The latest stop on my early summer race calendar took me to St Louis, Missouri for The Tour de Grove. TdG is the crown jewel centered around three days of crit racing each taking place at separate venues in budding, re-emerging down town St Louis neighborhoods.
The first criterium was a twilight race in an area called The Loop. The course was a simple rectangle with a slight up hill drag thru the start/finish. The back side of the course was lit with a handful of generator lights, in addition to the sporadic street lights. This left a couple of pitch black tunnels to ride thru. This made things a little sketchy as the race heated up and moves tried to get away. After staying out of trouble and some confusion after a last lap crash. The finish came down to a bunch sprint. I was able stay in the top 15…and off the floor.
The second day was the biggest of the weekend. It had the largest cash purse, and brought out all of the heavy hitters. This race was centered around an area called The Grove and it’s many eclectic restaurants and bars. You’ve got to check out The Santuaria Wild Tapas. Two thumbs up. It was a warm sunny day, and the course was a fairly safe route. With only one real tough corner. With a couple of laps to go and the larger teams organizing their lead out trains, I was in good position and feeling strong. However, I wasn’t quite attentive enough and allowed myself to get pushed back into the middle of the pack. A pile up occurred on the inside corner of the first turn on the last lap, Thanks to the safe piloting of Ryan Mele I was able to get around the crash on the outside via the sidewalk, but the front of the race was gone. I had to settle for a top 40.
The third and final day was in an old historic area a few miles south of St. Louis called Dutch Town. Another great day as far as weather goes and the more difficult day as far as the terrain. The group was really strung out for the first half dozen laps or so. As the legs began to open up I realized that I needed to be closer to the front if I was going to stay out of trouble and be able to ride more aggressively. There was a group of five guys just off the front. As I moved toward the front of the main group a Competitive Cyclist rider slid out on the second turn of the course. This caused the rest of the group slow. I was just on the inside of the crash so I was able to follow one wheel as we frantically accelerated up to the break. One rider followed me, so five became eight. The group was very motivated to stay away and we were all working together well. We quickly had a 15 second advantage. The gap fluctuated between twelve and 20 seconds and even came down to five seconds with three laps to go. I have to admit there were a couple of times that after my turn at the front it was all I could do to hitch back on the back of the breakaway train. After putting in a big dig on the slight uphill on the last lap I was pretty shot for the sprint. I finished 7th on the day and capped off a great weekend of racing.
One of the main highlights of the weekend was that, being from Arkansas, my parents were able to drive up and spend the weekend with me. I know that crit spectating is stressful for them and causes a bit of anxiety, but it was great to be able to spend a few days with them. Hearing the excitement in my Dad’s voice as he ran from one side of the course to the other to give us time gaps was pretty special. I even got to go for a morning walk around The Arch on Mother’s Day morning with my mom.