If you race bikes in the Midwest there are a few race weekends that you HAVE TO GO TO. First is Memorial Day weekend in the Quad Cities area. Then there is Tulsa Tough (I have not been yet, I'm going next year) Tour of America's Dariyland, and Gateway Cup. You might think differently, but this is my list, and if you want to find some of the best racing in the area this is where you have to be. There are some more great weekend races that are up and coming but I will talk about those later.
The only new race I listed was ToAD, and that is because it is actually longer than a week, and it is super awesome!
Other than that these races are classics! They have been around a long time, and in the case of Gateway Cup some of the races were on their own before Mike Weiss, promoter and owner of Big Shark, started the series. The biggest race of the weekend is the Giro Della Montagna, a race that has been going on for about 27 years in the historic St Louis community The Hill. It is a long rectangle crit course with a slight uphill on the backside and a slight downhill into the finish line. Winning the Giro is a huge deal in these parts.
Racing at the Cup is the world series and something that anyone in St Louis who considers themselves a bike racer must do. It is also a tough race in that it is fast, and crashes happen, a lot. I feel like sometime people should show up kitted up with roller derby pads.
The first night starts things off right with the Tour de Lafayette in Lafayette square. A box shaped crit course that the big races take place at night. The streets in Lafayette square are wide and lined with tons of people who live on the course. The whole time you are racing around people are living it up and people are cheering at every corner.
The next day is Tour De Francis Park in the St Louis Hills community, not the same as The Hill. The course is very similar to the pervious day except it is durning the day. The racing is very much the same, fast and hard. With roads so wide it is hard to control the pack and you have to be on your toes.
The toughest days come on Sunday and Monday, with Sunday being the famous Giro Della Montagna. The start line is at the door of the neighborhood Catholic Church and is blessed by the father before the race starts. The roads are narrow, and with the fields always full it can get a bit hairy. Last year we lost a few of our riders in a big crash on the slowest turn on the course. With the long downhill on the front stretch speeds will normally reach 45+ mph and the winning sprint will get higher than that.
The last race of the weekend and the newest race in the series is the Benton Park Classic. This is the only race of the weekend that is not 4 corners, instead it has 10 turns! It is amazing! I have done 3 editions of this weekend, and all the editions of this race. It is one of my favorites of the entire year. And being the last race of my racing season is a great way to end. The course has elevation change, wind, turns, goofy local bands playing on the backside, and historic neighborhoods. It also goes right next to the Budweiser factory, pretty much perfect.
Winning just one of these races would be a great accomplishment for a season, but I am not the only one who thinks this, so it is easier said than done. And with the storm down in the Gulf happening, and that weather coming this way in time for the weekend, things are going to be hairier than ever.
See y'all there.