The Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium, formally known as the Valentines Day Massacre Criterium, used to be the season opener for most riders and took place in mid February around Valentines Day, as it does now. In recent years, the SoCal race season has started earlier and earlier each year, so many riders have been able to get several races in there legs already and gain some fitness.
The Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium is named in honor of Roger Millikan who holds special place in SoCal’s racing history. Roger and his wife Lynn, along with their children, used to run the Eldorado Criterium Training Series in the early 90’s in Long Beach on Tuesday nights. We spent many years driving all the way to Long Beach to enjoy the great series that Roger and his family put on and they always made it fun. In addition, Roger was a key figure in the Velo Avanti Club. Sadly, Roger passed away from cancer a few years back and will always be missed and remembered and the Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium is a nice way to honor him each year.
This year’s addition of the Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium was moved to the old course from the more technical and challenging course that they’ve had from the past years. The weather was cold from the storm that came in late in the week, so the riders had to wear a little more extra clothing than the usual jersey and shorts.
As mentioned, the race was known as the Valentines Day Massacre in the past and for a good reason due to the crashes that tend to happen. The course was a big rectangle with a slight rise on the west side of the course and slight decline on the east side of the course with an off camber first turn and somewhat narrow second turn opening up to a wide 3-4 lanes with the last two turns narrowing down into the wide finishing straight which makes for a long sprint.
Photos © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com
The Pro 1/2 race got underway with cloudy skies hanging over most of the race. The field started out with a 100 plus riders ready to get to the racing. The pace felt tolerable in the first few laps and then the attacks started to happen and the field would get strung out, but then would lose it’s steam and then it would get bunched up usually in the corners. This would lead to nothing good, just crashes and early season carnage.
The teams that had overwhelming numbers were Cash Call and the MRI Masters Team who paired up with MRI U-23 Team. Most other teams would have 4-6 guys versus the 10-15 man teams. The attacks were coming left and right from the teams with the numbers. But nothing was really opening space from the field as breaks would gain 5 to 10 seconds up on the pack and then it would all come back together within a lap. So, with the bigger teams not really opening up the gaps and taking control it was looking like it was going to come down to a mass and chaotic field sprint. Some of the larger teams put their riders on the front, but it didn’t really get strung out enough to make it a safe and controlled sprint situation.
As the riders rounded the last corner it was CashCall leading out and finishing off the sprint with a 1st and 2nd, with Fabrizio Von Nacher taking the win followed by Justin Williams. Considering this team has the some of the biggest numbers and budget, this is exactly how it should be.
Race Report by Frank Sarate / SoCalCycling.com