View from the St. Louis Arch
My teammate Sarah was out for the series, so I had planned to come down with my husband Jason and the kids, but didn't want to pull them out of school on Friday since they just started. So as per usual I was scrambling in the days before trying to get it worked out. After a last minute plea on Facebook, I ended up getting a ride down from XXX racer Erik Didriksen and his family. (thank you!!!)
Jason and kids planed to drive down on Saturday, and would go to the City Museum on Sunday, and after the race on Monday we planned on hitting the arch on the way out of town.
Thursday night was the Elaine Nekritz State Championship Scratch race at Northbrook Velodrome. This is the biggest race for women all year and if you win you get your name on a cool trophy, and it's a lot of fun. Normally I wouldn't race the track the night before heading to a four crit series, but I couldn't skip this one, and I'm glad I didn't!
Elaine Nekritz Scratch Race Podium
Friday: Tour de Lafayette
I arrived at my friend/host Marsha's house around 1 and got to rest up a bit before riding over to the race. It was an easy ride over and it helped loosen up my legs which were pretty tight from the night before. I was slightly nervous about how I would feel. The Friday race goes all day but our race started at 8:15 pm, so in the dark, with the pro men following at 9:15. They bring in big lights to illuminate portions of the course, but other parts are only lit by streetlights and quite dark. The shadows are pretty scary, and add quite an exciting dimension to the race. When the race started, I felt great! Get--a-Grip Cycles, had hooked me up with some Zipp race wheels, and they were awesome! They handled really well and added a degree of confidence. I was riding quite comfortably, but there seemed to be quite a lot of sketchiness in the field. Almost immediately there was a crash which I was caught behind. In the pit, I saw some blood on the other riders. I was fine, and wanted to keep it that way! After jumping back in, it was more of the same. The dark and the shadows made it very difficult to sense where other riders were and where they were going. At one to go I was in great position. I hit the back stretch in about 4th wheel, and then a rider ahead of me had a shifting issue. She kept it together and did not go down or take anyone out but it scared me just enough to pause and get swarmed when I should have just accelerated around it. That was the defining moment. I rode hard on the finishing stretch and finished 18th. Payout went to 25 so I was ok with that, though definitely a bit disappointed. I hadn't slept much this week so I was looking forward to getting some good rest and feeling better Saturday!
Saturday: Tour de Frances Park
Two years ago at this race on the final lap I crashed and lost a tooth. It was already a fake tooth to begin with so it wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. Today was HOT. So hot. It was hot last month during the Prairie State Series and I felt great! So I was actually looking forward to it. Although waking up today with what I could no longer deny was a migraine did not bode well for a good race. I'd had a headache since Friday but had been trying ignore it. I do get migraines and on a scale of 1 to 10 this was about a 2, but it was definitely a migraine. Going into the race, my legs felt great but my head was pretty bad, and the heat did not help things. The race was a long rectangle around a park. There was a slight uphill on the start finish side and a long slight downhill on the backside. The race was fairly animated with several attacks, and I did not really do any chasing or attacking. I just tried to maintain good position and get through it. When a two rider break got away, I sat in while the field let them dangle for a while and caught them at about 3 to go. A perfectly timed counter by the Primal team stuck and got a solo rider away. On the back stretch at 2 to go another rider attacked and seemed to get a gap. I'd planned to go early, so at 1 to go on the top of the hill I went to the front and led it out. I figured I'd be ok with being in the wind on the downhill. When we turned the second to last corner we had caught one of the riders and I was staying with the surges, and in good position. But after the final corner I quickly realized I'd used up too much energy and had nothing left for the sprint. Riders went whizzing by me and I finished in 20th place. I crossed the line and then collapsed in someone's front yard. The nice family who's yard it was poured ice water on me and I believe they may have saved my life!! I wasn't particularly happy with this race but I did the best I could and any race that I finish with all my teeth is a good race.
Sunday: Giro della Montagne
Day 3 of Gateway Cup, day 3 of migraine. It wasn't the worst migraine I'd ever had, but it was there. And I still wasn't sleeping more than a couple hours/night. Woke up this morning to the dull ache, and knew that it wasn't going to go away. I tried everything I could but really the only thing that helps is riding it out until it's done. I've raced with a low level migraine before, and know that it can be done, but it's not fun. The heat really made it worse. I thought I'd be ok today since it was just a tad cooler than yesterday. The Giro della Montagne or "the Hill" as the race is referred to, is called that because it is in the Italian neighborhood called the Hill. Very fun race, all the houses surrounding the course have parties and there is quite a crowd. There is a slight actual hill in the course, but it's not really much to make an impact. The course is another long rectangle with short sides, and the finish is on the slight downhill side. I've done well here in the past and love the fun rowdy crowd. The race started and I felt ok.... until I didn't. I wasn't actually dropped, but at about 7 laps to go, I just didn't want to be there any more so I pulled out. I think it was the right decision as I felt noticeably better ever since and I still had one more day to try for a result!
Monday: Benton Park Classic
The Benton Park Classic is one of my all time favorite courses. It's a very long course with one long straight uphill side. There's a bunch of short stretches with awesome twisty corners leading to a nice downhill section which brings you to the final two corners. When taken extremely fast you have a ton of momentum for the finish line which is midway on the uphill stretch.
I'm not really a fan of the uphill but I LOVE fast corners!!! I can get a lot of speed---even when I was in second position in the field I would find myself having to brake if I didn't want to go around.
Last year I ended up on the podium just by leading it out through the corners. Given how crappy I'd felt all weekend I wasn't sure how things were going to go, but I actually slept well the night before and woke up headache free! I still had the related neck ache feeling but it was definitely over and I knew I'd be 100% in a day or two. I went into the race committed to doing my best.
The race started and I felt fine. I loved leading through the corners and hated anytime I was not in front and couldn't fly through them. About mid race they called a $200 prime. I decided my chances were better at getting that than making it through to the podium so I went for it. I got to the front before the corner sections and took them just as fast as I could. After the first one I saw that I had a gap, and that it was growing with each corner. I pedaled hard on the downhill and flew through the final two corners. I heard later that I had a decent gap but I wanted to be sure so I still sprinted as hard as I could for the line. A bit too hard in retrospect as I had nothing left when the field went by. I had known that was a possibility but since I wasn't in contention for the overall and $200 would pay for a large chunk of my expenses for the weekend I think it was the right move for the day.
Not the greatest weekend of racing that I've ever had but even with a migraine I had a fantastic time in St. Louis. I've raced in St. Louis lots of times, but this was the first time I came down without a car, and rode to the races. What an easy, lovely city to get around in!
I guess I'll just have to come back to the Gateway Cup!!
Riding to the races