Tuesday, September 7, 2010

THF Realty Gateway Cup (2010 - cat 3's!)

Driving back from St. Louis I was grinning ear to ear and blowing kisses to my wife. She had supported me through a hectic end of the road season, and it was quite a fun way to close it out. I’ll spare all of the gory detail that I’ve been dishing out in these race reports, and instead hit the highlights.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – Lafayette Square (Day 1)

The cat 3’s went off at dusk, and finished in darkness. To say it was scary is an understatement. It was stoopid. Stoopid fun, but stoopid. The course was a flat box with hundreds of fans along the outside - great atmosphere – just in need of some more light!

Bryan from Sound Pony countered a move on the last lap and we let him get a gap. He won by a good 5 bike lengths. I took 2nd in the field sprint for my first (legit) cat 3 podium. I was very happy with the result.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – St. Louis Hills (Day 2)

Another wide open 4 corner crit, this one with a little rise after the start/finish and the corresponding drop on the backside. Breaks were attempted but none succeeded. The peloton’s penchant for entering corners 9 abreast continued. I think this race equaled the scary factor of Lafayette Square solely because in the dark, one was ignorant of much of the foolishness going on. In the daylight however, it was harrowing.

I spent too much time on the front (tried a couple breaks) and did not put myself in proper position at the end. Coming into the final corner a rider on the inside slid out and tagged my rear wheel on his tangential journey to the curb. I stayed up and still sprinted for 12th (payout was to 15), so I was glad to get money even if it wasn’t as stellar as the day before. I do believe there were 6 crashes in the last 8 corners of the race. We were trapped in a b-list horror flick: “Whew, we survived that chainsaw guy!” (Ominous music…) “Ah, there’s a guy in a hockey mask!”  You get the idea.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – Giro della Montagna, a.k.a. The Hill (Day 3)

This course was pretty cool and felt as european as any race I’ve participated in so far. The Italian neighborhood has been hosting this shindig for 25 years now, and there was plenty of beer, wine, and gelato floating around the place. Very good times.

The rectangle went up a small rise, 1 block over, then back down and around. The 3’s continued to log jam the corners on the inside, I’m pretty sure I actually heard an accordian playing throughout the race. The hill was pretty tough as we had a headwind on it, so we would usually be strung out for 3/4 ths of it, but the front rider(s) would tire and the bunch/swarm/cluster would begin.

With 3 to go, Ryan (Soundpony) attacked in a bid to stay away. Given that his teamate beat us all with the same schtick (and Ryan himself had finished 2nd and 5th previously during the weekend), nobody was letting him go. The result though was that the field was strung out, which was perfect for that point in the race for me to keep a top 20 position. In the melee to stay at the front, the wheel I was on was slowing as the pack surged up the left side. Homeboy in front of me was letting a gap open and there was about 3/4ths of a handlebar open to his left, so I snuck my bars in there and pushed the guy right with my forearm on his hip. I couldn’t believe I did it, and that at speed. It was a highlight of the weekend.

Coming around the final corner, Nick Hand said I was sitting in 30th position. I think I may have been a little farther forward, but regardless, with 500 meters to go, it was a long sprint to the line. I opened it up next to Nick Ramirez (Burnham) and moved up the right side passing a lot of people with flames coming off them. There was room on the left side and guys were boxed in up the middle, so I changed lines and powered along the barriers, throwing at the line. I hit 40.9 mph in the process, and nabbed 6th place by millimeters. As I went through the start finish I could tell I was going much faster than most of the guys at that point and I heard the announcer exclaim something as I came through – I have to think it was his surprise at the scorching finish. ;)
As always the lesson for this lazy sprinter is to move up! While I’m pleased with another top 10, I had more coulda-woulda-shoulda as far as positioning entering the sprint.

THF Realty Gateway Cup – Benton Park (Day 4)

Day 4. At this point, I’m pretty tired. The kids are tired. The wife is tired. But at Gateway, they saved the best for last, a big (1.7 mi) figure ‘8’ with a chicane tossed in on one of the legs - by far the best course although NOT the best pavement. It was the demilitarized zone between the Koreas! Every turn had potholes galore. Here’s just one example:

TURN 1: cresting a little rise, the ideal line for this 2 lane left hander was up the right side, which was obscured by a 1.5x4 foot patch of cut pavement that was filled in with GRAVEL. There was a manhole at the apex of the turn, but before you got there you had to slice across through 2 “lumps” in the pavement (the variety that are caused by heavy trucks driving in the same ruts thousands of times). It was rear wheel skippin heaven.
Oh, and if you botched any of the 10 turns per lap, you were looking at a 9 inch cement curb in all but a few locations. It was harry, but fun.
Everyone was thinking the same thing: great course, tired legs, lots of turns – maybe a break will stick today? Well, many tried and only one succeeded. I think I had my head down the entire first 35 minutes. The group was nice and strung out which meant the turns were safer and faster, while I assume attacks were going off the front. I sat in about 1/3 of the way back, looking up to spy Newt (Ritte Racing), Nick (Burnham), and Bry-Ry the Soundponys in the 10-15 range, basically, where I should have been.

On the last lap I was moving up from the 20’s or 30’s and took the last corner nice and hot. Trey (Dogfish) – the Mavic Xellium shod 200+lb sprinter – opened a gap on me at the start of the sprint and I knew I was done. That guy goes fast on flat/downhill sectors! I dug deep anyway and passed several folks up the right side, throwing at the line for 10th. I thought I had 8th but it was too little too late.

I still need to move up! I know how, it’s just getting myself to burn the matches at that point that is hard. That tipping point of pushing oneself into the red, yet not blowing up is a fine art. The powertap doesn’t really help in those situations as the adrenaline is flowing and you push through the limits you thought you had in training. I haven’t had a look at the tap data just yet, but I’m excited to see what the legs put out in this super fun weekend of racing. No doubt these will be early season benchmarks for 2011.


With the road season now officially shut down, I’m excited about coaching soccer (it’s in full swing!) and hopeful I’ll make it out to a CX race or 2. With my strong finish to the season, I’m only more excited about next year. Equally great is how Nick Hand and Mike Rickey raced this weekend. Always in the mix, at the front, animating the races and mixing it up in the sprints – they are going to be strong 3’s. I think we’ll have a pretty good squad that will function well as a team.

One final note – with all the racing in the past month (and training!) I’ve been pretty hard on my body and equipment. I’ve been using Enzo’s ButtonHole Chamois Cream during this end of the season run (since the Glencoe Grand Prix) and I do not have a single saddle sore, etc. I like that a lot.

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