MO PRO features three days of competitive cycling in three distinct St. Louis neighborhoods. The main event of MO PRO is the Tour de Grove. Part of the prestigious USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar and the USA Crits Championship Series, the Tour de Grove ignites the streets of St. Louis with the speed and fury of America’s best cyclists. Sunday’s race, the Dutchtown Classic is part of the USA Crits Team Championship Series.
The course was made up of four corners with the smallest rise at the end of the home stretch and a slight downhill on the back stretch. It was really scary at times due to the fact that there were dark spots on the back side of the course between the street lights. There were a few sections that we all where just holding out line and hoping to come out on the other side of the darkness alive. The race was super fast. I think our average was just over 30mph. It was virtually single file from the start to the finish. Jelly Belly presented by Kenda did our best to control the final few laps but the speed and amount of fresh teams limited our ability to control it. Mountain Khakis/Smart Stop was one of the first teams to really surge over the top of us with two laps to go. Then Competitive Cyclist and Team Jamis/Sutter Home took over on the final half lap. Going in to the second to last corner there was a serious crash involving Anibal Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home) that a few of us were able to sneak by. Then in the final stretch Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home) was left to finish of the sprint with Cole House (Competitive Cyclist) on his wheel. Luckily for me I was able to get back in to the draft and pull around Cole just before the line. This was one of the faster crits I have done in a long time and it was great to take the win!
With big money on the line, the Tour de Grove is the premier crit of the weekend. Due to the longer circuit type crit course, we knew it would be a hard race to control the race, and the large open roads would lead to more attacks. Sad to say the race wasn’t as heated as I thought it would be, except for the amount of guys feeling that they needed to chop there way into the top 20 positions. I don’t know if it is a lack of thinking or what, but a large number of riders need to learn how to ride in a professional peloton. The race was more nervous than it was fast, with riders not wanting to extend themselves before the final five laps. I admit that I had to get in on the chopping action just to survive.
United Health Care (UHC) took control of the front with three laps to go and never looked back. With most of use getting swarmed in the washing machine flow of riders behind the UHC lead-out, we all were just doing our best to stay afloat somewhere near the back of their train. Several times my teammates and I would find ourselves out of position due to 20 riders sliding up the inside of the next corner, or just having to give up position due to another rider’s lack of respect for crashing themselves, or both of us. In the final lap it was mayhem trying to keep position, but with great teammates I was able to be dropped off right on the UHC lead-out train with only a few corners to go. Then, in the final corner the UHC lead-out train decided to do the old sit-up tactic to allow one of their riders to ride away from the group while the rest of us were blocked by the final two UHC riders heading in to the final turn. Yes, they won. Yes, they controlled the final few laps better than any other professional team could have that day, but no, not many of us where happy with their final turn tactic. I finished fifth.
The last race of the weekend was the most challenging course of the weekend, mainly because of the two tight downhill corners in to the finish. The finish was on a rise, although that didn’t slow the race down much as we were single-file for most of the race once again. A few attacks here and there went up the road, but it wasn’t until late in the race when Cole House fell in one of the top side corners, that a split in the group occurred. The riders that didn’t get caught up in the crash were able to stay away all the way to the finish.
There were two corners on the course that seemed to have a dusting of something on the road that made your tires drift in certain spots, most likely pollen. Our newest addition to Jelly Belly, Christian Kriek, was up in the break so we had representation. In the final few laps Mountain Khakis/Smart Stop did their best to bring the break back, followed by Jamis/Sutter Home, but the break was too strong. We hoped for the best on the final lap for Christian, but ELBOWZ Racing’s Christian Helmig slipped away with a well-timed attack to take the win. Our Christian was able to come away with third, a great result in just his first few races with the team.
Overall, we had a great weekend in St. Louis. Mike Weiss of Big Shark does an amazing job of putting on races and showcasing such an awesome city. Thanks Mike!