While Team Sixcycle-RK&O traditionally ends its road season in the mountains of Vermont at the Green Mountain Stage Race, this year the squad sent several riders to the Staenberg Group Gateway Cup in Saint Louis to end the season with a long weekend of racing comprised of four crits, including one under the lights and one incredible ten corner figure eight course. It was a terrific weekend of racing - with four of the best run races we've ever experienced. And at the conclusion of the weekend Team Sixcycle-RK&O walked away with wins in two of the four crits, two additional podiums and second and fourth in the general classification (fellow Sixcycle athletes walked away with another two wins, two more podiums and one overall GC win).
The story of the first day of racing - at the Tour de Lafayette - follows. We'll be recapping each day of racing, complete with pictures and video, so check back to TeamSixcycle.com for additional reports in the coming weeks.
Tour de Lafayette Race Report by Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Matthew Vandivort
Upon our arrival in Saint Louis we were immediately greeted by the heavy air of a midwestern city stuck in the midst of a brutal late summer heat wave, with temperatures approaching triple digits and humidity to match. As Saint Louis is my hometown I wasn't entirely surprised by the conditions, though I must admit some trepidation at the notion of four days of racing in such challenging conditions, particularly after what had been a relatively mild summer of racing in New York (with a few exceptions).
With eight friends and teammates piling into my childhood home (thanks for the hospitality Mom & Dad!) we had rented a cargo van (affectionately known as the "murder van") and a mini van to insure we could transport bikes and racers to each of the four days of racing. Given the elevated temperatures we added three coolers to the list of cargo, complete with forty pounds of ice and several gallons of ZICO, before heading to South Saint Louis to get the racing started.
Gateway Cup opened with the Tour de Lafayette - a roughly square four corner crit around a townhouse lined park in one of Saint Louis' historic neighborhoods. With wide sweeping corners and reasonable pavement the course was relatively straightforward, though the fact that we would be racing under the lights would certainly add some complexity to the racing.
We arrived shortly after the early fields started racing, setting up coolers and trainers on the home stretch, where we were soon treated to quite the show with Sixcycle athlete Lisa Kennish (CRCA/Asphalt Green) winning the Women's 3/4 race with Emily Underwood (CRCA/Rockstar) and Stephanie Kaplan (CRCA/Asphalt Green) rounding out the all New York City podium.
A short time later our race got started under a rapidly setting sun. We were rolling three deep for the opening race - myself, Roger Parmelee and Ryan McGarrity - with a sizable field of some seventy racers toeing the line with us. At the mid-point of the race the pace felt high, though that may have been a false perception as the temperature seemed to be conspiring with some bad legs to insure I was suffering pretty heavily - at that stage I certainly didn't envy Ryan, who had made a strong solo move and spent more time off the front of the field than I imagined was enjoyable.
Despite racing on bad legs, I was still motivated to race aggressively - riding near the front and putting in a few digs, at one point dragging the strung out field down the homestretch, single file against the barriers as the crowd shouted into our ears just inches away - definitely one of my favorite moments of the 2013 season. While my effort was rewarded with a gap to the field through corner one, a solo move wasn't in the cards with my legs and I was quickly brought back into the fold.
As the lap counter wound its way down, a dangerous break lingered off the front, and I moved forward to help contribute to the chase, increasing my suffering exponentially. Thankfully after the break was reeled in the pace slowed modestly, allowing me to recover ever so slightly. With two laps to go Roger and I found each other and held our position on the front of the field.
With half a lap to go, in the darkness of the backstretch, we found ourselves on the front of the field earlier than planned. With Roger shouting instructions from behind we allowed a surge to go ahead of us and moved up behind the surge, barely avoiding being swarmed by the field through corner three. Moving past a few riders between corners three and four we accelerated into the final corner, taking the inside line while the other sprinters swung wide.
With that effort my legs died and my momentum quickly crept lower, but thankfully Roger had launched his sprint perfectly through the inside line, and as I faded to a 27th place finish I was able to watch Roger emerge from the darkness and cross the floodlit finish line with a huge margin of victory to the next rider - it was an impressive sprint that thankfully made up for what was a more lackluster lead out than I anticipated.
It was also the most I've suffered on the bike in some time - even after a cool down lap I almost collapsed off my bike, though fortunately I had friends and teammates there to help me cool off and rehydrate before heading to the podium to see Roger take his place on the top step.