Always a great weekend of racing, this year’s Tour de Grove (formerly Tour de Winghaven) was awesome — even with all the bumps and bruises along the way. No, I didn’t crash at all, but my poor kids were on the pavement as much as they were off of it. Read the quick summary below or scroll down for the detailed write-up!
Saturday’s Midtown Alley Kid’s races – Josiah – 1st place (3-4 year olds)! Analise – 1st place girl (5-6 year olds)!
Saturday’s Midtown Alley Pro/1/2 Criterium – 22nd after flatting with two laps to go (no free laps), getting a wheel change from the awesome SRAM neutral support and almost chasing back onto what was left of the field, passing a few of the leadout guys who had already eased up to finish two spots out of the money. See below for a detailed write-up.
Sunday’s NRC Tour de Grove Circuit Race – 8th place after a thunderstorm shortened the race by about 4 laps (11 miles). Kelly Benefits took 1-2 after a race-long breakaway stayed away. Jelly Belly was keeping the break in check, but the weather moved in before they could reel the break back in. See below for a detailed write-up.
Birmingham to St Louis ~500miles (topocreator.com map)
Saturday morning – Moonrise Hotel
Friday’s Travel Day
St Louis is only about 500 miles from Birmingham – a reasonable 7-8 hour drive – even with nice long stops for dinner, stretching, etc… My 5 year old daughter Analise was in a girl scout day camp all week and participating in her “end of the camp” performance on Friday at 2:30 outside of Chelsea which is about 30 miles on the opposite side of town from St Louis. So we knew we would be rolling in to town late. What we didn’t count on was Analise waking up at 4 in the morning after having gotten bit by a spider at our house. Her leg was swollen Friday morning, but we gave her some Benadryl and she was happy and excited for camp so Kristine drove her out to camp. About an hour later, Analise was not feeling too good and her spider bite had swollen even further so the camp nurse called for us to come get Analise. Kristine went back out to pick her up, take her around camp to say goodbye to all her friends and then straight to the doctor, who confirmed the spider bite was probably not a brown recluse – but he drew a circle a little larger than a SOFTBALL on Analise’s leg and said if the redness expanded beyond the circle to call back or take her to the emergency room. With the change of plans, we hadn’t had a chance to pack so we weren’t able to leave until about 4PM. The drive was long with a stop at Cracker Barrel for dinner and we made it to the Moonrise Hotel at about 1AM. The kids loved all the cool quirkiness of the hotel with a rotating moon on top of it and fancy lights of the 4-star hotel (great deal on Expedia with coupon) so it took them a few minutes to settle back down to go to sleep.
Ready for the Midtown Alley Kid’s race
Analise finishing the 5-6 year old race.
Jelly Belly driving the Pro/1/2 Midtown Alley Criterium (photo by d.an singer)
Saturday’s Midtown Alley Kids Races and Pro/1/2 Criterium
We knew it was going to be hot when it was almost 90 degrees at 11 in the morning when the kids were finishing up playing and riding scooters in Forest Park. My 3 year old, Josiah, took a bad tumble right as we were getting ready to leave and cracked his lip wide open. After a few minutes of screaming bloody murder, he settled down sucking on snow cone ice. We debated taking him in for stitches, but the last time we tried that we ended up waiting for nearly 3 hours for them to finally “glue” his forehead back together without any stitches. Totally not worth it as kids are so amazing in how quickly they heal. Sure enough, Josiah’s lip had stopped bleeding within a few more minutes and then scabbed over by dinner time and was looking really good by Sunday. But before all that, we had a kids race and I had a pro/1/2 crit to race.
We made it to the start of the kids race at 12:45PM, and it was already in the mid 90s with high humidity. Blazing hot. I was going through water bottles like crazy and drenched in sweat. It was worth it, though, as Josiah won his race riding super fast (check out the video!) Analise almost won her race, too! After a rough start on the uphill, she passed everyone except one boy who had gotten a clean start and stayed just in front of her. The kids were so happy though because they got a black ribbon they could redeem for a Build-a-Bear bear after the race – along with a t-shirt and jelly belly water bottle with jelly beans inside!
