As the cycling world looks to Italy and California over the coming days and weeks, a fast growing series of criteriums in St. Louis, MO 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, is working its way into the upper echelons of domestic criterium racing.
See more photos in the gallery
The weekend opened on Friday night with a fast and furious event help 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 the field over, 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 (Mellow Mushroom) herself felt it necessary to chase down Amy McGuire (FCS|Rouse) midway through the 45 minute race, without asking any of the other teams for help. Unfortunately, it didn’t add up to a win as Tibco’s Samantha Schneider took out the sprint, leaving Vanderkitten to settle for third with their rider Kate Chilcott behind second placed Sarah Fader of 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 that saw nearly half of the sold out 150 rider strong field fail to make the grade. With the exception of a mid-race five man breakaway that featured danger man Cole House of Competitive Cyclist, almost nothing 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 pile up 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 30 mph average. House hung on for an impressive second place and Jamis/Sutter Home’s Alejandro Borrajo rounded out the podium despite his brother’s involvement in the late race crash.
Though Friday’s Loop de Loop was a warm-up for the big NRC showdown that starts tomorrow, 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.