It's always special going home. But going home for four days of crit racing is tough to beat. After last year's success at Gateway Cup, Labor Day in the Lou was always circled as the end of my 2014 road season. With work obligations and crashes reducing my fitness to a nearly non-existent level, on the bike expectations were low as I flew into Saint Louis, but off the bike expectations were immediately boosted by the discovery of two rubber chickens of questionable origin in my parents garage - the pair would quickly become the mascots of the entire weekend, setting the tone for a weekend of laughs and good times. Our motley crew for the weekend was comprised of nine racers, all somehow piled into my parents place, making for an even dozen household occupants - and one cat. Despite leaking aeromattresses and jury rigged room dividers, we somehow made it all work - ultimately becoming a well oiled machine fueled by several pounds of bacon each morning, before piling into three vehicles (including the affectionately named "murder van") for the daily journey to the races, each held in a distinctly different Saint Louis neighborhood ranging from racing under the lights in Lafayette Square to tackling the Giro della Montagna in Saint Louis' oldest Italian neighborhood, the Hill.
At the races rather than conserve energy for our respective fields, we generally screamed our heads off all day - gesticulating wildly, typically with one or more rubber chickens in hand, while shouting well reasoned phrases like "don't be a chicken" and "the chicken loves you." It all somehow made sense at the time - and we hadn't even cracked open the cooler full of beer at that stage in the day (though we had started hoarding the free Michelob Ultra handed out at the event).
With racers spread across four or five different fields, we each took our turns throwing down on the generally fast and furious crit courses. In big and at times crowded fields we scored multiple in the money finishes, before returning to our base camp along the finishing straight barricades, typically cracking open a cold beverage and promptly resuming our chaotic cheering.
After repeating this general schedule for four days straight (with plenty of time built in for Saint Louis' finest sweets) we weren't able to replicate last year's tally of 2 wins and 2 podiums, but if anything this year's Gateway Cup was even more fun due to all of off the bike insanity. Hard to argue with closing out the 2014 season with a weekend of good times as a team. It certainly leaves no doubt that we'll be back to Gateway Cup next year.
As the closing road race of the 2014 season, a special thank you to all of our sponsors who helped make the season possible.
Matthew Vandivort is a New York City based cyclist and sometimes photographer who was also a founding member of To Be Determined. You can follow him online at @photorhetoric or http://photo-rhetoric.com/