There are events that click with racers and events that don't. Roger Millikan always brings out the crowds and the new race series The 805 Criterium has hit a cord but this one for whatever reason didn't seem to appeal to a large number of racers. There are Saturday MTB events but that usually is a separate crowd. This one is the Orange County Cycling Classic held at the Great Park in Orange County. This was the former El Toro Marine Base. They do a Thursday night race series. The basic course snakes around the runway. I have never done the Thursday night race so this course was completely new to me. The location is in between San Diego and LA so I thought this would be popular. Paramount back when we use to produce a race thought about moving their race here but they wanted $5k from us so we said No. The organizers of this event planned a 2 day ominium event with the final day bringing in a 1k dirt section to throw a wrinkle to what we normally do. It all sounded fun and different and kind of refreshing considering seeing how many times we do certain courses. The organizers tried to please everyone and had races for juniors through 55/60+. Something didn't click. I can't put my finger on it. The dirt portion may have stopped some people and you had to do both days of racing to win a cash prize. They did have very nice Simple Green kits to the Saturday podium placers though.
The Saturday race was on June 21st, 2014. The weather was great. A little overcast early but clearing and sunny and warm later. Not hot! Pretty darn nice for June. When I got to the venue I looked around and started asking about different people and got a lot of different reasons they weren't there. We have a number of 60s out with injuries like John Roest and Rino B. The turnout of 55s was low but 60s was really low. The race started with less than 30 riders on Saturday.
The guys that knew the course started hitting it early. I just stuck in the middle and followed and tried to not hit any cones that were everywhere marking the course. This wasn't AIPC. Another industrial park criterium. It wasn't a downtown thing either with people on the streets watching. The entire thing was around 2.5 miles and followed Thursday night's course exactly. I thought with the small field that a small group of elite riders might get away. There were a lot of attacks early on. Dale Luedtke did his usual early solo break. This is becoming a standard. I believe Dale does it to challenge himself and make himself a stronger rider in the long run. I think he is plenty strong enough right now. Definitely sharper than the last 2 years. Always great to see a rider come back from injury or illness and though they struggle, the Red Sea parts and away they go. Back on form! Rick Lilliberg falls into the same category. Rick is having a strong comeback year.
We were scheduled for 7 laps or 17.5 miles. A designated number of miles like the LA Circuit race. The race was pretty hard but not overpoweringly so. Robert Paginni who was the oldest rider by 10 years hung in there the whole race. That was pretty impressive. Robert was giving away 23 years to some where 5 years makes a big difference.
|Lacking photographers at this event. This is the only photo of "The Man". Mr. Robert Paginni. There was a 2 hour wait for omium results. That's why all the long faces. Pags waited all that time and then didn't pick up his cash for 5th place.|
|"The Man" racing in France in the early 50s.|
OK. The race was pretty intense in the early going. A number of riders gave it a go off the front. My previous race was Torrance and felt pretty good there. I didn't know what to expect at this race site. The 1st 3 laps were pretty hard but I felt fine. Stretched but within what I could do. I think everyone was aboard. Once we got into the 4th lap I knew I was good and just rode like I always do from there on out. Rockform was there in strength in 55. Swami's had Mike Birditt and Dale Luedtke in 60+ and there was Reid Moore of UCC and he is riding very good. Rick Lilliberg like I mentioned earlier is riding very well. There are always new 55s coming in that are very strong and we know David Fetah will always be there. I don't think he has missed an event. Mike Okano and Mike Hines are new very strong 55s but only show up once in a while.
Into the 5th lap Mike Birditt and 5 other riders had a very small gap. Rick Lilliberg joined them and went right on by. Rick was riding out there solo but not getting anywhere and decided to pack it in and pull back. Soon after that he was nursing a flat and out of the race. Ed Marcelo flated as well earlier. Rick got a piece of glass in his tire. I wonder how old that original bottle was that the glass was from. Probably pretty old.
With the 6th lap in play I knew no one was going to be able to do anything but sprint from a bunch. I could see Dale moving up. The last lap came and Rokform was trying to bunch at the front. The pace was hardy but manageable. With 3 corners to go and quite a ways from the finish line Dale charged to the front and the pressure really got put on. I stayed behind John Bergman. John use to race for Paramount like a lot of racers but has been with a number of teams since. John aged up this year and is a track devotee. I knew to stay on his wheel. I don't know who took over for Dale. I have to assume that Bob Pelkofer took over at some point. The pressure keep on to the next corner. A few guys were gapped off the back. The distance from the next to last and the last corner is pretty short for this course and the pressure was taken off for a short moment while everyone up front sorted things out and took some deep breathes. The last corner was taken at pretty much full in saddle speed. The final sprint was down wind in the morning so it was very fast.
