ST. LOUIS, Missouri – On a wet and windy day in St. Louis, riders at the Tour De Grove lined up to brave the elements at the second year of the event, an NRC race and the latest round of the USA Crits series.
With temperatures steady in the low 50’s, wind gusts exceeding 20 miles an hour and a steady drizzle to dampen the roads, the racers faced challenging conditions on a challenging six-corner circuit.
In the men’s race, the field strung out from the gun, snaking through the circuitous, route with slippery corners as multiple crashes and repeated flat tires fragmented the field through the first half hour of racing.
Repeated attacks were unable to stick with most aggressive team of the day by far the Pure Black Racing squad from New Zealand. With forty minutes remaining, a group of ten riders was able to squeeze out a thirteen second advantage and worked together to distance the field. With two riders each from UnitedHealthcare and Pure Black Racing, as well as Australian criterium champion Jonathan Cantwell, the break was able to keep the chasing peloton at bay with the gap hovering at fifteen to twenty seconds.
With twenty minutes to go, Mike Northey of Pure Black attacked solo to gain a handful of seconds on the break but was brought back into the fold a lap later. From there the break worked fluidly to maintain their advantage and took the top three spots in the mid race prime earning points for the USA Crits overall.
Christian Helmig of ELBOWZ Racing won the prime, moving himself up the overall standings. With five minutes to go, the break still held a thirty second gap on the chasing field despite several counter attacks from Brad Huff of Jelly Belly and Matt Brandt of Mesa Cycles Racing late in the race. With a lap remaining, Louis Crosby of Pure Black was gapped from the break and Adrian Hegyvery from United Health Care flatted, reducing the two teams’ numerical advantage.
Despite the loss of a teammate, early aggressor Northey took the last three corners to perfection, holding off the remainder of the break for a commanding win. UnitedHealthcare rider Jake Keogh took second and breakaway workhorse Christian Helmig rounded out the podium in third, moving himself up into the overall USA Crits lead in the process.
In the women’s race, the powerhouse teams of Tibco and Colavita dominated affairs. While there were repeated attacks in the first stages of the race, none were able to stick as a series of crashes on the rain slicked roads and gusting winds discouraged attempts to jump clear.
By the mid-point of the race, it appeared that the bunch had resigned itself to a sprint finish and the two dominant teams in the race worked to keep the pace high through the treacherous conditions. At the midrace prime, Laura Van Gilder of Mellow Mushroom picked up valuable points to move herself up into the series lead of the USA Crits. Despite a last lap solo attempt by Cat Carr of Vanderkitten, the women’s field came into the last corner together, setting up a sprint finish up the long, head wind heavy drag to the line.
Default series leader at the beginning of the day, Erica Allar of RideClean, overcooked the last corner, ending her race and overall lead abruptly. With Allar on the pavement, Colavita put on a dominant display with Edita Janeliunaite taking the win over Joelle Numainville of Tibco and Colavita rider Leah Kirchmann in third. With her midrace prime win and seventh place finish, Van Gilder moved herself up into the overall series lead with Sam Schneider in second.