Was the Tour of Kansas City Worth a Seven Hour Drive?

Was the Tour of Kansas City Worth a Seven Hour Drive?

At the beginning of the race season The Tour of Kansas City was not on my calendar. However, after taking a look at the KC race flyer a few weeks ago and realizing that the Masters and Junior races were both scheduled before lunch on both Saturday and Sunday, we decided to make a family weekend of it and enjoy Kansas City during our non-race afternoons and evenings. This race is also part of the Midwest Flyover and I love supporting Jason Engle’s effort to promote road cycling in our area. We will make it to four of the six designated Flyover races this season. Maybe more next season if he adds at 40+ Flyover Omnium—hint, hint.

Tour of Kansas City Race Recon

Since my wife could get in a day of work at her company’s Kansas City plant on Friday, we drove down to Kansas City from Minnesota late on Thursday. Koen and I had the entire day on Friday completely free. What to do? Ride bikes across town and test ride the Gooseneck climb of course. It was a great day of riding, laughing, eating, and enjoying the hotel swimming pool. We both knew what we were in for at the prologue and circuit race the next day—lots of pain!

Tour of Kansas City

Tour of Kansas City Race Recon on Cliff Rd. It was a gorgeous Friday afternoon

Tour of Kansas City Prologue Time Trial

Who loves time trials? Not this guy. The only time trials I end up racing are part of a larger omnium series and the shorter the better. It doesn’t get much shorter than 2.65 miles. Having never raced this course, my goal was to average 400 watts for a 6:00 minute finish. However, when I woke up to see it had rained overnight, I knew that racers who were willing to take risks around wet corners were either going to gain time or end up sliding across the road. After pre-riding the course I assumed that a sharp corner near the turnaround point would be the biggest trouble spot, but Brendan Hale warned me about the first turn a couple of minutes before my start. I can’t thank him enough as I took it REALLY easy and got right back into my pedals after the apex of the turn.

Tour of Kansas City

The last 50 miles of pain at the Prologue Time Trial.

The first half of the out-and-back time trial felt great. I glanced down at my Garmin and saw 500-600 watts. I knew this was a short effort, but if I continued to maintain that power the finishing hill was going to feel like a brick wall. I eased it back a bit approaching the turn and then just tried to maintain 350-375 watts on the way back. As I was approaching the final turn before the final hill (the first turn out of the chute), I saw Scott Halvorson (a local MN rider) skidding across the pavement into my lane. “Holy Crap!” As bad as I felt for Scott, I was both thankful he missed taking me out and for my conversation with Brendan before the race.

My finishing stretch up Gooseneck Hill was not as fast and powerful as I was planning, but I was still happy with my effort and the fact that I had stayed off the ground. I ended up with a 6:29 prologue time and a 395 watt average. I could see how with enough practice and a dry course that a 6:00 minute time could be within my reach. This was definitely my kind of time trial and I ended up tied for second place among the 40+ field.

Tour of Kansas City Prologue Time Trial Video of Pain

Tour of Kansas City Prologue Time Trial

Strava Data

Tour of Kansas City Circuit Race

The Tour of Kansas City Circuit Race on Cliff Road is definitely the primary draw of this two-day event. This short 3 mile loop has a technical back side, picturesque valley section, and a punchy climb that will completely tap a rider’s legs. I was happy to see that the 40+ Field only was required to complete 6 laps. I’m not sure if I would have had the legs to complete the 11 laps that the P/1/2 field were required to complete?

Tour of Kansas City

Koen finishing out his prologue time trial.

I did not know that I had placed second in the prologue before the circuit race, so I had no idea what to expect from the rest of the field. The starter’s whistle blew and we were off. I grabbed Jason Engle’s wheel and didn’t realize that we immediately had a gap from the rest of the field. A third rider bridged up and we rotated for the first half lap. This was not how I was expecting to start the race, but sometimes you just need to go for it. However, this effort made my first trip up Gooseneck hill pretty rough! “We have to do this five more times!” I thought. For the next couple of laps I sat near the front, but tried to conserve a little more energy. I started shifting into my little ring up the hill and spinning a high rpm to try to save my legs.

The fourth time up the hill was our field’s KOM lap for omnium points and I decided to jump early at the bottom of the hill. When I jumped my rear tire spun a few times in the same spot on the road that took out so many riders in the time trial, but I managed to lead the group up the steepest section of the hill before Ben Beger from Momentum Racing came over the top of me in a hurry. I dug deep and still managed to get second with the help of a “bike throw” at the line. I was told after the race that there were about 10 of us who managed to get a break from the field after the points lap, but it ended up coming back together.

