahead but Randall Tinney was 2nd and close. No one knew what Randall had in store. He told his wife Lola "Blue Hair" Tinney he was going all out. Finish 1st or last. That was the goal. 
55/60+ racers line up in Lompoc for the last day of racing.
Sunday's race was on a flat bumpy course through the streets of Lompoc. Lots of corners and some wind. Mostly a cross wind. The race started out reasonable. Rick "Caboose" Lilliberg went to the front to start things off and after a turn at the front went back to the very back of the pack. He likes it back there.
Randall "Go for It" Tinney is breaking away.
3 laps into the race Randall Tinney made his move. A lot of riders make a solo move and maybe it starts something with other riders joining that person but usually they fade out and come back to the pack. Not Randall. He was on a mission. Win or Die! ALL IN! Jeff Moreton went to the front to control the break distance but Randall was going good. Jeff should have gotten out of the saddle and closed the distance while it was short or gotten so close that the rider would get discouraged or another rider would take over and close out the break. 
Randall became a "carrot" and kept the pace of the race quite high. This was the easiest of the days of racing but it was still very hard. This course fit me better and I was feeling more comfortable out there. 
Mark Hoffenberg's Rokform squad kept trying to bring Randall "The Carrot" Tinney back with Jeff Moreton and Mike McConnell. Mark even went to the front and went full gas but no luck. I didn't see much help from other sources. 
There was a Ominium points sprint midway through the race and Mark wanted to be sure and win this and he had to get it if Randall was to stay away. In 60+ action Ricky Shorts had a small lead over Paul Rodiguez. When the sprint lap came the pressure was really on in the 2nd half of the lap. Fast. Paul took the 60 sprint and Randall took the 55 sprint because he was away but Hoffy took the bunch sprint in 55 which gave him 2nd place ominium points. 
After the points sprint the pressure really got put on by the Rokform squad but the seconds of distance to Randall kept going up! 21 seconds. 25 seconds. Then 30 seconds. It looked like a lost cause for Mark but he could still win the overall. The 5 lap to go sign came up and things got harder out there. There were a few lulls but it seemed to get faster. With 1 and 1/2 laps to go it got even faster. Rick Lilliberg said riders were dropping off and he had to maneuver around to stay in contact with the peleton.

One lap to go! One lap to go! Hoffy is REALLY putting the pressure on.
Mark Hoffenberg was at the front really putting the pressure on. Everyone was lined out. Hoffy was really taking a chance trying to catch Tinney. Mark finally took the pressure off to catch his breath for the field sprint. He conceded to Randall Tinney. The last lap except for a few brief moments was smoking. With 3 corners to go I got chopped by a non Socal rider. Naturally. Had to brake and lost my chance to stay near my teammate Monty Pettus. 
Back at the front between 2 corners to go and the last corner it was into the wind. Everyone kind collected themselves and then shot for the last corner to give it everything they had for the finish. While everyone was doing this Mr. Tinney finally was able to relax and put his arms up in triumph. A great effort. Randall said he was in so much pain that he was seeing stars and stuff!
And the stage winner is Randall Tinney! Great job!!
The pack rounded the corner and sprinted for home knowing all the pain was going to go away soon!  Mark Hoffenberg came across the line first like you wouldn't know that would happen. Mark got 2nd in the stage and won the overall in 55+ by 1 point. It was very close.
Hoffy takes field sprint over Chris Black.

Rodiguez takes the 60+ sprint over Szkalak.
Bunch sprint from a different perpective. Photo courtesy of Lola Tinney.

Chris Black rolled across right behind Mark for 3rd place in the stage. In 60+ action Paul Rodiuguez put his stamp on the race and won the field sprint and the ominium. Kal took 2nd in the stage and Ricky Shorts took 3rd in the stage.
It was another tough hard stage but was easier than the prior 2 days. Great hard racing with no crashes!
Great job by everyone in the races especially the Socal riders since they are so smooth and I include Chris Black in our group. 