You could see lots of popup thunderstorms/rain showers in the area, but they were just skirting the race course until about midway through the women’s race when the first of a series of storms hit the course dead on. The pro women’s field raced through the storm as we continued to warm up on the wide course or on the rollers. The sun had come out and started to dry out the course by the end of their race. Then, just as we staged at the start line for the start of the Pro/1/2 race, the next storm rolled in. I was shivering a bit by the time we left the start line in a heavy downpour. The cold didn’t last long though because I was first off the line and determined to be the first rider through the first two corners. I made it through with I believe at least one crash behind in the field. Then on the back downhill stretch into a tremendous headwind, the first of a series of attacks that would take us through the first five or six laps, launched itself. Attacks, chases, field splits were common as the rain abated and the sun came out. Two Jelly Belly riders made it into a break of 3 that started to distance itself from the field. Chases, attacks, crashes, kept our pace highly variable — but fast. I was really struggling through the start/finish hill with its tailwind.
Midtown Alley topocreator.com map
The next storm rolled in about midway through the race when either one or both of the Jelly Belly riders in the break flatted. Even though they got their free lap and were put back into the race in front of us, the rest of the Jelly Belly team had moved to the front to block and look for opportunities to bridge up to the break with any rider who would attack. Still, the break of 3 held a lead of maybe 20-30 seconds when the final, most severe storm rolled in with maybe 10 laps to go in the race. The wind was truly amazing with our entire group snaking across FOUR lanes of roadway with sidewinds, headwinds, tailwinds, all buffeting us on the same stretch of road. Our initial field of almost 60 riders had been whittled down to just 25 riders left when we caught the breakaway that was basically stopped cold by the strong winds and heavy downpour. The stretch of road that we had settled into taking during the race between turns 3 and 4 was completely under an inch or two of water so once we caught the break our pace really settled down. It was dangerous so nobody wanted to attack or take any big risks.
I was resting, waiting, hoping to keep it upright as we went through 5, 4, 3, 2 laps to go when I ran into bad luck and flatted on the back straightaway. There was enough air left to let me roll with the group back to the pit, grab a wheel from the SRAM neutral support and start chasing back on. With the pace slow b/c of the storm and wind, I was almost able to chase back on by the end of the lap. But once the group made it past the start/finish line again, the pace picked back up and I couldn’t quite close the gap. Still, I was able to pass a couple leadout guys who had eased up after pulling off the front and one guy who had crashed to finish two spots out of the money in 22nd. I was hoping to have made it into the top 20, which would have redeemed the day despite the bad luck, but instead I was happy that one of the SRAM support crew said when I returned the wheel that I was his favorite rider for the day since I didn’t quit even after getting the flat.
During the race, Analise and Josiah would ride down the sidewalk on the back side of the course as we would pass by. It was fun to see them each lap. Eventually during the rain storms, Analise decided she was cold and wet enough to seek shelter. Josiah, on the other hand, kept riding through the torrential rain until Kristine dragged him away from the course on the final lap. When I got back to the car after the race, we had quite a mess to deal with as I was shivering and soaking wet along with the kids. Kristine is an angel though and managed to get us all dry and back into the car as I loaded up my bike, the kids bike, and everything else for the drive back to the hotel to clean up.
Josiah finishing the Tour de Grove Kids race on Sunday (photo by d.an singer)
Tour de Grove finish (photo by jay beauvais)
Sunday’s NRC Tour de Grove
We found the race course just in time to unpack the kids bikes, register for the kids race, and watch the finish of the Men’s 2-3 race with the kids race to immediately follow. Again it was sunny and blazingly hot when the kids started so I am glad we hadn’t gotten there way ahead of time to bake in the sun and humidity. This time there were more kids in the race. Josiah and Analise did well and had fun, but struggled starting up the hill. No problem though as this time they got cool ribbons and t-shirts for racing.
