Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Two Stark Velo Members Podium at the National Senior Games

Write-up by: Bill Flecher

The National Senior Games are held every other year at a host city. This year Cleveland was selected as the host city.

Over 11,000 senior athletes ages 50 and up competed in variety of events including cycling.

To get to the National Senior Games one needs to qualify the prior year by placing in the top four places in their State Senior Games. Last summer Joe Huth, Marshall Lininger and I (Bill Flecher) all qualified at the Ohio Senior Games.

The fields in the National Senior Games this year were not a bunch of wanna-be racers! There might have been 10 or so, but many guys had State Champion Stripes on their sleeves and I even saw World Champion Stripes on one guy in my race (not the winner).

The fields in our races were stacked and were pretty large with over 50 riders in both the 55-59 race and my 60-64 race. On Saturday we raced 40K road races and on Sunday the races were 20K. The start/finish line was on Lakeside Ave in front of the new convention center. The bulk of the race course was on the Shoreway with 180 degree turns marked by traffic cones (just like the entry gate at the Cemetery Crit!).

In my race on Saturday right off the bat one guy attacked and pulled 4 or 5 guys with him and I tried to bridge up for a good 1/2 mile then once back on he attacked again and a group of about 20 got away and I was done. I slowed and recovered enough to latch onto other guys who could not go with the initial surge. As we rode we picked up more guys and at the end I out-sprinted them and ended up 15th. The guy who caused all the chaos is a former Canadian Olympic racer who rode away from my race and past the 55-59 group race too.

Joe Huth was in the 55-59 race and took 3rd in his race. One guy got off with a mile to go and stayed away and Joe was 2nd in the field sprint. During our Saturday races it was windy and raining the whole time.

During Saturday's race Marshall Lininger swung wide at the 180 degree turn to start the third lap and was pushed out into the jersey wall, coming to a near stop rather than meet the concrete! Even from the middle of the pack this set him and two other guys off the back as the peloton used the slight decent to power into the next climb. There was no way they were catching up to the peloton which was traveling 30-plus miles an hour.

Sunday was the 20K races and it was sunny and less windy. In my race I planned to sit in and let others be the hero. We had a nice and controlled pace until with a little more than a-half lap to go the beast from Florida exploded again off the front. This time only two guys went with him and one never caught the the two, and the second guy lasted about one quarter of a mile before he lost the wheel. At that point it was a race for second. The pack stayed together with a few weak attempts to get away. I put myself in a good place coming off the freeway onto the hill on East 9th Street being around seventh place. Going up the hill I passed a couple guys but didn't grab the wheel I needed for the finish straight. The two guys I was following up the hill blew up and three riders got onto the final 300 meters about 20 meters ahead of me riding into the wind. My good luck was they were all side by side with 250 meters to go and I was able to sprint past two but needed another 20 meters to get the Silver.

In Joe's race I understand that the pack stayed together with no breaks until the end. It came down to a field sprint for the win with Joe Huth and Jeff Kompa having a gap on the field at the top of the hill leading onto the finish straight. Joe got the Silver and Jeff won Gold. Marshall raced well on Sunday and was riding comfortably in the field until one mile to go when his shifter broke at the top of the bridge hill and he only could use the seventeenth gear in the rear when the pack lit it up going down the hill to the exit.

Phil Martin who has moved to Florida represented Stark Velo in the 70+ race. I don't believe Phil placed in either race.