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.

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