I debated before the start of the men’s Pro/1 race whether to put on my rain tires. Then right before the pro women’s race, there was a brief downpour so I went ahead and switched tires. But then it got very sunny and very hot, the course dried completely out, and there was only a few small clouds in the distance. So I switched back to my normal tires since the rain tires have a bit more rolling resistance — and what good would they be if I was dropped before it started to rain?! I think I made the right decision even though it did pour down rain for the finish of our race, I had no problems keeping up during the insanely fast crazy first part of the race. Again, I was first off the line and first through the first of 13 corners on the course before a series of attacks saw different breakaways emerge from the field before each one was chased down again. I decided that my best bet for finishing well was to conserve as much energy as possible.
NRC Tour de Grove 2010, 13 corner circuit race in St Louis
I only went with one breakaway, and shortly after we got reeled back in the break of the day went during a particularly fast lap. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefits) attacked and got away solo. Shortly thereafter, Andy Crater (Aerocat) attacked to bridge with David Veilleux (Kelly Benefits) taking the free ride on his wheel. The two of them bridged up and established a gap. Eventually Crater came off the break and back to our field leaving two Kelly Benefits riders up the road. This turned out to be the perfect scenario for the field because Jelly Belly got to the front and rode fast (but steady) to keep the break within striking distance and prevent others from attacking to try to bridge across. I kept waiting for Jelly Belly to try to send its own rider across, which would mean a series of attacks and skyrocketing pace — but I think they were hoping for a field sprint to let their top sprinter Mike Friedman clean-up for the win.
So our pace stayed steady, manageable, even easy (see heartrate data) as the break stayed at about 30 seconds. I believe that at any moment, the pace was about to skyrocket as Jelly Belly was going to turn on the gas to bring back the break riders who would then be too tired to be a factor in the sprint. But, unfortunately for Jelly Belly, it started to rain with about 10 laps to go. The rain was light at first, but it was enough to make it slippery, and going into one of the sharper than 90 deg corners, the first Jelly Belly rider fell taking out the next two Jelly Belly riders and derailing the chase efforts.
The field neutralized itself for pretty much the rest of the lap when the fallen Jelly Belly riders were inserted back into the field (the 2.8 mile circuit race was run as a criterium). Right as the Jelly Belly riders were put back into the field, it started to downpour. Two riders from an amateur team attacked and in the ensuing chaos there was a field split. I found myself on the front side of the split since I had been fighting to ride towards the front immediately behind the Jelly Belly and Kelly Benefits trains. With six laps to go, the storm worsened with heavy winds, thunder, and lightning. Dave Towle had announced a couple laps earlier that they would ring the bell for one lap to go if lightning was seen on the course so I knew at that point that we really only had two laps to go (even though the lap card said 6 to go). Sure enough, the next time around, they rang the bell for one lap to go and our pace stayed super hi only slowing down for the corners. I didn’t have to fight hard to stay up front because the pace was fast enough on the straightaways that nobody wanted to pass anybody else. This included the final straightaway leading into two sharp corners making a nearly 180 degree turn heading into the 250 meter sprint uphill to the line. We came screaming down the straightaway with a tailwind at nearly 35mph before braking at the last possible second to slow down to 15mph for the corner before accelerating again up the hill to the line. I got passed by one person in the sprint, but passed two other people before the line, meaning I finished 6th in the sprint and 8th for the race — a top 10 in a national race — woohoo!!!
Kristine did awesome, too, managing to feed me four or five bottles during the race while keeping the kids safe and entertained in the feedzone, too. One of my water bottles had popped out when I hit a manhole cover on the second lap, so I needed a water bottle within the first few laps of the 28 lap race. She heard me yell and left to drive to the feedzone a few laps earlier than we had planned, negotiated her way to the feedzone, and had a bottle ready to go on the next lap. Unfortunately, it was impossible to take a bottle at 30mph on that lap so I waited until the next lap when the pace had slowed down to a more reasonable 20mph to try to grab the bottle. She did great, and four bottles later I made it to the end of a 75 mile crit (shortened to 65 miles) with no cramps!
Heartrate data to follow as soon as my Garmin dries out (two days later!!!)