Saturday, July 5, 2014


By John McKee

The criterium championships and the other championships move around to different venues and in 2013 the criterium championships moved to Ontario. Those that race often see Ontario on the schedule at least 5 times through the year. I use to venture off there at least 4 times a year and sometimes every event that was raced there. In 2014 Ray Moreno choose to have a 50/55+ race rather than a 55/60+ and then a 50+ race. That left myself and the rest of the 60+ racers out in the cold. Such was the dynamic of categories within our district this year.

French bulldog taking in the event.
Your in...your out... maybe next year we will be in again. There is talk that for a race to get Socal points the event will have to include all categories that get Socal points. In any event I hadn't been to Ontario since last August when a cat 5 rider took myself and David Lang down 3 weeks before I was going to do the national championship. Broken collarbone so that was out. Funny how I didn't even think about that when I got to the venue this year. It was warming up fast as it always does during the summer in Ontario. A lot of small talk before the race. We didn't have to do any heavy lifting this year as far as lobbying. Last year the 55s and 60s were to race together and be scored separately but the racers rallied. We got Eric Smith to allow us to use the same time space and still race separately. The 60s just started a few minutes after the 55s. No big deal but separate races. Why we can't do that at other times is beyond me. Small fields would make separate fields awkward and passing one group would make for less than challenging circumstances but this year the field sizes were pretty close. 35 for 55 and 27 for 60. Plus the 60s kicked butt on the 55s as far as average speed. I don't understand this but it was true this year.
The fields lined up this year with that eager anticipation and anxiety sitting in every racer. The 55s were off 1st at 8: 20 am on June 21st, 2014. One odd note was that the 2013 champions didn't enter this years event. I don't know why but no defending champions. There are many new 60s this year as most of you know so the 60+ category was loaded with lot of really good riders and this years race proved that.
Pretty min pin at the venue. He was
 with a group that was cheering for the Mexican national soccer team. They got real excited when Mexico scored the 1st goal against the Netherlands. The goal wasn't enough for the Mexican team but John Roest was very happy since he is from Holland. A big fan of their soccer team!
The 60s started like we should have about 2 minutes after the 55s. The early pace was brisk but not killer. Dale Luedtke didn't do an early flyer like we had been seeing him do. This was a championship race so he probably decided to hold some chestnuts back for later in the race. There were a few quick moves that were covered. No big deal. There was one move of a few riders that included Mike Birditt. I was on Rick Swanson and he created a gap so I didn't wait for anybody behind me to jump across the gap. I just went. Of course everyone else was on my wheel. I could see when I got close to the small group that they were looking at one another waiting for someone else to pull the group to the promised land. I got close and free wheeled and someone countered but not really hard. I was a little gassed but got with the program. There was no major slowing at any time during the race. It was lively. Harder than in 2013.
At some point after this Mr. John Roest went off the front. This is John's speciality. John is strong and loves to try to start a break or even try and hold everyone else off. John hasn't raced since LA Circuit when a SBW rider trying to look behind himself moved off line and into John. John crashed and hasn't raced since then. You wouldn't know he hadn't raced because he looked really strong on this day.
John got about 100 meters out in front of everyone. John rides for Swami's and everyone knows Swami's is loaded in this category. The strongest 60+ squad in the country without a doubt. They were the big favorite to win the championship in Ontario.
What happened next is rather interesting and this is why you have to play the game because you never know what exactly is going to happen. Rick Lilliberg decided to take a flyer himself and see if he could reach "Big John". He did get there. Rick is riding really well this year at 67. Before the race my teammate Monty Pettus told me if the race came down to a field sprint that Rick would help Paramount get to the front. I was taken back because Rick is riding really well and he could do quite well on his own. I told Monty that I was surprised but if it came down to that, I would get on Rick's wheel and Monty could follow me and we could see where that would take us. Scratch that. Rick was going to try to turn things upset down with this move and make hard decisions for the Swami's team.