Last days 55 finishers- Fetah 5, Tinney 1, Hoffenberg 2 and Laine 4. Photo courtesy of Lola Tinney.

Last days 60 finishers- Pettus 5, Shorts 2, Rodiguez 1, Szkalak 3 and Luedtke 4.
Pags gets flowers because he is the oldest racer by 10 years at 78! Robert is the best! Notice Hoffy ride below with its oval chainrings. Photo courtesy of Lola Tinney.
3rd place in the ominium in 55+ went to Chris Black and 3rd place in 60+ went to Kal Szkalak with Ricky Shorts taking 2nd.
It was a great 3 days of racing minus the wind but nature is what it is. Thanks to promoter Mike Hecker for keeping the 55s AND the 60s in his awesome event. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


By John McKee

It was a great weekend for 55/60+ racing. In San Diego on Saturday May 3rd there was the Barrio Logan Grand Prix. Always a fun event in a interesting part of San Diego. Great course expect for the pavement. I always hear that the pavement is improved. LOL! I would hate to have seen it in worse shape. It was doable though. Not if it rained and if Hylton Murphy, kamikaze of Barrio Logan does it.
Hylton of course only knew one speed and one effort level. All out. When there is 2 to 4 inches of rain in the corners you have to have faith that you are going to come out the other end rubber side down. Hylton never worried about such things and he didn't crash but just kept pushing the pace until he had to cry "Uncle". That was over 10 years ago now. It really did rain there in May. Buckets!
In 2014 because of a lackluster showing in 2013 our race was put on the clock so to speak. I say thank you for all the racers that came out and one(Steve Whitsitt) that signed up and never intended to race. For those that didn't make the effort to come out because it was too far or too early or something or other. We will end up with a few 50/55+ races with no pay days and courses that are ok but overdone to say the least.
A big thank you to Alex Collins and Morgan Gold that was the title sponsor and put up lots of money to sponsor the race. $500 went to the 55+ category 10 deep. The same for 60+. Tremendous payouts for our categories considering the number of racers that we could turnout. 11 55s and 18 60s pre registered.
There were a number of heavy hitter 55s that signed up on game day like Mark Hoffenberg and Malcolm Hill and Kal Szalak in 60+. I never understood why Kal always does same day. You know he is going to race. Why not save the 5 to 10 dollars and prereg? There were 12 60 finishers and 16 55s. How many actually signed up will never be known. Somewhere north of 30. Not that good considering.
So many 55/60+ racers are what I call regional racers. They only drive so far or leave their house no earlier than....blah, blah, blah! It all amounts to a lose of important races.
Lining up at the Barrio!
 OK. Ralph Elliot announced prior winners and mentioned that the 55/60+ race was in honor of Jerry Rimoldi. Jerry was co founder of SDBC way back when and was an official mechanic of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Cycling Team in Mexico City, and was the 1972 U.S. Olympic Track Coach in Munich. 
After the officials gave the pre game chat we were off. Lothar "Blue Boy" Cramer was the 1st to take the lead in a new skinsuit with a blue top. Nice! Completely plain since Lothar rides independent.
The racers dithered back and forth and everyone tried to get there sea legs on the course. 
After 6 or 7 laps Paul Rodiguez went to the front and really put the pressure on. Malcolm Hill was right there with Mike Birditt and David Fetah there as well. Kal Szkalak and Mark Hoffenberg were a bit back and chose to not chase but block. Cramer was near them leading the peleton. Mark didn't want to lead everyone to the promised land and decided to wait until there was a gap and come across solo. 
Kal Szkalak and Chris Black didn't wait long and got on board quickly. Mark let the gap go and got teammate Jeff Moreton to bring him part way across and then Mark did the rest. Jeff started to drift back and here comes Dale "Sweat Bomb" Luedtke. Jeff said that Dale was really sweating and didn't think he could make the rest of the gap but NO Dale made it. Nice effort there, Dale!
Once the break went it was a sea change in the pack. We just went around and around at a moderate pace and maybe a plus added to it. 
Strong men Paul Rodiguez and Malcolm Hill start a break with Mike Birditt and David Fetah smartly grabbing on.

