This past weekend was the Gateway Cup which is a long standing event in St Louis and its very fine neighborhoods. The outlook for the event was particularly gloomy due to the fact the Hurricane Issac was tracking north and heading right for for us all weekend. I was picked up on Friday morning by my longtime friend and regular race road trip partner Shawn Delk along with Eric Blankenship and new Cat 2 who races for Rhythm Racing out of Chicago. We all knew that we were going to be looking at some wet racing and were mentally prepared for the onslaught of the weather. We got to the race at about 445 pm with plenty of time for Shawn to get ready to get wet and with tons of time for me and Eric to discuss the history of the race and what the strategy was for the evening. We did a recon of the course and I showed him the lines through the corners and then we proceeded to grab some coffee at Park Avenue Coffee to warm up and get out of the rain. We walked up to the counter and Eric who must be an informed coffee drinker ordered something that wasn't even on the menu, which resembles my teammate Kyle Selph who is a fine coffee connoisseur himself. I looked at the menu for a few minutes and struggled through my order. As we drew closer to race time we kitted up and warmed up just east of the course where I've warmed up every year for what feels like forever. The race kicked off and there really isn't much to say about it. It was way faster than any other race that I've done in the rain at 28mph/avg and there weren't a lot of crashes until 5 laps to go when i was caught up in a big crash with about 20 other guys which effectively ended my race due to free laps being expired. Eric had pulled out at about 9 laps to go having slid his rear wheel through a few corners and somewhat losing his nerve. Plus getting yelled at by his peers around him didn't help. Like I said though, He is a new Cat 2 and racing in that field in the rain is a little intimidating.
DAY 2 FRANCIS PARK
We woke up in the morning with the same expectations for the weather as we had for the night before but regardless we came here to race and racing is what we were going to do. Our hosts Scotty Courtois and his female companion Sam bought us dinner the night before and then woke up to make us breakfast this morning. Every breakfast is the house is normally accompanied by bacon so Scotty cooked about 5lbs of it along with some eggs and some banana bread that Sam made before we came down. Scotty had bought 5 cases of bottled water due to the fact that we drink an exorbitant amount trying to stay hydrated through 4 days of racing. Eric "Coffee Guy" Blankenship caught Scotty trying to make coffee and quickly stopped and corrected him on how to make a pot of coffee for cyclists. That is when Scotty saddled Eric with a few new names...Scotty says "Eric from now on I'm going to call you Clark" "Or Elroy" and that is pretty much what he answered to the rest of the weekend. We headed out for the race and the sky wasnt too bad or too great. Shawn had a dry race but was taken out in a crash with a few laps to go and still managed to catch back on but having burnt most of his matches catching up a good finish wasnt in the cards today. The womens race got poured on and so we started on very wet tarmac which eventually dried out by the end of the race with a few intermittent laps of the sun shining through the trees. Elroy went of the front with a couple moves and got a taste of what is was like up there. I told him to stick with me in the closing laps but the lines i take through the field are pretty aggressive and he couldn't hold my wheel. I felt exceedingly great and it showed in my result which was 13th. I really feel that I should have been way more active on the last lap but I got too happy with where I was and settled. Damn. My Bad. I'm very bittersweet about this.
DAY 3 GIRO DELLA MONTAGNA
I have a love affair with this race. The neighborhood is amazing and is predominantly Italian due to most of the real estate market going through the local church and most people only selling to friends and family. The course is a long rectangle with almost no flat surface meaning its all up or down. It is extremely important to get a good spot on the line for this race because its hard to move up sometimes. I tell this to Clark so he knows what he has to do. Clark is supercharged for this event after having mediocre results the last 2 days and is ready to put in some work. We get a good spot on the line and the race is off. We are doing the dance and going with the flow when "Hello Mother Nature" the rain starts to fall. I'm currently located in the top 30 and I have no clue where Elroy is. We go through a few more laps and then disaster strikes. CRASH right in front of me in turn 2. I get through it just fine having to close a gap to get back on but the field is split. I didn't look back but I'm guessing a lot of people fell after I got through. There were what appeared to be dozens of guys in the pit trying to get back in the race. I don't know for sure but the crash couldnt have been that big. My thoughts are that the wheel pit official didnt feel like doing his job and let everyone back into the race. There were dozens of people getting back in for the next several laps. Complete bullshit if you ask me. You got caught behind a wreck so you come in for a free lap. We had the field whittled down to 35ish people and the stupid official bumped that # back up to over 100 in a few laps...If you went down then cool get back in. If you didn't then oh well F@#K OFF...A few laps later probably due to the huge influx of guys getting back in the race i get caught in a crash...Assholes...I come in for a free lap then get back out and move up steadily for the closing laps. DING DING DING DING DING....1 LAP TO GO...I come through in 8th spot almost directly behind the 6 man lead out of the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling team and I am pumped...As we make our way up the hill on the backside of the course the swarm come from both sides because the pace wasnt high enough and nearly get taken out again by some guy probably going cross-eyed from oxygen deprivation...Great just my luck. I have to hit the brakes and get around the idiot now laying on the ground and jump back in a try to make the best of it. 20th and last $ spot...Oh well once again I should have been more aggressive and been the one jamming it up the backside. Damn. More bittersweet. Highlight of the day goes to Shawn though for getting 10th in his race...Aw yeah...
DAY 4 BENTON PARK CLASSIC
Today was definitely not my day. This race is crazy hard and the break pretty much goes on the first 2-3 laps. I tell Elroy this as he has all the right stuff that I don't for riding in a break in this race. He lines up practically on the front row and the race is off. A few laps in I get a flat going through a corner and kept it up. Lucky. I walk to the wheel pit and get a wheel and jump back in for a few laps and then proceed to pull out. The tinge of soreness in my legs said "NO GO" so I cheered on Clark the rest of the race. He finished this race in which many people just like me pulled, dropped or crashed out. He told me his power #'s which were crazy and so I felt even better about not torturing myself. Elroy drove all the way home and now it looks like road season is over. Damn. Bittersweet.
This is me before pulling out...
Here is Eric "Elroy Clark" Blankenship keeping it locked down