Tour de Grove NRC: Heat, Rain, Wind, and Cramps 

A handful of us traveled to St. Louis for the National Race Calendar Tour de Grove. Brad Schaeffer and I were the only two to do the Pro-1-2 criterium Saturday night and it DUMPED rain the entire race. It was torrential rain and wind from an extended line of thunderstorms marching across the Mississippi. There were lots and lots of people falling down on the ultra-slick corners but Brad and I managed to stay upright. Between the wind, rain, crashes, and pro teams Jelly Belly and Kelly Benefits whacking it on the front, the group slimmed down to less than 20 riders by the time we hit 5 laps to go. I was surfing the back of the Jelly Belly leadout train hoping for an opportunity to use them in the sprint but I was a little too conservative in the final 2 turns and let a gap open that I couldn't close in the long, long uphill sprint. I was 10th, and Brad was in a smaller group just behind us for somewhere around 25th.

Sunday was brutal with mid-90s heat and high humidity in this 80 mile criterium with 13 corners on each 2.7 mile lap. In the parking lot before the race Erik Hamilton, Jon Jacob, Brad and I made ice packs out of pantyhose and shoved down the backs of our jerseys, drank water and electrolyte drinks like crazy, and we all still ended up cramping at some point. There's not a whole lot to talk about other than everyoneof us either made it into some short-lived moves or contributed on the front. But the heat, corners, and accelerations took their toll. Jelly Belly missed the key break of two Kelly Benefits riders so they put 6 guys on the front and rotated at time trial pace. That forced a split with 25 riders in the front group, into which Hamilton and I made the split. Then with 8 laps to I got popped out of the back of the group as another supercell thunderstorms hit us with rain and wind. Fortunately for us there was lightning very close by so the officials called the race with 6 laps which meant that I didn't get lapped and still got a place at 23rd. Hamilton cramped when the huge temperature drop hit (94 to 70 degrees within just a few minutes) and lost contact with the front group in the last lap, but still hung on for 20th for the last money and NRC points spot.

Overall the racing was quite hard, but very worthwhile experience for the guys and and an opportunity to build some race fitness for me. Next time, USA Crits racing in Cincinnatti.

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Aaron Hubbell

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