I haven’t raced the past few weekends and was really looking forward to the Hillsboro-Roubaix weekend near St. Louis. There is a 90 mile road race on Saturday and then a very short “circuit” race on Sunday. I’ve had either a cold or allergies for the past two weeks, so I was interested in how I would feel at race speed.
Saturday’s race is on a 22-mile loop that is pretty interesting. Lots of corners, rolling hills, and scenic country roads. There is a nice long brick section through the finish town, thus the Roubaix. My worst finish in the race previously was 2nd. I won the event last year with my teammate Brian Jensen, finishing 2nd. He had previously finished 2nd in the race the previous 3 times he had raced it, so it was his turn. One thing I have learned about Brian is that when he puts his mind to doing well at a race that has previously eluded him, he is nearly unstoppable. And that was the case on Saturday.
The field was “over sold” at registration, so we had to wait until 10 minutes before the start to get numbers. Pre-registration closed on Monday for some reason. Anyway, there were 130 PRO 1-2 riders at the start. Very early, maybe 6 miles, into the lap there was a big crash. The field slowed down to wait. Frank Dierking and Brian separated themselves from the pack soon afterwards. I thought it was way too early and was worried about him wasting energy.
My friend, Dennis Kruse was down visiting from snowy Wisconsin and came to the race to spectate. He was out riding the course and encountered a pack of dogs. He tried to keep the 8 crazy dogs off the course, but ended up getting bit. Twice. Once on the hand by a Great Dane and then again on his leg by a Chow mutt. The rest of his day was spent at the emergency room.
Meantime, the field never let Brian and company get out of sight, but it took nearly 45 miles to catch them. During that time, I fell on one of the coned climbs. I was riding up the hill and somehow a cone ended up in my front wheel and I instantly went over the bars. I’m not sure if someone hit one of the cones and knocked it into my wheel or I just ran into it, but it was the same result. I took my time straightening my bike out, so had to chase a few miles back on. I asked Brian how he felt and he said great. The race was over right then. A small group was off the front and when we hit the next cross wind, Brian jumped up to them. The field was shattering and there was a minimal chase the remainder of the lap, but eventually everyone ran out of juice. Brian attacked the group until only 3 riders were left and then pulled the last lap. He flatted only 2 miles from the finish, got a wheel from a spectator and caught back on and won by himself. I finished 2nd in the “field sprint” which was good for 9th. I wasn’t having a bad day, but definitely not stellar. I was micro cramping the last half lap and was pretty tired that night.
Sunday’s criterium is a criterium with no corners. In a park, one loop. Short, maybe a little over 1 km. I hate those races. Closer to a track race than a criterium. There has to be a corner in a criterium. The more the better I think. Anyway, only about half the guys that raced the road race started Sunday. I’m not sure why that was. Maybe it was the baby prize list. I don’t know, but that was the case. My team, Tradewind Energy/Trek Stores had 5 guys for the weekend. The day before, Texas Road House had 10 guys and a few other teams 6+. But, we were the strongest guys for sure.
We were super aggressive right from the gun. We didn’t want the race to come down to a field sprint. Josh Carter was going to win if that was the case. Eventually, a break got up the road with 8 riders. Everyone but me from our team was there. But, Josh made the split. The race was over, but I think we made a tactical error and started attacking the break too early. It was super windy and when the break split up, the field got remotivated. Long story short, the field was back together with 5 to go. I got away on the next lap with one rider. We had a good gap, but Josh Carter bridged up towing Brian and one more guy, Dave Henderson. There were only 2 km to go by then. I put in a good last lap dig, but Henderson chased, giving Josh all the rest he needed. He outsprinted Brian and I pretty handily. So, we finished 2nd and 3rd on the day. Shad was 2nd in the field sprint for 7th.
Catherine Walberg, not teammate, but travel team companion, finished 2nd in Hillsboro and won the criterium on Sunday. Somehow, our team should/has to take some kind of credit for her results.
So, since Tradewind Energy became involved, we’ve won 3 out of 5 races we’ve entered. Finishing 2nd and 3rd in the other two. Pretty good winning % for bike racing. Probably not sustainable for the remainder of the season, but a good start.