Racing up north
June 7-11, 2008
Welcome to my new blog chronicling my cycling adventures. I am currently in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota racing the Nature Valley Grand Prix. This first post describes our travel up here from Birmingham, Alabama and a race I did in St. Louis along the way.
Tour de Winghaven – O’Fallon, Missouri
We left on Saturday, June 7 and traveled 10 hours to St Louis. Keep in mind we have two small children. A 500 mile trip will take a minimum of ten hours, so we actually made pretty good time. We checked into our hotel right in downtown near “The Arch” and I snapped a couple pictures of the kids before they took off with Kristine on a carriage ride. I went for a nice ride through downtown out to Forest Park near Washington University where I found some good roads to ride on. It was extremely windy and there were lots of traffic lights so it was hard to read how my legs were feeling. Definitely not tired, but definitely not fresh and springy.
The race was late Sunday afternoon so Kristine took the kids for a stroll over to the arch while I packed up the car and rested. She told me later that when Josiah was under the arch, he kept on pointing at it and saying “tunnel”, which I guess is true if you think of it as a very tall (height) and very short (width) one. When they got back to the car, it was about noon with a 30-45 minute drive to O’Fallon where my race would be starting at 2:30, which would give me plenty of time to check in, warm-up and get ready to race. Well, unfortunately, the midwest is known for having two seasons: “winter” and “construction”. So as we were driving to the race, we found out that the interstate we needed to take was closed for construction. Not just one or two lanes, but the entire interstate was closed! We backtracked and tried to take some side roads but in the end discovered that the only way to get there was to go back. All of a sudden our 30 minute drive turned into a nearly two hour fiasco. We arrived at 2:10 and I dropped Kristine off to run to the sign-in table and get my number and timing chip while I kept the kids entertained with a movie and unpacked my bike from the car — all in a blazing hot sun with no shade and a temperature of over 95. Kristine came back and pinned my number on while I zip tied my timing chip to my bike. I grabbed a couple water bottles, gels, and rode straight to the start line and plopped down for a front row starting position as they called the riders to line. My warm-up was the ride from the car to the start line, only about 1/10th of a mile!
There is no other way to describe the race other than as a race of attrition. There were nearly 120 starters and only 40 finishers! It was not only very hot with no shade on the course, but it was also very windy (15-20 mph steady wind with higher gusts). The race was 25 laps of a 2.9 mile circuit, and it had two European style traffic circles on the circuit. Part of the peleton would go around one side of the circle and the other part would go around the other side before everybody would merge back together in a high speed sprint out of the circle. The race was basically a really long crit course — for nearly 3 hours! I was in a couple of breaks early that didn’t work. Then I bridged up to a few breaks which were well-represented bringing the field with me. Nothing more frustrating than that. What I learned from the race is that I was riding too close to the front. Somebody from a team would attack and then the other teams would cover and within a second or two I had to cover it or let it get away since the break would have good representation from the large teams at the race. It would have been better to have been a little farther back (7th or 8th wheel instead of 2nd or 3rd wheel) so that I could see attacks as they happen and go with them directly instead of having to bridge across. Anyway, I was extremely happy to finish the race , albeit in 23rd just out of the money (top 20).
Nature Valley Grand Prix – Minneapolis, Minnesota
By the time the race finished, and after I finished repacking the car (which was fully loaded with Analise’s bike, my bike, wheels, suitcases, backpacks, a stroller, and more!) it was nearly 6:30pm. We still had a five hour drive ahead of us north to Dubuque, Iowa but I was elated to get the phone call I was waiting for to hear the good news that I had earned a coach’s selection spot for the Nature Valley Grand Prix “Pro Ride” team! More on that in the next post, but for now I’ll say that this finalized our travel plans to continue on up to Minneapolis after visting Kristine’s sister, Anna, and her husband, Hal, in Platteville, Wisconsin. We made it into our hotel just before midnight, and the kids lets us sleep in until about 7:15 the next morning. We spent the next night in Platteville after having a fun cookout with Hal and Anna and lots of playing on the playground. We then left late the next day to head up to Minneapolis. We met our friends Tammy and Ryan and their kids along the way at a Pizza Hut in Prairie du Chen, Wisconsin and had a great time hanging out and letting the kids play together. We weren’t sure if that was going to happen though because the flooding in eastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin is incredible and some of the main roads and bridges are closed because roadways and bridge supports have been washed away! They made it, though, and we had a great time. After dinner we continued on up to Minneapolis and made it in just before 1 AM.
All told, the trip was nearly 1200 miles from Birmingham, Alabama to Minneapolis via a bike race near St Louis!