Okay, on to Stage 2! The Saint Paul Criterium was on Wednesday evening (the same day) as the Riverfront Time Trial, but across the river and up the hill in the Lowertown neighborhood.
The rain let up and the sun came out while myself and other volunteers worked on unloading gear and putting the course together. Everyone started out in sweatshirts and rain jackets, and ended up in shorts and t-shirts. A good thing, too. Working at and/or watching a bike race is about as fun as it gets in my book, but it can be miserable if the weather is cold and wet.
The course was a roughly nine block circuit with Mears Park in the center. This is a busy area with condos all over the place, businesses, and industrial warehouses close by. It was quite interesting to watch as we set up the tents for the expo and began "throwing fence" to block off the streets and set up the course.
I was walking the course while the pro women warmed up before there race started at six o'clock. Who do I notice zipping around, but Kristin Armstrong wearing the yellow leader's jersey, of course. Me being me, I yelled out "Hey, Kristin!" as she rode by. She looked up and right at me, "Hey there!" she yelled back. Cool, huh?
Kristin has won the overall race for the past three years (2006, 2007, 2008) and last year she did it with only one teammate. This year, she might have a little bit of a tougher time. Why? Because for this race, she is the Cervelo TestTeam! Yep, she's racing alone this week. While that was okay during the individual time trial this morning, it could hurt and probably will hurt later this week.
The women lined up, with the leaders' jerseys in the front row.
Bang! Went the starting gun and they were off for 40 laps.
Kristin set a furious pace right from the gun and was out front for a good portion of the race.
While walking/riding the course with my camera, I ran into Julia (GoBigGreen) who races for Verve Racing. She was watching the action with Rich and getting ready for her first half-Ironman triathlon. I'll be sending her good energy on Saturday!
Kristy Broun (Riverstone CDA) won the stage in a brilliant sprint, but not by enough to take the overall lead from Kristin Armstrong.
After the women's race finished, I saw a young lady speaking with the champ herself and thought, "Okay, this might be my only chance". I asked a buddy to watch my bike for a bit. I crossed the street, dodging riders warming up and walked up to Kristin.
"Kristin?" She turned her head and grinned. "I wanted to say hello and thanks so much for coming this year. It's great to see you racing."
"Well, thank you! Thanks so much for coming out and watching!"
"I was marshaling out on the course this morning, you were flying!"
She laughed, "Oh, was I?"
I grinned back, "Oh yeah! Zoom! 'What was that blur?' It was you... I don't want to keep you, just wanted to say hello and thanks for being here. Good luck this week!"
Wow, did I just walk up to one of my hero's and hold a coherent, if short, conversation? YES!
The men's pro race was also extremely fast, right from the gun.
A four man group got away early and stayed away for most of the stage.
Sebastien Haedo (Colavita) beat out Tom Soladay (Mountain Khakis) for the stage win and Haedo's teammate Alejandro Barrajo rounded out the podium. Tom Soladay was in the break group and nearly rode the cranks off his bike, only to be caught by Haedo on the final sprint.
Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.