Last year’s Tour de Grove, which is one of the 11 stops on the 2012 USA CRITS Championship calendar, was plagued with such bad weather that the already well-used roads suddenly resembled the deck of a sinking ship. But the 2012 edition of the event this weekend, which is part of the three day MOPRO cycling weekend, should see the nearly 150-rider field racing under perfect weather conditions.
“This year we’re going to have just a bluebird day,” said race director Mike Weiss. “It’s going to be mid-70’s and sunny. So finally, May is May!”
To add to improved forecast, the city of St. Louis has reinvested in the race by improving road conditions throughout the course.
“We’re in some neighborhoods that are transitioning. Now they’re getting some attention, and the city put in six figures worth of paving on the race course specifically – all the turns. So when racers come back, it’s going to be as smooth as glass,” added Weiss
This year’s Tour de Grove, which is also a National Criterium Calendar event, has been elevated from a UCI 1.4 to 1.2 event, and because of the impact from the selections made for this year’s Amgen Tour of California, where some top teams were left out, the field will be particularly competitive. Notable exclusions at AToC like Team Type 1 and Kenda-5-Hour Energy will race alongside Jelly Belly, Jamis-Sutter Home, UnitedHealthcare and Bissell.
“The first time we did this event on the NRC calendar we had 54 athletes, of which 10 were probably legitimate domestic professionals,” said Weiss. “Last year we had an incredible roster but this year it seems like we’re benefitting from the Tour of California denying some teams’ participation by increasing the number of Euro teams. I think we’re going to sell out.”
The race is also probably seeing some benefit in terms of awareness because of the loss of the Tour of Missouri, which last ran in 2009. The Tour was exceedingly popular in the state and its departure has fostered renewed interest in criterium racing according to Weiss.
“We’re trying to get the morale of the city and the spirit of Missouri back. There’s definitely an appetite for professional cycling in the state, and I think in the near term this is going to be the event we try to build on over time.”
Following April’s Terrapin Twilight in Athens, Georgia, the Tour de Grove is expected to be one of the more heavily attended events of the USA CRITS Series. After four events, the men’s field is fairly tight. Series leader Oscar Clark (United Healthcare) will have to keep an eye on Colin Jaskiewicz (Champion System), and Luke Keough (Mountain Khakis) who maintain closest proximity to the Athens-based rider in the race for the overall Orange leader’s jersey.
In the women’s field, two-time USA CRITS champion Erica Allar is already asserting the same dominance she’s shown over the past couple of years. The RIDECLEAN-PatentIt.com rider not only won the Terrapin Twilight just ahead of veteran racer Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom-Rose Bandit), but she came out on top during the NCC Speedweek Series as well.
USA CRITS Overall Standings (after four events)
1. Oscar Clark, United Healthcare with 863 points
2. Colin Jaskiewicz, Champion System-Stan’s NoTubes 766
3. Luke Keough, Mountain Khakis-SmartStop 758
4. Euris R. Vidal, CRCA-Foundation, 654
5. Gavriel Epstein, Champion System-Stan’s NoTubes, 637
6. Issac Howe, Kenda/5-Hour Energy, 622
7. Frank Travieso, Coco’s, 615
8. Neil Bezdek, Mountain Khakis-SmartStop, 537
9. Emile Abraham, Rosetti Devo, 531
10. Ivan Dominguez, Franco Bicycles, 521
1. Erica Allar, RIDECLEAN/PatentIt.com with 997 points
2. Debbie Milne, Absolute Racing, 848
3. Colleen Gulick, Pure Energy-Proairhfa, 725
4. Colleen Hayduk, RideClean/PatentIt.com, 645
5. Laura Parsons, Mellow Mushroom-Rose Bandit, 562
6. Kristen Lasasso, Mellow Mushroom-Rose Bandit, 471
7. Laura Van Gilder, Mellow Mushroom-Rose Bandit, 455
8. Valerie Galeano, Mellow Mushroom-Rose Bandit, 437
9. Jacquelyn Crowell, Exergy TWENTY12, 430
10. Lenore Pipes, RIDECLEAN/PatentIt.com, 393