The 55+ State Criterium Championship saw more than 60 racers line up, and the field was deep with talent. Notables included world hour record holder Keith Ketterer (Breakaway from Cancer), former national champion Malcolm Hill (Breakaway from Cancer), multi-time world and national champion Kenny Fuller, (Simple Green), and the speedy sprint duo of Mike Birditt and Dale Luedke (Spy-Swamis). In our Sho-Air/Rock n Road pre race meeting, Danny Nicolette, Bob Pelkoffer and I noted that we were outnumbered by UC Cyclery with eight riders, and Velo Allegro and Spy-Swamis each with four riders. The wind was picking up so we decided to attack from the gun and try to cause a split in the field. Our strategy for the day was to establish a break that included at least two us. If the break didn’t have the right mix we would back off and reload as many times as it took.
Pelkoffer launched from the gun and Ricky Shorts went with him. Ricky refused to work despite having three teammates in the field. I launched as soon as they were caught, and Bruce Hartley (Pinnacle Racing) followed. Bruce is always attentive of the early moves. The field kept us on a short leash and brought us right back within the lap. I launched again with Fred Hoblit. This move was also caught, but I could see the field was slower to respond. The field was strung out with gaps starting to form. Teammate Danny Nichollete hitched a ride with the chasers and accelerated up to me free and clear. I was gassed from the previous attacks but latch on as he bolted up the hill between turn three and four. We established a gap, but it remained tenuous for a couple of laps.
I expected a small group to bridge across the gap but only Michael Meuller (UC Cyclery) made the juncture; a superb move on Mike’s part. How did he get across without attracting the attention of either of the big guns from BfC (Breakaway from Cancer)? I don’t know, but with three in the break, and seven less chasers in the peloton, and Pelkoffer monitoring the chase efforts, our lead grew and the pack was out of site. With two against one, Danny and I agree not to attack Mike in order to gain cooperation for the success of the breakaway.
With five laps to go, I expected to see a chase group forming behind, but instead, I saw Ketterer trying to bridge across solo. He was halfway across the gap. Regardless if he made it or not, I realized this is good for us, as the firepower is now dissipated in the field. I twisted the throttle and the gap opened back up and we kept the pressure on until the bell lap.
I expected Mike to jump on the hill just after turn three on the final lap, and was prepared for that move, but he didn’t. As the pace slowed slightly, I jumped and opened the gap for the win. Mike sat on Danny and forced him to lead out the sprint for second. Danny, a seasoned track rider was up for the task and controlled the pace until 150 meters and grabbed the sprint for second. Mike finished out the podium spots. Ketterer held on for fourth, and Mike Birditt handily took the field sprint for fifth. A good day for Sho-Air Rock n Road!