Saturday, June 13, 2009

NVGP: Stage 5 - Mankato Road Race

I might be nuts for doing this, but I hauled my carcass out of bed at an insanely early hour, loaded up my bike, and drove down to Mankato to help with the race set-up. Unfortunatly, I couldn't stay for the race; as someone else had a previous claim on my afternoon.

Mankato is a college town, housing at least two major universities: Minnesota State Universtiy, Mankato and Bethany Lutheran College. Since it's summer, the downtown area was pretty quiet. But, then again, it was nine o'clock on a Saturday morning.

Thankfully, I still know my way around Mankato from the four years I spent there (GO MAVERICKS!) and found parking without any trouble. The next order of business was coffee. I'd left the house without "real" breakfast and a latte seemed the perfect fix. Off to the Fillin' Station! The Fillin' Station Coffeehouse is, in my opinion, the best independent coffeehouse in downtown Mankato. Some say The Coffee Hag, but that's in Old Town and a bit far to walk most days from campus. On top of the hill, the best place to go is The Hub. They've got really good omelets. But, I digress...

As in Minneapolis, I was putting up tents, unloading gear from trucks, and zip-tying banners to the course fencing. A surprising number of the set-up volunteers drove down from the Cities to help put stuff up. What better way to spend a Saturday, than to help with a bike race?

Since I could only stay until two o'clock, I don't have any pictures of the race itself, or the finish, but here are a few shots of the pro races:

The men at the starting line at Hickory Street
And they're off and riding for 92 miles!

The women took off about a half hour after the men. I was one of the lucky volunteers who go to hold the rope that "corralled" the riders, so they didn't hit the start-line too soon. I was supposed to drop the rope once given the signal and the riders would take their starting positions. Yeah, it didn't turn out that way, they jumped the announcement and went under the rope. Thank goodness Matt (one of the volunteer director guys) was on the other side of the fence and was able to lift the rope with me so the riders could keep going under.

The pack, from the rear.
Hanging out, waiting for the gun.
And they're off!
Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

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