Mark Hoffenberg won the field sprint in 55+ and Mike Birditt won it in 60+. Mike Hines was 2nd and Danny Nicolette was 3rd in 55+. Dale Luedtke got 2nd in 60+. I finished right behind John Bergman who was 8th in 55+ but gave me 3rd in 60+. Slightly longer race time wise for us and averaged a touch over 25 mph.
|60+ podium. Day 1. Luedtke 2, Birditt 1, and McKee 3. Getting the Simple Green bags and goodies inside was better than getting cash. Nice pod gift.|
|Day 1 55+ podium. Hines 2, Hoffy 1 & Nicolette 3. Mr. Hines looks happy. Hoffy..ho humm. Another 1st place.|
With Saturday's race under our belt I showed up for Sunday's race and took a look at the dirt section. I rode it twice with Danny Nicolette. It was rougher than it looked the day before when I 1st saw the dirt section. I knew the stronger riders would put the pressure on here.
There were fewer riders on Sunday than before. Only those riders that finished and even a few 60s that raced on Saturday didn't come out. I think they had a one day pass from their wife. The 55/60+ group came to the line at 8:03 am vs 9:52 am from the day before. The group would do the same course as Saturday with the added bonus of the dirt section taking everyone away from the normal course. The dirt section was 1k long and then everyone did a 180 and turned into the wind. The 1st time through was harder than I thought it would be from the 2 trial runs. The faster speed made it rougher. My MTB riding came into play. Stayed in my drops with my elbowed bent and slightly off my saddle. Tried to soften the shock as best possible. I came out of the dirt and turned back like everyone else and was breathing pretty hard. I got on a wheel and hung on. Once we turned again with the wind at our back on the asphalt and it got easier. I knew I would be able to hang on through the rest of the 1st lap. We had been scheduled for 4 laps of the new course but they miscalculated the distance and the earlier race came in quicker than they thought so they added a lap to our race.
After the 1st lap we turned again onto the dirt. There were some soft spots which gave you a mini fish tail. The roughest part was at the end of the dirt section. The 2nd time through I made it around with the group. I looked around behind me and there were no other riders. The 1st time through dropped some riders. The 3rd time through was hard but again I hung on. Mike Okano was really trying to work things in his own terms using his own cycling strength. Reminded me of the last day of the 805 Criterium. Mike would team with a rider or two or just work it by himself. Mark Hoffenberg was doing the math in his head figuring what would happen in the overall ominium if Mike stayed away. The 2nd day's race was worth more points.
The 4th time through the dirt it was hard and I came out and turned back into the wind. I saw John Bergman not far ahead of me and I got out of the saddle and tried to close the gap. I hit a wall so to speak and Dale and another rider came by me. Dale didn't like the dirt but get him back on the pavement and off it goes. I went into oxygen debt and I was cooked. The rest of the field was chasing Mike Okano and the pressure was really on. The 5th time through and Mike kept a gap and no one could close it. Mike was able to keep a small lead to the finish to place 1st in 55+. Rokform and Bob Pelkofer took care of Mark and got him into position and he won the field sprint and 2nd in 55+. Michael Hines finished 3rd in 55+. Mike Birditt and Dale Luedtke rolled in the pack across the finish line to again finish 1/2 in 60+. I finished by myself for 3rd place in 60+. It was definitely different and amazingly safe considering the control over the bike but everyone spread out a little and the loose MRI water bottles that popped out weren't a problem. Mike Okano proved to be very strong as did Mike Hines. I understand that Mike is one of the stronger riders on the famous "Donut Ride" in the South Bay area.
The Ominium results were as Mark figured but was closer than he first thought. Mark 1st, Mike Okano 2nd and Mike Hines 3rd in 55+. 60+ was Birditt 1, Luedtke 2 and McKee 3.
|Day 2 60+ pod for finish and Omiuium. Mr. Birditt is holding a piece of the tarmac as a trophy. It was nice!|
|55+ Ominium results- Okano 2(lost by 1 omium point. Closer than Mark calculated in his head), Hoffy 1. (Mark looks happier today) & Mike "Mr. Donut" Hines 3(Mike, everyone gets a nickname at times in my stories).|
|Mark Hoffenberg holding court with his Rokform teammates- Mike McConnell, Bob Pelkofer and Rick Carrera. Rick raced on Saturday but not Sunday. Puzzling! I had to promise Bob that I would write a story but have had a really busy week.|
This was a great opportunity to do a 2 day race. The course is fine. Plenty wide and safe. The dirt was fun. I know Dale didn't seem to like it but Mike Okano did. Local racing is going through a down cycle now. Not sure why. We seem to lose more racers than those that age into the 55 and 60+ categories. I think more 55s should attend 55/60+ races vs 50/55 ones. It is safer. I am not the only one that thinks this. Most of the 60s are behind you anyway. The ones that can mix it at the front are accomplished racers. Thanks to the organizers for including 55 and 60s in their event. It did take 2 hours to get ominium results and that was the fault of the organizers but that was the only glitch that I saw. Thanks to all the racers that did come out. It was especially important for the 60 crowd. We are teetering on extinction. To all the 55s, don't think your locked in either. Your numbers aren't that great. I see a lot of base sticking among 55s. Sorry I didn't get the story out sooner but spent a couple of days with my wife in Long Beach for our 36th anniversary. Then I did volunteering at the track for Jr. Nationals. Bonus story at the end of results. Each days results are below but not Ominium. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!
|Jack Dean McKee during WW II|