Tour of Kansas City

Cresting the top of Gooseneck Hill after the KOM lap of the Circuit Race.

The last two laps were pretty uneventful as we all realized that nothing was getting away. I had no idea what I still had left in the tank, but decided that I would not jump early as I did on the points lap and just surf wheels near the front. I still shifted down to my little ring at the bottom of the hill and was spinning like mad, but maintained a top 3-4 position. I jumped on a bigger rider’s wheel after the turn and just turned myself inside out to kick past him in the final 10 meters. I was so shocked that I hit the line in first that I threw my hands up (something I said the week earlier that I would never do). A hilltop victory salute will probably never happen for me again, so no regrets.

Tour of Kansas City

I surprised myself with a win in the 40+ Circuit Race at the Tour of Kansas City.

What a fun race and course! All of the positive feedback I had heard about this race definitely lived up to hype—even for a 185 lbs. self-proclaimed “non-climber.”

 

Tour of Kansas City Circuit Race Highlight Video

Tour of Kansas City Circuit Race

Strava Data

Tour of Kansas City Criterium

The 2016 Tour of Kansas City Criterium was on an all new course in a neighborhood just outside of downtown. This 8 corner crit reminded me of many I have raced at Tour of America’s Dairyland. There were a few potholes and some rough corners, but generally this was a fast technical crit. As the first race of the day, the 40+/50+ field would know quickly how the course felt at race-pace.

Tour of Kansas City

The start of the Masters Crit at the Tour of Kansas City.

Starting the race comfortably in first place in the overall omnium, my first goal was to keep an eye on my closest competitors and my second was to make sure a break didn’t get up the road. With a course with as many turns as this one, once a rider is out of sight they are often out of mind.

I was a little uneasy during the first lap, but I realized quickly what lines on the course were the fastest and safest. Turn six on the back side was the roughest and most unpredictable. This was also the corner that would lead to the only crash in our race.

Tour of Kansas City

The Masters Crit at the Tour of Kansas City.

There were a few attack attempts during the first several laps, but nothing stuck. Then, surprisingly early in the race, the bell rang for the one omnium points lap. I was already positioned well to go for the points, but then Charlie Townsand rolled up beside me and offered to lead me through the last turn—Fantastic! He kept the speed up and I came around with about 200 meters to go. I was shocked to find it so uncontested. However, shortly after the sprint lap there was attack by a solo rider. Having just sprinted for the points and not knowing anything about this rider, I let him go. I regretted it immediately once the murmur from the locals was that he could stick it for the remaining 15 laps. There were a few unorganized attempts to bring him back, but I wasn’t willing to turn myself inside-out and risk the overall omnium.

For the last 10 laps or so I basically surfed wheels near the top 5-7 riders of the field and was able to take the field sprint for second place at the end of the race. I was very happy to secure the omnium, but would have loved to contest the win from a two-man break. It’s always tough when racing out of town, but that is also part of the fun as well.

Tour of Kansas City

Field Sprint for second place in the Masters Crit at the Tour of Kansas City.

Tour of Kansas City

Koen pushing hard in the 9-12 Crit at the Tour of Kansas City

Tour of Kansas City Criterium Highlight Video

Tour of Kansas City Criterium Strava Data

 

Tour of Kansas City

The Tour of Kansas City 40+ Omnium Podium (Brendan Hale (3rd), Jason Rew (2nd), & Brady Prenzlow (1st)

Kansas City Family Fun

I want to thank the promoter again for scheduling the Masters and Juniors races next to one another. My family and I greatly appreciated it. On Friday night we ate our weight in award-winning BBQ at Q39. On Saturday afternoon we were able to explore the Westport and Art Districts of Kansas City as we continued to eat as decadently as we could. Who doesn’t love chicken and waffles (Char Bar) followed by gigantic waffle cones (Murray’s)?

Tour of Kansas City

We are all smiles after eating some amazing BBQ at the Char Bar in Kansas City.

Tour of Kansas City

Last stop of the weekend. The Kansas City Zoo.

To answer my original question, the 14 hour round trip car ride was definitely worth it and I hope to be back in 2017.

Photo Gallery of a Portion of the Weekend

Brady Prenzlow teaches business at North Hennepin Community College, owns Prenzlow Photography, rides for Erik’s Bike Shop, and loves everything about cycling from behind the lens and behind the bars.

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