Gateway Cup (St Louis)
Coming off the back of a state championship weekend, where Philip and Taylor both took home their respective category jerseys the team was looking to show their strengths in a more national field.
We were initially scheduled to race at 6pm but a small storm moving through cancelled the race before us and moved ours back an hour. This led to a fully dark and very rainy race. There’s something very interesting about dark, slippy races. On one hand with rim brakes and carbon wheels you have little to no braking, there are parts of the course which are pitch black, maybe something there, maybe not, on the other hand, the whole field is in the same boat. So when no one can brake through a corner it tends to keep the pace pretty smooth for the most part.
For about 50 minutes the race was wild. Staring at a rear wheel, just trying to stay upright and eating a lot of street water. The guys all worked hard staying together for the most part, tough enough in any race but when it’s nighttime it’s a whole different thing.
With two laps to go we were looking and feeling good. We had a plan to work for either myself or Philip F. Both favouring the flatter and more sprint orientated course.
However, rolling though the start/finish a guy on the left of the field clipped bars and swept across the road. Taking out most of the field and all of Team Mektrax with it. That was it. Day 1 over and done.
Feeling slightly frustrated from the day before we rolled up to Day 2 feeling ready and hungry for a result. An earlier start time meant daylight with perfect sunny conditions. The course was a wide open four corner crit suiting the two heavier sprinters again. This promised to be the fastest day by far.
Over the 55 miles raced we averaged 28.6mph. The uphill drag seeming irrelevant due to the sheer speed of the group. Throughout the race we tried to establish a break, covered attacks that looked dangerous and most importantly just show our team strength. However, these events are never simple.
Somewhere within the first 20 minutes I remember coming around corner 4 to see half the field lined up on the left in the wheel pit. Clearly a crash had happened and I was not aware of it. I glanced over to see if I saw any burnt orange jerseys but it was a blur. A couple laps went by and I found Philip in the field. His elbow and hip were bloody but he seemed okay. We spoke and he asked if he had a flat back tire which he did. Now we were down to three riders.
The rest of the race was relatively simple. Fast corners and even faster straights. The 35mph finish and a pack sprint for 28th. Epic.
Today promised to be the most fun. Set in the Italian district of St. Louis with tight streets and sharp corners the atmosphere was sure to be loud. Upon arrival it seemed like a block party. Everyone was out in their driveways grilling and drinking.
The course was another simple four corner criterium with two long straights and a big uphill before corner 3. From the go it was fast and sketchy, with everyone break checking into the corners and barely holding their line. However for the most part it was feeling pretty safe.
The four of us floated around the middle of the pack occasionally moving up to feel the group out.
With one to go the field was moving incredibly fast and with that becoming more and more dangerous. On the first corner of the last lap one guy overshot it and took himself out to my right. Immediately after that on the second corner a guy slid out right in-front of Elliott almost taking him down but for sure taking him out of contention. I was sitting somewhere around 15-20th in the back straight feeling great to contest the fast downhill sprint to the finish.
On the third corner of the last lap the field bunched up wide and a crossing of wheels took down five of us on the outside. I hit the fence hard and immediately knew I was out of this one. Both Philips contested the pack sprint and finished strong. I casually rolled across the line in last place.
The morning of day four Philip R woke up with a cold. Suspected to have come from the first days rainy race. With very little sleep that night he moved into full support mode for the rest of us. Not that he hadn’t already cooked and kept us fuelled all weekend.
Over breakfast we tried to think of a plan but kept coming back to the same idea. The field is strong and very sketchy at times therefore hard for us to execute a plan. So the plan was simple, give everything, empty the tank since it’s the last day.
On today’s menu was a 10 corner criterium with a tight chicane and fast last two corners. Based on the past three days we realised that a break was very unlikely to stick. The pack was simply too motivated to not let anything go.
So we decided to tail-gun the race for the first 40mins. Tail-gunning means to sit on the back or near the back and simply allow a gap to open up in front of you before the corners by easing up on the pedals. Then while everyone in front of you hits their brakes you simply smoothly flow through the corner not losing any speed and rejoin the back wheel of the pack. It’s an incredibly easy way to stay on the back and save energy.
With maybe 20 mins left I put in a dig up one of the long straights to test the pace of the field and see how quickly I could move to the front. It was surprisingly effective moving into the top 10 very quickly. I made my way back and relaxed knowing with about two to go I would do it again. The laps were long maybe about 2miles, double a normal crit. So I waited a little longer and moved up with one to go. Sitting around 8th wheel.
At this point it was hectic and I had no idea where Philip and Elliott were. On the back corner about a mile and 7 corners from the finish I made a quick decision to attack. Thinking I’d rather get caught and popped than field sprint with this large group.
I immediately got a good gap and caught two guys off the front. Sat on their wheel for a moment and then attacked around them with two corners left. I think from pure excitement of being in first place with two corners to go I took terrible lines through both and lost a lot of speed on the finishing straight. One of the guys from the two man break caught and passed me but I rolled across in a very happy second place with support man Philip screaming and going crazy!
I like to think that overall the weekend was a success. The field we were up against is at a national level. Meaning the strongest Cat 2/3 from around the country were there. We wanted to show our colours and make our presence heard.
Everyday we initiated attacks, got in breaks and even brought breaks back. We fought for wheels and positions and never caused an accident. 2nd place on the last day was a beautiful cherry on top for the team and I think we’d all go back again in a heartbeat. This was the last race of the season and so that’s a wrap for road/crit racing until next year. The team now will be focusing on the upcoming track and cross season!