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2018 Gateway Cup
By Justin Heizer
Posted on 9/10/2018 7:23 AM
Short recap of my first time at The Gateway Cup in St.Louis! I raced in the category 2/3 men.

I got on the road Friday around lunch after a crazy morning packing and making sure I had everything I needed for the big weekend ahead. It was a five hour drive in pouring rain all the way to St. Louis. I finally made it after 2 missed exits, and 3 missed turns!

Friday: Tour de Lafayette

I got out the bike, threw on my helmet, and road along the course. My adrenaline was already rushing! There where so many people! I picked up my number, stopped to say hi to a few people, and then went back to the car to get ready.

After changing, I was getting back on the bike to go warm up, and I felt something funny, so I look down only to see my rear tire had flatted! I quickly changed out the flat, and went on with my warmup. After a solid 45 minute warmup, it was go time. I lined up outside the course with over 100 riders ready to toe the line beside me. My heart was racing at 115bpm just standing there!

3,2,1! Andiamo! And the race was on. I fought my way through roughly 60 riders ahead of me in a very fast first lap. I was able to move up to the top 10-15 riders and hold my position for a few laps, even lead a half lap ( I know, I know. Really stupid idea).

20 minutes went by so fast. Next thing I knew, I was rolling on the ground and my bike was flying over me. A rider had clipped my front wheel and I went down. I suffered some pretty bad road rash all the way up the right side of my body from my ankle to my shoulder. I went to the medical tent, got bandaged up, went back to where I was staying, had the most painful shower I’ve ever taken, a rough night of sleep, and that was the end of my first day at gateway cup.

Saturday: Tour de Francis park

The next morning I woke up very sore, but was determined to still race. I got to the race, changed and was ready to go. I was sore and didn’t want to move much so I didn’t do any warmup prior to the race, which was a bad mistake. 3,2,1! Andiamo! And the race was off! I once again fought my way towards the front. And stayed there for a few laps. The I started having to work really hard to stay towards the front as the races began to get harder and more strung out. It wasn’t until about 5 laps to go when I realized; “ there are some really fast guys out here”. With 2 laps to go, I was in a decent position, and then there was a crash in front of me. I had to slam on my brakes and skid my tires to avoid it. At that point I had been passed by 50 plus riders and was towards the tail end of the pack. I rode those last two laps as hard I could to move up in the peloton! I ended up 50th place.

Sunday: Giro della Montagna

I got to the course and was extremely excited. Sunday’s course was in an “Italian” town in St Louis. Most of you know, but I grew up in Italy, so this was really special for me as there were Italian flags everywhere, fake gelato, Italian sausage and much more! (I didn’t get to meet any Italians sadly)

I got kitted up, and got on the bike, and could immediately tell that it wasn’t going go good today. My road rash was very uncomfortable, and my knee was hurting.

But that wasn’t going to stop me. I rode up to the start line nonetheless.

3,2,1! Andiamo! Fast flat start, tight left hand corner, another tight left hand corner, and boom. THE HILL. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was my first time riding up “the hill”. All I can say is I definitely was expecting to be going up a climb at +27mph!

At the top of the hill was another tight left hand corner, one more corner and the downhill straightaway to the finish line.

I lasted 30 out of the 55 minutes, but I couldn’t hold on any longer. I was in too much pain from my injuries and the tough day before. I had to drop out of the race. It was frustrating to drop out being this was the race I looked forward to the most this weekend. I went back to the car, got changed, and went back to watch the rest of the races. The pro women and pro men were the last two races of the day. Both were super exciting races to watch, with many attacks. I then ended the day by grabbing some AMAZING macaroni and cheese with pulled pork with some great friends who I wish I got to see more of.

Monday: Benton park classic

The last day has arrived. It had been a very long and tiring Labor Day weekend, and I was almost happy it was coming to an end.

The Benton park classic is a very fast and technical course. Which under normal circumstances, I would love. But was dreading the thought of having to ride hard on Monday. My body was aching, and tired.

Yet I still got on the bike. After warming up I was ready to give it one last dig!

3,2,1! Andiamo!

We were off. It was a slight uphill start, so I took advantage of the hill, and move my way into the top ten riders very quickly. And stayed there for a couple laps, until my legs felt like they were going to fall off. I got shuffled to the back of the pack, where no one ever wants to be, and I stayed there. For the next thirty minutes. And that’s when I couldn’t hang on any longer. I dropped off the back of the group. Soft pedaled for a minute and told myself I wasn’t going to give up. I’ve pushed through to much this weekend to just stop there. I continued soloing my way through the course as hard as I could. I made it until 2 laps to go when the officials pulled me out of the race for safety reason, as the group would be coming up quickly for the finish.

So I guess you could say my first time at Gateway Cup was definitely a tough experience. But I learned something important this weekend. To never give up in a race or training. There have been many times this year even where I’ve been trying to make a solo bridge or pull back a breakaway, or not gone out to train, and I’ve just given up because I thought it was too hard. But after pushing my body to the limits I did this past weekend, after crashing and continuing to race. I can say that;

1: I have a ton of respect for the pro riders that finish races like the Tour de France, with broken bones etc...
2: I have no excuses for not giving my best in a race or training. I may not be the fastest rider. But I’m never going to be if I give up and don’t keep on keeping on.

And finally

3: Big races are a LOT of fun! And I can’t wait for next time!

Justin Heizer- 3 feet cycling



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