This past Labor Day weekend my teammate, Patrick, and I decided to escape the noisy confines of Milwaukee and head south to St. Louis for the Staenberg Group Gateway Cup. Having never been to St. Louis before the only thing I knew to expect was the Arch and the Cardinals. That all changed quickly before I even stepped out of the car after arriving at the home of our hosts, Jim and Carolyn, who graciously let us stay in their carriage house for our time in St. Louis. They opened their front door before we even knocked and quickly rushed us into their dining room for an excellent dinner of pasta, garlic bread, salad, red wine, and lemon bars. Not only were the dinner and their house amazing, it was located right on the course for the first race around Lafayette Park. It was the perfect beginning to a weekend of racing. Thank you Jim and Carolyn! Your hospitality was immensely appreciated. I hope your door is open for us next year too.
Looking back over our six days, visiting St. Louis for the first time and being just a tourist would have been well worth the trip alone. In fact we never left the city of St. Louis once. It is full of small, unique neighborhoods that each have their own character and are filled with people from all walks of life that seem to live in harmony with one another. It was a treat every morning to wake up, go out for an easy stroll on the bike and find a coffee shop to sit at for an hour and wake up to the beautiful aroma of espresso. Conversations were struck with the locals on multiple occasions including one time where I saw the same guy (on a Cannondale bike) later in the day at Benton Park where he ‘passed me his energy’ to use in my race. The entire city is navigable by bike which makes it even better. Did I mention they have a great barbeque scene, multitudes of tasty restaurants, and a lack of winter down there?
Now to the actual point of my visit: the Gateway Cup. All four days of racing were fast, hard, and hot. I had been warned that the Cat 4’s there are like Cat 3’s here, the Cat 3’s there are like the Cat 2’s here, etc. They were right. The fields were big and the competition was stacked. So much so that in the first race, the twilight Tour de Lafayette, I blew up after spending 8-10 laps in a 3-5 man break (the effort was so hard that I lost count of the laps). Soon afterward I was swept up by the peloton, spit out the back, and pulled with two laps left. The race officials were still kind enough to show me as finishing in 58th place. Fortunately, as the races went on my race results improved. I finished in 48th place, with the main group nonetheless, at the Tour de Francis Park, 24th at the uphill Giro della Montagna, and 19th at the Benton Park Classic. All four races had fantastic spectators, noisy fans, and a party atmosphere. It was a great feeling hearing nothing but cheering cowbells as I barreled down the front straight or went around a corner. If you only have a chance to do one race make it the Benton Park Classic. Everyone needs to experience this great 10-corner circuit that features a quick right-left chicane with fans yelling for a breakaway each lap. It was definitely my favorite race.
If you are not a bike racer but love coffee, make a point of stopping at Sump Coffee. Hit them up multiple times like we did; you will not be disappointed. It is unlike any other coffee shop I have been to and bar none the best coffee, espresso, and lattes I have had in my lifetime. A word of advice if you stop: order what is on the menu. There is a reason, besides not being able to order anything else anyway; they know what they are doing and have perfected everything on it. I have never tasted espresso quite like the two shots from the Sump and will be back for that alone, bike racing or not, in the future.
I don’t know about you but I am booking this on my calendar for 2014. See you next year St. Louis!
Jadon is a Cat 4/5 road racer for Belgianwerkx who is returning to competition after a few years away from the race scene with a focus on criteriums and road races. In 2013 he is learning the nuances of crit racing having previously focused most of his racing on hill climb events in his former home of Colorado.