20 Sep Gateway Cup 2011 – Enzo’s Race Report
Final Road Race Report
2011 Gateway Cup
I did not have this series on my radar until late in the season. The plan was to take a few weeks off, then start ramping up for a long cyclocross campaign. Revisiting the CX calendar and my current level of fitness, doing Gateway Cup series made sense. I would follow it up with a nice rest, coming into the cross season with a lower level of fitness. While this may be frustrating, I would grin and bear my slower self, looking further down the CX road for peak performances.
On tap: a quick stop at Enzo’s headquarters and driving to St.Louis by 11:00. The Midwest had been hit by a crazy heat wave making the temps one hour before race time 103 F. Day one was a flat 4 corner course on wide roads, so advancing to the front of the pack was easy for anyone at any time. We were to race 40 minutes+ 5 laps, so about 50 minutes total. The start of the race was fast, this lasted close to 30 minutes when it seemed the combination of pace and heat was getting to people. I bridged up to a Big Shark attacker but the field would have no part of that. Then a counter which I also jumped on, this move did not last either.
2 more attackers rolled away, clearly the pack was tired. I watched this time as one more rider crossed the gap, and that was the end of the race. It is always fun racing in events where you do not know the players, it makes winning much more difficult. With 9 laps to go, I slide to the back waiting for a serious chase effort, or a field sprint. Field sprint it is, as I hop on the Mike Inglis, the perfect lead out train. Mike is a huge man who is from Colorado, and has a good turn of speed. He would be leading out his teammate Butch who said, “Go to Mike”. The problem for them was Butch lost the wheel, as I was two wheels back from big Mike. I waited until 100 meters to go, nailing the gas just hard enough to take the sprint by 1 bike length. Not too bad, 4th after a 5 hour drive in 103 F temps.
Day two was an awesome 4 corner course with an uphill finish. The hill was about 3% grade, maybe 600 meters in length, with the finish line about 250 meters from the last corner. Now I have an idea which guys are dangerous, which is a boost in my confidence. My legs feel Ok and I am in a number of early moves, none of which stick. I move to the back for the middle part of the race, watching the front like a hawk hunting for dinner. 5 laps to go and I see Mark Southard, a past Trek/VW Pro MTB racer, attack with a Big Shark rider, quickly gaining 10 seconds. Now the pack is frenzied spitting people out the back in desperate chase. I punch a few tickets, about half way across finishing the bridge solo to the four leaders. We put in three hard laps and gain about 40 seconds, wow. I am laughing because the Big Shark rider is telling us we are being caught, and is pulling at 29 mph. I am thinking this is a great chance for a W, but I need to save a little for the next two days, since I’m no spring chicken. With one lap to go they drill the downhill hard and a gap opens. The guy that opened the gap is a great racer and I have never seen him suffering this badly. I make it back to the group between turns 3-4 sitting last wheel quietly. The sprint begins after turn 4, sitting 3rd wheel until 100m then taking the win by a bike length. Sweet, a W which pays well for a masters race, and a few extra omnium points. It turns out that Mark Southard finished 2nd, which ties us in the overall points. I find the leaders jersey by winning that sprint.
Day three I was not feeling well during my warm up. I am sure it was lack of sleep, which I will talk about later. This was a little different course, also having long up and downhill sections. The roads were much narrower than the last two courses, with turns 1 and 3 being possible hazards. Again the field was about 70 racers all seeming to have good fitness, being the end of the season. The race was more of the same, hard and fast, as we were going 31-33 mph up the hill many times. I was not feeling quite as snappy as the last two days, maybe the temperature dropping 40 degrees had something to do with it; I do like it hot. Anyway, a break forms with 4 guys that are not a threat to the yellow jersey. Ends up they stay away and I finish 3rd in the field sprint, for 7th, with Mark finishing 9th. A 1 point lead, making the last day critical, if I want to win the overall.
Day four, the course has 9 turns and is more of a circuit race, being almost 2 miles in length. There is one problem, there are cars parked all over the course, with only one tow truck. The races start 1.5 hours late which means they will shorten all the races. Fine with me, it will most likely be a field sprint and I only have to finish 1 place behind 2 guys for the overall win. Our race is going to be 7 laps, really? 13 miles, well it is the same for everyone. Everything is going well, my legs feel better today and the wind is keeping everyone honest, clearly no break will stick. I am sitting in the top 5-10 with ease as I see 3 laps to go, no more free lap. As we are entering the straight where the SRAM neutral support pit is located, I hear a hissing sound crap, I check my rear tire which feels solid and the front looks ok. I start to lean into the right hander and start to slide on the carbon knife edge, front flat, not good. I keep it upright and fly into the pit. Take about 30 seconds for a wheel change, not bad, but no free lap and am now chasing. Well you can guess the outcome, you know the other two guys that were in contention, for the overall did not say, “let’s wait for the old guy”. No way, they gassed it as soon as they realized I had flatted. I can’t say I would have done any different, but if this happens in the future and I am the 2nd or 3rd place guy, I will make an effort to slow the group. Funny the way we learn our lessons. I chase as hard as I can for 2 laps passing about 10 people that had been spit out of the group, never catching the field and finishing 33rd. It could have been worse, I could have crashed, been broken and not finished, that is why it is called bike racing, not bike winning.
I am very fortunate to be able to race my bike that is what I came here to do race. I will be driving back quite satisfied and pleasantly tired from the last 4 days of fun.
Here is the other side of the story. I was traveling with Nick Ramirez, who resides in Bloomington having recently become an Enzo’s 1-2 racer. Nick is in grad school and having a limited budget, he set up host housing for the two of us. This is foreign to me as I have only hosted racers in my home, never have I stayed in host housing. When Nick first mentioned this I thought “no way, I am a creature of habit, this will disrupt my race chi.” Then I thought it might be a good learning experience, or it could be a nightmare, either way I was game.
It turns out we are going to stay with one of the sponsors of the Gateway Cup, the family that runs/owns Gateway Harley Davidson. This is the same family that supports Mesa Cycling team. Chris, Rene, and their five children, all having a very nice presence about themselves and a high energy level. Chris raced bikes for Mesa years ago, now he is paying back the lessons that were given to him for free, nice.
He is racing again as a master and it looks like he is having fun with it. The crazy part is Rene and Chris bring the entire family to the races. I say this is crazy, because the amount of work this takes. I would not be able to focus on a race with this workload that Chris takes on daily, during the Gateway Cup weekend. Clearly he could not do it without Rene, since she is taking care of all five Love weights while Chris is playing. Now the added bonus of staying with a really nice family, Chris used to be a PRO chef, that is correct, I was able to watch him prepare our meals, gaining a few secrets for myself. It was clear that correct training makes a huge difference, mainly the small things like slicing a shallot, or kitchen set-up, and the list goes on. Not only did I learn a great deal about food stuff, but I was eating clean tasty meals, thanks again Chris.
The things we have in common had us staying up much later than we were used to when racing, but…when in Rome. Besides I race all the time, it was cool to be doing it differently. I am happy my kids are older though, do not get me wrong. The stage that Rene and Chris are in is totally cool, but you forget, not that it is hard being good parents, just how much energy it takes going to races with the younger kids. It is nonstop action with the youngsters determining the pace of play.
Anyway, Thank you for the awesome hospitality, I hope I can cook for both of you sometime.
Well, that is all she wrote, another road season down. I will do a team recap next, then the CX season reports.
Safe riding & racing everyone.