27th Annual Roger Millikan Criterium
by Charon Smith (Surf City Cyclery)
“The Fast and the Furious” was the name of the game yesterday in the 35+ race. We averaged a speed of 28.5 mph–let’s round it up to 29. For those of you who do not race, that is fast and means the race was full of attacks. The field was sold out and everyone who was someone in SoCal was there and brought his A-game for sure. It was not a day for messing around. It felt like a national race; the atmosphere was awesome, tents were lined up, the crowd was great, and the racers meant business.
This race meant a lot more to me and the rest of the SCC/Sterling BMW family. This time last year we lost our awesome teammate Todd Schooler, so we were racing in honor of him and wanted to do well for our fallen soldier. Earlier during the week, Todd’s son Robert contacted me and said he wanted to come out, but due to work he did not make it. Nonetheless, we marched on and had our team meeting, which was led by Mark Scott. He is the best at laying out a race plan and they normally work. He told us, “look let’s have fun. We have bodies in the field, so let’s race as one. The team is stronger when we function as a whole versus someone trying to be a hero or control the race on his own.”
Prior to going to the starting line, we held hands like we do before each race, allowing the positive energy to flow amongst us, and said a prayer for Todd.
As the race got underway it was full-gas from the start. We sent off a couple of moves, along with Time Velo Sport and their two national champs Mike Easter and Rudy N. Those men are some studs, that’s all I have to say. Much respect. Of course, the ever-present MRI let their presence be known by hitting the field and sending off guys in pairs like they normally do. But after racing them week in, week out, we’ve learned what we all like to do so the SCC/Sterling BMW crew was ready for everything and had bodies to cover each and every move. My job was to surf and follow wheels and if something looked shaky I was given the green light to join in the party. The team was so focused I did not get a chance to play so much.
I did see some dirty things going on in the race by a guy who is a proven winner. I did not understand why he was pushing guys with his hands off the bars, but I took note and said to myself, ‘okay today is a day not to mess around. Stay alert and mentally shift into another gear. It’s bike racing, so you have to expect anything.’
As we got deeper into the race, I knew it would come down to a field sprint. Our big motors kept the pace steady and everything in check. The big show Kenny “the Gambler” Rogers took a nice pull once lap cards went up. I thought, ‘perfect. Nothing is getting away with him going at that pace.’
With 3 laps to go, me and my partner in crime John Wike were side-by-side. I told him, “I am here, I am here. Just stay steady and smooth.” He did, but he is crazy on two wheels so you have to watch him. I am a little crazy too, so it was all good. Going into the last lap, Rob “Special K” gave a go and checked to see if me and Wike were there like he always does. So awesome! He has been perfect for the team and then some! After his work was done
it was me, Wike, Easter, and Phil from MRI. At that point I was licking my chops because Wike’s a closer and he would drop me off perfectly. Wike kicked and came out the saddle. I waited a second, then, BOOM! I kicked a couple of times and sealed the deal for win number 4. John Wike held on for second. First and second place for the SCC/Sterling BMW family on a big day of racing with everyone there!
Awesome racing by everyone. Let’s continue to race smart, race hard, and respect one another while in competition.
Thanks to the staff of Roger Millikan for putting on an awesome, awesome race. Also, thank you to Cycling Illustrated for this platform; you guys are alright with me.