Kal and Hoffy form a early block line.

The pack saw Rick Lilliberg try to go solo from the main pack. I thought he was kind of crazy for doing this but I didn't care. Rick actually did quite well and was solo for 4 or 5 laps. Nice work there. Rick is 67 this year and the 2nd oldest racer at BLGP to myself.
In the break all 8 guys did some work. There were 4 55s and 4 60s. All the rest of us were racing for 5th place in both categories or so we thought. They got a very good gap over the pack and weren't seen from again until it was all over. The 5 lap to go card came up. Rick was still away from the pack and the break was planning their sprint.
The sprint in the break went as one might suspect. Mark Hoffenberg won the 55+ cat and Mike Birditt won the 60+ cat. Mark was followed in by Chris Black and Paul Rodiguez. Paul is 61 this year but chose to race 55+. Mike was followed in by Kal Szkalak and Dale Luedtke for the 60+ podium.
In the pack Rick was caught but Bob Willcox took off with a few laps to go and was chased by Jeff Moreton within the bell lap. Jeff went by Bob and got 6th place and Bob got 7th. The pack sprinted in with Tom Gates taking the field sprint and finishing 8th. Tom was followed in by Bill Pinckard and Alex Collins for the last paying spots in 55.
Monty Pettus bested the rest of the 60+ crowd for 4th with Rick Lilliberg hanging on for 5th. I have seen harder races at the Barrio but once the best riders were gone the pressure came off a little.
This is always a fun race and the turnout was ok but a bit disappointing. Complete results below.

Mark Hoffenberg wins again!

Mike Birditt wins the 60+ race.

Chris Black and Kal Szkalak finish 2nd in 55 and 60+.

Paul Rodiguez rolls across for 3rd in 55+ even though he is 61.

Field sprint with Bob Willcox leading the way. Ahead of everyone is Jeff Moreton.
Field sprint.

55+ podium- Black 2, Hoffenberg 1.

Szkalak 2, Birditt 1, & Luedtke 3.
55 and 60+ racers line up at DPGP.
The next day Sunday May 4th was the newly popular Dana Point Grand Prix. DPGP has quickly become one of the biggest events on the calendar. It is on the NCR calendar. There hasn't been a 55/60+ race here in years though it was the SCNCA championship one year. The course is wider and safer now. More 55s showed up for Dana Point while fewer 60s showed up. There was $500 to pay out to 6 places in each category. This was a pretty strong field and you would expect a fast hard race. 33 55s pre reged while 15 60s did. 50 or so racers showed up at the line to contest this race. All but Monty Pettus. Monty was in the porta potty when the race started. They say life is all about timing. Monty didn't time this one so well.
Mid race action.
Everyone else got going quickly. There was too much firepower in 55 and spread across lots of teams for a break to get away. The 60s were going to have to sit in and do the best they could. The course was rather hard to move up on. I quickly found that out after starting near the back. Paul Rodiguez mixed it up but Paul is riding so strong it figures he might do this.
It all came down to the last laps and a sprint finish for everyone. 55+ sprinter Evan Teske won the 55+ race and was followed in by Natz Champ Mark Hoffenberg and Brad Jones. In 60+ action would you be surprised to hear that Mike Birditt won. Of course not! Filling out the podium was Ricky Shorts and Mike Marotta. Complete results are below. There were a few close calls with pedals hitting down but no one actually went down and that was a very good thing. Both races this weekend were challenging and fun. Thanks to all that came out to both events. Photos are courtesy of Alicia Mckee and Emily Cramer. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
Sprint finish with Teske winning 55+. Birditt is pictured winning the 60+ race following in a number of 55s.