Monday, September 10, 2012

Gateway Cup

Gateway cup is an awesome event with good crowds and stiff competition. It is the last event on the Mercy Calendar for the year and the last time I will see most of my teammates until training camp 2013.  A few pro teams show up every year and this year our squad was ready to handle everything any of our competitors could throw at us.

The scary part was that the remnants of Hurricane Isaac were set to rotate over Saint Louis for the entire four day race weekend. This would mean that there was a 100% chance of rain for the first 3 days.

Given that most of our boys are pretty good at technical crits, are awesome in the rain, and all had Michelin Pro Fours strapped to their State Wheels, we weren't nervous at all, just ready.

The first two days are known for bunch sprints and that is exactly what they were. Mercy met at the front of the pack with a handfull of laps to go to lead out Zack Allison, our designated heavy-weight sprinter and all around badass. He has a number of great results in races such as Joe Martin and Collegiate National Championships this year. Unfortunately, he barely missed the podium and ended up fifth. But I swear, he's a badass...

He would prove this the next day at the Tour de Lafayette. The rain poured just before the statt but let up as we were racing. The course was starting to dry out just a bit  and our lead out train was in full force again, lining up next to Jelly Belly in the final laps. We would score a 3rd (Zack) and 4th (Shadd Smith) on the day and easily the top amateurs in the bunch.
Zack on the podium

The third day, known as "the hill" sometimes offers an opportunity for a break, but not this year. Zack was sitting 5th in the omnium and Shadd 9th, so, we could not let Zack miss any moves with GC threats in them. It was dry for every race and even the start of ours. But of course, about 30 minutes into our race the heavens opened up again and spewed water from the gulf of mexico all over the races. It's not so bad starting a crit in the rain, everyone usually has rain pressure in their tires and rides slightly more cautious. But when it is dry at the start people get ballsy and start to put more pressure in, thinking they will go faster. I, for one, along with my teammates, let quite a bit of air out and rolled around at ~75psi. (You can't win a bike race on the ground).

The race was super aggressive from the start but nothing would even get close to sticking away until the rain started. Most of the Mercy Squad was at the front and had no problem making the splits. But there was just too much horsepower left in the field and, yet again, the race would come down to a fast, downhill sprint.

The results weren't as good today as a crash happened with half a lap to go at the front of the field, and dismantling what was left of our leadout. Zack still had his own sh*t together and would end up 8th.

Benton Park was the last day and a course for those who love to suffer. Steve Tilford thinks that the course feels like an uphill headwind...the entire time. I, for one, love the course and was seeking redemption from last year. I slid out on a manhole cover with two turns to go, effectively crashing out of the break.

This year would be different, I was sure to avoid the manhole cover every single lap and would find myself in a 6 man move containing the likes of Pat Limoux (Kenda), Brian Jensen (my break away buddy from Tour of KC), Sean Mazich (Jelly Belly), Nick Chevally (Gateway Harley), and Robert White (RACC). The field started splitting almost immediately into the race. The break rolled about quickly, about 15 minutes in and would eventually be joined by Chris Kriek (another Jelly Belly). I was nervous about working in the break without Zack there and didmy best to sit on until we were absolutely gone from the field. I figured ack was just marking Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) and Isaak Howe (Kenda) who were leading overall. There were no GC riders that would screw up Zack's overall standings so I started to pull more.

Everyone was fairly civil and worked well until the last 3 laps or so. Jensen would try attacking from a distance to try and avoid a sprint at all costs. Nick countered one of Jensen's moves with about 1.5 laps to go and would stay off until the last half lap. We swallowed him up as Chris Kriek countered, he got no room to play s=and came back pretty quickly as Jensen released another haymaker. I followed his wheel but the group was pretty much in tact behind me. This was my mistake. I was stuck on front when I should have been following Mazick, the other Jelly Belly guy. When Jensen came back the group slowed down to about 15 mph with less than half a lap to go. Mazick shot out of the back of the group like a missile was strapped to his back and no one chased. That would be the race winning move.

Rob White, who I was mistakenly least concerned about attacked on the down hill going in to two corners to go (exactly where I crashed last year. Chris Kriek followed with me and Pat on his wheel. Pat countered and I was able to jump on him and follow through the last two corners and into the sprint. I wanted Pat to go for 2nd but he started to fade about 300 yards from the uphill finish line. I hesitated (not wanting to lead out Kriek and White) and figured Kriek would be the first to come around.

Rob pulled a fast one and went early all the way across the road. I was patient and stayed on Pat as he jumped on Kriek's wheel, who was closing in on Rob. Rob would hold it to the line for second and I would come around Pat, but not Kriek, for 4th. It was a good finish but I would have loved a podium (next year).

Sprint for 2nd
Mercy had an amazing weekend and raced excellently for guys who don't get paid to race their bikes...yet. Zack would end up 6th in GC (top amateur I believe).

Here is a link to the write ups from cycling news.

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