Rick sat on John for a bit to catch his breath after the effort to get up to John. After that they traded pulls and were going quickly. A number of riders started to chase including Reid Moore. Monty Pettus put in a really hard effort. Swami's put up a major block. They were going all in with John Roest vs Rick Lilliberg. Maybe they should have kept them a little closer or maybe they were monitoring the distance the break group got away. The breakers were all in and really going for it. Both are strong and took near max pulls.
2/3s into the race Mike Birditt decided to make a solo effort to get across the gap. Mike is riding so well I am never surprised at what Mike can do. Mike got over half way to the twosome and ran out of gas. I think John should have been a little more aware of what was happening behind him and made Rick do all the pulling while Mike was trying to come aboard. When I saw Mike slow a bit and look around, I was surprised but knew he had thrown in the towel. Mike came back toward the group. Monty Pettus thought about teaming with Mike and trying to get there with the 2 of them and they might have made it but they were tentative. Kal Szkalak also tried to bridge the gap in short order with a big effort but also ran out of gas. That was the last I saw Kal.
We got within 5 laps to go and even though Mike and Monty weren't going to catch the break group, they were still away from the group by a short distance. Ricky Shorts made short work of this. We were all back together with our tongues hanging out and John Roest and Rick Lilliberg were going to decide who was the champion. "Big John" went to the whip the last 2 laps. He wasn't sure they were going to stay away plus the fact that John only knows one way to ride. All out! He is like the 2nd coming of Hylton Murphy. Hylton only knew one way to ride and that was all out. Teammates would tell him to hold back at the start. Save your strength for later. Hylton would agree. Yup! That's what Hylton was going to do. Yeah right. When the gun went off, Hylton was off. Full chortle. All in! Hylton couldn't help himself. LOL! John rides in a similar manner.
John also figured that he would try and ride Rick off his wheel with his strength. It almost worked. John was going good but Rick hung on and when they got to the last corner John was pulling 100%. John gave it everything he had but Rick came around at the end and won by a bike length. Rick Lilliberg won the 60+ category when he turned 60 at the Paramount race for the championship in 2007. 7 years later Rick does it again. I say that is real good riding and quite an achievement. Rick didn't even race for a couple of those years in there and when he did come back he didn't get much in the way of results. Can't say that on this day.
2007 60+ championship podium. Fleming 2, Lilliberg 1 and McKee 3.
The rest of the riders weren't that far behind but were behind. Rick Swanson took the last lap most of the way. Rick looked strong but was riding in support. The one right turn came up and Reid Moore took over. Not sure what Reid was thinking here. Maybe he thought Kal was somewhere around. He wasn't. Reid took the group  past the next left. The pace was fast. Monty was right behind Reid and when Reid peeled off Monty was a little surprised and wasn't sure what to do. He decided to hold to a fast pace vs trying to go for it from there or trying to drop back. We came to the last corner lined up. Monty and 3 Swami's guys. Dale, Mike Marotta and Mike Birditt. I was right behind Mike Birditt. When the 3 Swami's riders went to the whip, Monty threw in the towel. I was out of gas and couldn't stay near Birditt. I just tried to limp in to the finish. Mike Birditt rolled across for 3rd followed in by Dale Luedtke and Mike Marotta. Leo Longo, Howard Miller and Wayne Rosenkrantz came by me and finished in that order 6, 7 and 8. The average speed of the pack was a robust 25.5 mph while the breakers averaged over 26. The breakers got close to the 55s so they weren't even going as fast as the 60s. Amazing actually! This tells you how lively the 60+ race was.
In the 55+ race Mark Hoffenberg was planning to hang in the pack and save energy for the 50+ race. He wanted to be able to help his teammate Robert Swigart. When the group came to the last lap, the Rokform team came to the front and Henry Schnepf gave Mark an excellent lead out. Mark doesn't need much help since he is so fast anyway. Mark was 1st, Brad Jones was 2nd and Mike Okano was 3rd.
55+ podium- Brad Jones 2, Mark Hoffenberg 1 & Mike Okano 3.

60+ podium- Roest 2, Lilliberg 1 & Birditt 3.
It was a good day of racing and the turnout was good. Not sure why so many turn out for this race and few others. We wouldn't have these categories unless racers supported them more than a few times a year. Congratulations to the two winners and all the podiums placers. Nice Going! That's all for now! Train hard and race safe!