This is the biggest race of the Gateway Cup. It is held in the great neighborhood of The Hill just a few min southwest of downtown St Louis. The Hill could also be considered little Italy in the STL. There are great Italian shops, restaurants, and there is even a bocce ball center. The start line of the race is right in front of the St Ambrose Church at the bottom of a long steady downhill. The course is a narrow rectangle with tight roads, and corners, and has a reputation of being a bit crash prone. You really have to be on top of your game and on your toes.
Mike had been targeting this race all year and had the fitness to make it happen, no doubt. Twice in the last year he had placed in the top three, and we were going to put him on the top step.
The plan had been set weeks ago, with trial runs done to work out kinks and come up with any issues. We had successes and failures trying it out with the failures helping us more than the successes. The plan was a lead-out to put our man in a great position and weaken the rest of the field. We were going to save it all for the end, no preems, no chasing breaks, all on the line.
The race was pretty tame in my opinion. The greatest part about racing in the 3s is it is predictable. Everyone wants to win, everyone is about the same strength, and if you take those things into account a team can easily control a lot of what happens. It is never a sure thing, but having a team that is 100% behind one goal increases your chances of success. As the race progressed our guys only had to put in minor efforts to keep things under control. We were staying well organized and everyone was right where we needed to be. The toughest part about a lead-out is the timing. Too soon and you not only hurt your self, but you hurt your sprinter. Too late and maybe you let a break go too long. As none of us are pros we are still working it all out.
As we neared our take off point a lone rider jumped off the front, hard. We had seen guys going off all day and none looked this strong. This was this guys move and he knew what he was doing. In hindsight I should have kept my cool longer. I was the road captain and was the one with the final say of when to go. Three of us set up on the front and rotated to pull back the lone rider. We tried our best to keep the efforts metered so as to have enough for the finish. It took us a couple laps to bring the rider back which left us with about 3 to go. That was when we began to drill it. Eric wanted to wait a bit more, and I think he was right. My fear was that we would be swarmed and lose our organization. I should not have worried about that, as the team was on their game. We had an order to our train, but it got a little out of whack. I'm not sure if that would have made a difference in the end, like I said, we aren't pros here, just a bunch of 30 and 40 year olds who like to race bikes. So anyways, on my word go off we went, and fast. Finkszilla was on the front, first to pull as planned. This dude is one of our great diesle engines and will pull till he passes out. He went almost a full lap, taking into account that he also helped pull back the lone rider, he did more than his share. Next was our youngest rider, Grant, this guys is a super stud. He started racing last year this weekend as a 5, this kid is going to go places in this sport. Grant did a huge pull as well, once he pulled off it was my turn, and I didn't have much left to give. I don't know where it went but my pull lasted what felt like a who 3 seconds. It felt like I hit a wall and I did not do my job. As I pulled off though, Grant the Erhard-man was right back in line pulling again! As I dropped back off the race the field was in ruin, we had destroyed just about everyone. From what I was told there were only 10-12 riders left in the race. Once Grant pulled off we had Wulff, Connolly, Murphy, and then Rickey. Grant did his best to make it up the back stretch, a long steady climb that on it's own wasn't much, but after an inhuman pull it was too much for him to hold that high a speed. Wulff took over and I think made it to the start finish, which was where Connolly took over. Riding behind Chris can be like trying to ride behind a motorcycle. He can go long, and hard, and it doesn't matter that there is a draft. Holding 600 watts in a draft still hurts A LOT! When Chris pulled off it sounded like Murphy was in the same boat I had been in. He hit a wall and the rest of the riders in the pack jumped Mike. As they rounded turn 3 Mike got stuck behind a crash, and then again in turn 4. Our plan came so close, and over time it will be perfected.
We were all a little bummed, but we laid it all out there, and at least we tried. This was the purpose behind building this team. We all came together for one goal, and we all gave everything that we had. There isn't much else to ask for if you ask me. I am so proud of my team, and am excited for all the great stuff to come.