I’ve received a few emails about why I thought the Benton Park course at the Gateway Cup was good. I’ve thought about it a bit and there are lots of reasons I liked the course.
First and foremost, it was fun. And just because it was fun for me, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone that raced the course had fun. It was fun for me because it kept me on my toes. There are not that many criteriums, and way less road races, that make you keep your eye on the ball constantly. That is one reason that I enjoy racing ‘cross and MTB’s. During those races, your mind is constantly working to stay ahead of your progress. When your thoughts get behind your forward progress, that is when disaster normally strikes. And this course was a thinking course.
There were 10 corners on the course that came at unexpected times. I can’t think of a race that I’ve done recently that had two corners so close together. The right/left combination on the backside was a blast and made you set up your position quite a bit earlier than you would have thought. The road surface itself wasn’t that great. They had done an excellent job of marking the areas of concern, but that still came into play. The random potholes and manhole covers in the corners just added to the race, ATMO. I liked coming out of the final corner in line and having to decide whether to just follow the wheel ahead of me into the line of orange marked holes, or take my own line and be out in the wind. But, the technical aspect of the corner wasn’t the only thing that made it good.
The ambiance surrounding the race and the neighborhood was great also. The small commercial areas we raced through were unexpected, mixed in with the old houses and huge brewery. The start finish area was perfect. A park for kids and dogs. A 24 hour coffee shop/bar. Nothing missing there. And the music on the backside was a little scary, annoying at first, but then was something to look forward to later on as you got used to it.
If you look at the composition of the winning break, those 7 guys were probably the best for the weekend. It was missing a couple strong guys that missed it and were in the field, but not one rider up there wasn’t a strong bike rider. It is rare that a course selects such a break without having a monstrous hill on it. Or something of the sort. Of course, it wasn’t only the course made that selection, but it was impossible for someone to be in that break that didn’t have the goods upfront. It was too hard of a course not to be riding at the front of the field. And it was impossible to make the selection if you were riding more than 20 guys back.
This course was perfect for the size and quality of field that they had at the PRO race at Gateway. This course was safe, even thought the road condition might of seemed to point otherwise. Having to ride single file makes the races much more safe. The size and quality of the field does matter considerably when judging whether a course was good on any given day. In cycling, the best/stronger guy doesn’t necessarily always win. But, a good bike race course helps make the sport more fair.