|The famous St. Louis Gateway arch from the backseat of the van!|
The course was another dry, grassy park. Basically another grass crit of sorts, as many US cross races are in the early season. This course had one set of barriers, two run-ups very similar to Cross Vegas, and a stair run-up to fly-over. It seemed pretty straight forward when we pre-rode and I was pretty excited to get yet another UCI race under my belt.
These Cross After Dark races are really fun to race under the lights, but my eyesight is not real keen in the dark, so it posed quite the challenge too! By the time the Women's Elite race started, it was pitch dark! There were lights strategically placed about the course, but there were a few dark corners that I knew could be trouble. St. Louis drew a pretty good crowd with lots of cowbells and even fans handing up cash with the help of fishing poles!
Given the midweek race that was sandwiched between Starcrossed or Charm City and the first USGP, the women's field in St. Louis was very small. Only 12 of us made up the 2 rows at the start line. It's pretty easy to get a good call-up when there are only 12! I actually got a front row position for the start (the first, and probably last time to happen at a UCI race!) I've been struggling with my starts and I was very focused to make this start my best yet. Finally I got a good start and was in very good position through the first turn. The group settled in with the Giant Berry Farms girls leading the way. I was really pleased with my position and knew I had to race smart to give myself a chance in the end for a good finish. Somewhere during the 3rd or 4th lap, I was in the chase group not far behind the leader when the dark course finally took its toll. A mis-judged corner lead to crossed-up wheels and a crash. I went soaring over the handlebars and the group came to a halt. I quickly went from 3rd position to completely off the back! I picked myself off the ground and ran to my bike to find the saddle pointing sideways, front wheel out of true and wobbling, and rear brake rubbing! CRAP! I punched at my saddle a few times and remounted to sprint back to the group. Unlucky for me, I have no pit bike at the moment so I had to chose...1) stop in the pit and have Franky help sort out the problems or 2) forget about it and ride! I decided on option 2! It took me a whole lap, but I finally caught back up to the group. Thank goodness this course had lots of chicane turns that kept the group at moderate speeds and played in my favor. I continued to move up and with 2 laps to go I found myself in the chase group with 3 other girls and the 2 Giant Berry Farms riders with a commanding lead. So here was my chance to race for 3rd at a UCI event. A huge turnaround from the previous races! Kathy Sherwin was driving the group and I knew her experience would give her an advantage. Franky was screaming at me each time we bypassed the pit to "move up, move up, be first over the fly-over". You'd think I would take his advice! But no...instead I waited too long and was 4th wheel into the fly-over. Kathy attacked and I was stuck in the back when the long road sprint began. I gave it my all and outsprinted one to finish in 5th place.
As much as I was excited about scoring some UCI points, I was disappointed with the small errors that may have set me up for a 3rd place sprint. Lesson learned. Now the important part is not making the same mistake twice! Riding fast is important, but riding smart is sometimes just as important. Let's just say I wasn't the smartest. Overall, I was pleased with my finish given the suboptimal bike condition (oops!) and mental preparation. I finally feel like I'm developing a pre-race routine for cross, which is so different than mountain bike racing.
So today I'm celebrating the arrival of fall in Madison, WI for the Planet Bike cup set for the weekend. The last stop on this amazing trip. I've spent the last 9 days learning lessons from JP and Franky, so I hope to put together a good weekend for the first USGP. The women's field will be stacked again with all the top riders in the US (and the world for that matter!). There is a live feed for the elite races on Cycling Dirt.com for those who are interested. Thanks for reading!