Project 5 Racing

Things that go bump in the night…or my Gateway Cup experience

This past weekend I ventured down to St. Louis to participate in the Gateway Cup. I raced this series 2 years ago and found it to be one of the best run in the Midwest and while it’s only four days the vibe and organization is much better than Superweek. The past two seasons I’ve spent a good deal of time working as a domestique on our little squad; a role I’ve actually come to enjoy. Unfortunately one of the casualties of this has been a lack of skill at staying well positioned at the front of a field for the entire race. I’ve also lost some of the guts it takes to fight and hold a good position for the last lap dash. Heading into St. Louis our team leader and I had a plan to get my head back in the game of staying up front and racing for a personal result. My sole job was to follow his wheel for the entire series. No pressure was being placed on a result; just have fun, follow Tim’s wheel and stay safe for four days. Friday nights race is around Lafayette Park which is surrounded by stately row homes that have been renovated beyond imagination (think huge $) and features an array of trendy eateries. Now we Midwest boys don’t get many chances to race at night so that ads to the excitement and danger factor simultaneously. Registration for the races fills up very quickly and the 110 limit was reached weeks before the race.

We take the line and the announcers are debating how many guys are lined up: 120, 132, 138…they finally settle on 147 riders on a 1 mile square that is dark except for road construction style flood lights in each corner. The flood lights shadows, high speed and field size all combine to make the task at hand a bit more dangerous by pla ying visual tricks with depth perception. Closing speeds are not necessarily faster, but reactions seem to be exaggerated (too much brake, braking for shadows, etc.) with the dark conditions. I take my place in the middle of a Vitamin Water / Trek sandwich as we set off for 40 minutes + 5 laps. This is always a fast race and tonight is no exception with speeds above 30mph every time I catch a glimpse of the speedo. I’m in great position and seem to be moving through the field with ease on the couple of occasions that I got shuffled back. No problem as I’ve got my mind focused on staying in the top 15 and I’m not even having to follow Tim’s wheel because for the first 10 minutes I’m pretty sure he’s behind me! Coming out of turn 2 I’m sitting in the middle and riders are moving up on both sides and as the front have slowed. I grab a wheel on the left side and we move up the field; my partner inserts himself back into the main field as we approach turn 3. I’m sitting directly beside the rider he’s jumped in front of as we set up for the left hander (all 4 corners are lefts). I’ve obviously got the inside line, but as we are quickly closing on the corner he’s not moving over and we touch shoulders. I’m not giving an inch either as I start to lean in, maintaining speed and position. In the dark I’d not seen the fact that the crowd barriers were positioned right on the curb and the slant of the land had them slightly angled in toward the course. I realize it’s going to be tight, but damn it I’ve got this line and I’m fully committed. My left shoulder brushes the barrier and for an instant I think “that was close”, but just as quickly I’m down. I hear bikes and riders crashing around as I stay in the fe tal position (unlike so many riders die at Superweek). As I lay there wondering if my Scott has been damaged too badly I attempt to get up and realize that I’ve felt that pain in my right shoulder area before. As I raise my torso I feel the familiar pop in the area of my collar bone and instantly know I’ve broken it again. Same one I broke 6 years before at Superweek. Unfortunately this is where the race organizers haven’t really got their act together. Corner workers are quick to help me off the course and ask how I am. For the next 15 minutes it’s a comedic exchange of: Corner worker: “we’ve got a rider down with a broken collar bone” Other person on the radio: “can he get back to the pits for his free lap” Corner worker: “he’s tried, but needs medical attention” Other person on the radio: “we can’t get the ambulance there because there’s a race going on” Corner worker: “can you have the announcer call his wife’s name and have her come to turn 3” Corner worker: “hello…is anyone there” Corner worker: “they want to know if you can walk there” I can see this isn’t going to be a fruitful discussion and will be quite a while before I’m being looked after professionally. Thankfully there were a number of local racers who also happened to be doctors and were exceptionally helpful. I can’t remember the names, but am grateful for all the help in getting me comfortable, finding an ice pack, propping me upright and calling my wife on the cell phone. The ambulance finally gets to my location and proceeds to park on the racing line despite my repeated attempts to tell them they’re going to cause more trouble. A worthless attempt at a sling, endless debate over which hospital to take me to and finally we are in the wagon on the way…so I think. The mopes have now decided they can’t take me to a hospital since there wouldn’t be coverage at the race and call for another wagon to pick me up at corner #1…provided they can get back there! They literally had to plug the address for the corner into the GPS and then still couldn’t easily find it with all the road closures. I’m now a bit worried and the pain is growing by the moment. “How long will it take for that other rig to get here and pick me up” I ask…20 minutes longer is the answer. We call my wife from the ambulance and she’s walked back to the car, loaded my bike, plugged in the address for the hospital and is just about to pass us in turn #1 when I tell her to stop and pick me up. I climb out, sign the paperwork saying that I willfully left the care of the ambulance stooges and we’re off for th e St Louis University Hospital. The trip to the inner city hospital will have to wait for another post, but I had a great civics lesson and excellent care by the staff. Unfortunately it was a costly weekend and ended my season on terms that I had little control over. The most disappointing fact was I had felt like it was effortless to move around and stay well positioned in the race. I have no illusions of being a podium placer since my sprint…well, it doesn’t exist, but feel certain I was on my way to getting back to the form I exhibited a few seasons ago.

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