The fourth and final day of the Gateway Cup featured the most exciting course of the weekend: a ten corner quasi figure eight crit. On this challenging course Team Sixcycle-RK&O closed out the weekend with yet another great result. Check out Matthew Vandivort's race report and video of the entire race below. Gateway Cup - Day 1: Tour de Lafayette
Benton Park Classic Race Report from Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Matthew Vandivort
Going into the Benton Park Classic on Labor Day in Saint Louis I was admittedly a bit anxious. Not only was this the final race of the Gateway Cup, but after eight months of constant racing this was the end of my 2013 road season - the race that would be freshest in my memory during the long and cold winter miles to come. So in summary, STRESS.
To top things off we were going into Benton Park with a new race strategy since Roger, after three days in the race leader's jersey, had slipped into second place on the GC after the Giro Della Montagna. With this in mind, and after consuming several cold beverages on Sunday night, we decided the best approach was attack. A lot.
Quite the well thought out plan.
Of course, once we hit the line all of this stress faded away and I went back to focusing on the fact that this was a ten corner quasi figure eight course. Which I hadn't pre-ridden. Because instead I preferred to sit by our cooler with ice cold beverages pre-race. Which seemed entirely reasonable at the time.
As we rolled through the first few corners, I decided that given our race strategy and my ignorance of the course the best option was to jump off the front. Solo. On the first lap. To better see the corners or something. On the plus side this meant I did have a great view of the Anheuser-Busch brewery that lined one straightway.
After riding alone around through several corners, the race leader bridged up to me with another rider in tow. Of course getting off the front with the race leader but without Roger wasn't part of the game plan so I sat up and shortly thereafter the field came back together, confirming that my attack was not a stroke of tactical genius.
The next several laps involved various smaller attacks, with lots of sprinting out of one corner only to immediately dive into the next and sprint out of that one - which I suppose is to be expected on a ten corner course.
At some point in the midst of the attacking someone suggested the race leader was under pressure (hint: he wasn't), which is probably a good strategy to convince the team sitting second to attack (hint: it was). Upon hearing this suggestion I immediately stepped up the aggressiveness, which was rewarded with a trip to a very deep and very dark place.
While I was contemplating the depths of my suffering I heard the unmistakable sound of carbon hitting pavement, which was all the motivation I needed to refocus and move back up through the field.
At some point, after some more suffering, and more cornering, Rog pulled alongside me and warned me that he didn't have the legs today, meaning I needed to claw my way out of the pain cave and get a result for the squad (STRESS).
When we finally hit the bell lap I was in good position near the front with Rog on my wheel and the GC leader on his. The lap was fast until we approached the second to last corner and started to get swarmed. Thanks to Rog's warning I immediately worked my way forward, diving into that second to last corner in third wheel and coming out of it in a full sprint to close down a small gap to the two leading riders - by the time we hit the final corner the three of us on the front actually had a small gap to the field behind.
The three of us took the final corner at full speed and hit the long finishing straight.
The riders ahead of me opened their sprint, but I'm in perfect position and remain patient...waiting to go.
Only once the riders are in a full sprint - with me still safely tucked in their draft for their accelerations - do I jump, sprinting up the right side and more quickly than I expected coming around the two riders and opening up a gap.
On that very long finishing straight I vividly recall the anxiety that someone was going to pull alongside me so I kept my head down and the pedals churning until I crossed the line, with what turned out to be a sizeable gap to the next rider.
There really aren't words to describe closing out the season with a win on what is probably the best crit course I've ever ridden - particularly with my entire family there to witness it. But it was pretty awesome - the perfect finishing note for a season with great personal and team success.