ST LOUIS, Missouri (VN) – As the cycling world looks to Italy and California over the coming days and weeks, a fast-growing series of criterium races in St. Louis, Missouri is quietly attracting top teams from the around the country with a variety of quality courses and NRC points.
With deep neighborhood support and a growing list of sponsors, the Missouri Professional Cycling Series, also know as MoPro – which includes the Loop de Loop, Tour de Grove and Dutchtown Classic, Friday through Sunday respectively – is working its way into the upper echelons of domestic criterium racing.
This weekend’s events opened on Friday night with a fast and furious event held on a course steeped in tradition through St. Louis’s University City Loop neighborhood.
As the sun fully disappeared from the sky, the women’s field opened up their weekend’s racing with a frantic race dominated by the team of Vanderkitten-Focus. Utilizing textbook tactics to work over the field, Vanderkitten sent riders away in multiple solo attempts and took sole responsibility for chasing if ever they missed a move.
It was notable that Laura van Gilder herself felt it necessary to chase down Vanderkitten’s Amy McGuire midway through the 45 minute race, without asking any of the other teams for help, such was Vanderkitten’s cohesion.
Unfortunately, it didn’t add up to a win as Tibco-To the Top’s Samantha Schneider took the sprint, leaving Vanderkitten to settle for third, with their rider Kate Chilcott, behind second place finisher Sarah Fader (Pepper Palace).
Once the men took to the course, it was clear that it was going to be flat-out from the gun: In a blistering race of attrition, nearly half of the sold-out 150-rider field failed to make the grade.
With the exception of a mid-race five-man breakaway that featured danger man Cole House of Competitive Cyclist, almost no one made it off the front. Under the impetus of Jelly Belly riding for local favorite Brad Huff, and Mountain Khakis supporting Luke Keough, there were no moves that were given any freedom.
A nasty pileup in the final two laps sent chaos through the group, but Jelly Belly stuck to the script, delivering Huff to a classy win in a race that well exceeded a 30mph average. House hung on for an impressive second place and Jamis-Sutter Home’s Alejandro Borrajo rounded out the podium.
Though Friday’s Loop de Loop was but a warm-up for the big NRC showdown that starts Saturday, the flat out racing showcased through the starlit streets of St. Louis showed an exciting preview for the dynamic racing on tap. Despite losing the Tour of Missouri, the Gateway to the West is showing that cycling is still alive and well in the Midwest.