Monday, September 3, 2012

Benton Park Classic

The Benton Park Classic is the last race of the Gateway Cup, and in our area it is the last race of the year. This race is a totally different race compared to the last three. It is almost 2 miles in length with 10 turns, two crossings over highway 55 each lap, wind, elevation, and tons of fans.

Benton Park is a neighborhood that is working on making a comeback. There is a lot of good things going on there. It is a blue collar community that really seems to embrace this yearly race. The course winds it's way through homes, businesses, even skirting the edge of Budweiser. The race brought out tons of people that not only got some great racing, but a great band that played in the large park on the front straight away of the race.

Our race was scheduled to go last today. I thought this was great! I think it gets more people to watch the Pro race, and then the Pro12 guys were cheering like crazy. Especially the Gateway Harley guys, those dude were nuts. Of course our own fans were always very loud, but that is a sure thing every weekend. We have great fans! We were also able to watch the Pro12s race and get an idea of how things might pan out for us. We had a pretty good idea, but everything helps.

We decided we were going to throw some tough stuff at everyone again today, but instead of doing it at the end of the race we lined up from the gun. We wanted to put everyone in the pain cave right off the bat. We didn't think we would get rid of all the competition, but we might weaken guys enough to get some breaks away. We were only going to do this for the first 3 laps. We figured this would be long enough, and then we would sit up and start with the attacks. I have no idea if our idea really worked, but we had fun, and put on a good show. The biggest hitch was that two of our guys got stuck behind a crash right at the starting line! They weren't allowed to take a free lap either which really screwed them and the team. I got stuck behind a few slower guys and Murphy and Finks were able to hit the front flying. I was finally able to link up with Rickey and Connolly, and we made our way to the front. As we linked up I was looking for Grant and Wulff, and could not see them anywhere. Both of these guys are super strong and would not have hung back as they knew things were going to get going. When I couldn't find them after half the first lap was over I told the guys to hit it. We rotated 4 guys with me gatekeeping. The guys were wearing out after a couple laps though so I decided I should jump in. I did it a bit wrong however, pulling up to the front going into a turn and going way too fast. I was just too excited and wanted to make up for my underperforming the day before. As we came into the last lap we were going to team time trial we were also fighting for a preem. We ended up barely losing it because of a little confusion, I think mostly on my part I think.

A few laps later Grant put in a big dig, the dude was riding pissed and he was taking it out on his bike. He got into a group of about 3 riders and they were riding well together. We started to try and work the front of the field slowing the riders down. This was the best course to get a break away on, but they were going to need help, and be lucky. After a while another group ended up forming just behind the original break. Chris made it in there and I was really hoping he would make it up to Grant. Mike and I were still trying to slow the field down, but we had not softened it up enough and people were able to pull both breaks back.

We went a few more laps without much happening and I found myself on Mike's wheel. We have been working a lot on talking while racing so I just let him know I was there. Mike looks back and asks if I am doing good, I say yeah, and he takes off! I figured he was helping me out for a preem so I should hang on for the ride. We rounded turn 9 just blasting it, and took the last turn without ever lifting off the power. Mike took me to a perfect takeoff spot and I hit go taking the preem easily.

Right after that the whole race had a big scare. A stray dog got onto the course and caused a crash involving my teammate Eric Finks. Luckily the crash wasn't too bad, and the pack handled it pretty classy asking everyone to sit up. Now Grant apparently had attacked before the dog, or didn't hear the yells to neutralize the race, as he and another rider road off the front. After a lap or so Grant was on his own and making a strong go of it. I don't know where he finds the energy, but he just wouldn't give up. He was only 2.5 laps short but he still didn't give up and was still in the race as we neared the finish.

On the last lap I was set up in a pretty sweet spot the only problem was there was a rider just up the road and no one who wanted to sprint was going to chase that down. I needed a teammate right away, and just as I was thinking that Murphy came flying up the left side of the road stretching out the field. I was a bit slow reacting and was slotted in about 15th. I wasn't really worried as long as the speed stayed high. Jason made it with almost 2 turns to go, and got us close enough for the next rider to pull the leader back. As we rounded the final turn I had to swing wide to come around the rider we caught and got back on the gas a bit late. I was still able to put in a strong sprint but only finished 10th. Guys were really fighting hard for position and riders were loosing spokes and derailleur. I really didn't want to start my off season with a crash, so I think I left a bit out there. But I did hit 39.2 miles per hour, and that is the fastest sprint I can remember myself doing.

My team did an amazing job again this weekend, and I am pretty sad that the year is over. A lot of my team are moving up to the next category so we wont race together again for some time. It was great while it lasted, and next year we will have a few new great guys on the team. I am pumped to see what is yet to come.
This was part of the pain train today!

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