Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tour of Montana

Toward the end of last year, the Missoula bike community started hearing talk of a pro race coming to town. Locals shops and riders were contacted, routes were planned, and then, well, no one heard anything about it for awhile.

The dates got closer and finally some details started to trickle out. There was to be a team time trial thursday night with downtown tonight, road race friday, and crits through downtown on Saturday.  Cool! Who's coming? what teams? anyone famous?

Unfortunately, not too many people. 13 P/1/2 men. 17 P/1/2/3 women. TT and road race were cancelled. Instead of categorized criteriums all day Saturday, there ended up being a Pro 1/2 mens race, an everyone else men's race, and a women's race. Plus a short kids race.

Not being a P/1/2 racer I was in the first race of the day, which consisted of 35+ cat 1/2/3 and mens 3/4/5. 12 total and only two other cat 4s (Austin and Cam from the UM team). Only racing against two other people definitely takes a lot of the fun out of it.

So where was everybody? I guess when the idea is a multi-day pro stage race the locals get left out. Some people I talked to didn't even realize the race was happening, or that there were amateur categories. Plus I don't know how much this was promoted outside of Missoula. It's not huge, but there is a road racing community in the state, plus Idaho and EWA are not far.

There was still a race at least. Main, front, the higgins bridge were all closed to traffic, and the course started at front/higgins, went down main to the u-turn thing, down front, over the bridge, onto 3rd and around the block, back over the bridge. Pretty fun and fast course, although lots of bumps and manholes to watch out for.

Our race stayed together for a few laps and then two of the masters racers made a break for it when I finished a long pull and went toward the back to hang out for a bit. I assume they timed it that way on purpose. Then I was back to working hard chasing right away again, and ended up in a group of four somewhere behind the two leaders. The reason I ended up on the front the first time was because I felt things were going a little too slow. I've heard the strategy of never doing any work in a crit, but that doesn't really work when there are only 12 people. Racing smart is one thing, but who wants to coast along at 18mph with 15 laps to go? I ended up doing a good portion of the work in our group of four along with Josh Martell who was in the masters race, and then got beat out at the end by the guy who sucked wheel the whole time.

Lesson learned? If someone isn't doing any work, drop their ass.

I guess I still ended up on the podium (we all did), but was pretty upset with myself for awhile. You'd also think that with the low turnout the prizes might be better. Nope, got a "destination Missoula" bottle opener. Doesn't even mention the tour of mt.

What I did like was racing downtown on closed streets. The course was blocked off and marshalled a little better than the UM crit so there was less worry of plowing into a pedestrian. People were out watching, and the announcers (Dave Towlie and Alex Gallego) were calling out our names as we went by. That definitely adds a bit over just riding down a road somewhere with no one watching. Then you finish and family and friends are there saying nice things.