I say sort of because it was only 36 of the 85 miles but it was the first of anything of it's kind for me. I was on my mountain bike amid over 600 others most of whom were on road bikes. Maybe 1% off all the riders who rode were on something other than a road bike. This included the 2 recumbent bikes and a handful of parents whose kids rode their bikes on the 14 miles shortest course.
Check in went pretty well as I got there about 40 minutes early. As the 8:00 start time got closer the late arrivals stretched the check in organization passed its limit. The ride was a charity event for a local Cat 3 racer who had crashed earlier in the year and is still in a wheelchair fighting his way back. As such the start was a fairly informal affair that went off after a few words from the organizers and the racer that unfortunately were not able to be heard outside of maybe the first 50-100 in line.
As I have mentioned this was my first ride of any kind like this and there were a few things that I noticed immediately. The first was the sound over 500 people clipping in all at once is really loud. The second is that the centipede/inch worm effect made the sound of about half those people then unclipping seem just as loud.
Pretty good crowd and at least one that looked like a team rider preriding the course. I did not get a good look at him to see who he was but he did look to be riding a team issue Scott.
The course itself is not a very difficult one as far as terrain goes for a pro race. The race here is an out and back course with three short circuits at the end. It starts in a posh downtown shopping district called "The Plaza". Known for its fantastic Christmas lights over the holidays and the many many fountains it has on almost every corner it makes for a nice starting scenery. The course starts here and goes over a coupe of blocks to Main St and then heads north through downtown. As they turn onto Main they are greeted by a sharp short hill that is the worst of a few rollers as they head out of town. It also happens to be the exact kind of hill that hurts me the most. I do better on a longer less angled climb. (heck, really I am not good at any climb. Too much spare tire around the middle) The course through downtown has some really fast sections that the peloton should just be flying through. Slight downhill's and wide roads without having to worry about traffic lights should make this a quick transition to the more open road outside of town.
There is a choke point where they go by the construction site of the new arena downtown. The 4 lane road is down to 2 and the will have to do a little weaving around some cones but it is not enough to really cause any problems. It was a little strange riding through downtown and seeing a few homeless people watch as people rode by on bikes that cost more money than they will see all year. A stark contrast in realities, if I had not been suffering so much already I might have been able to give it more thought. Sad really.
From the middle of downtown the course jumps over to Grand from Main St. It is more of a veer to right than a turn and it is Grand that take them all the way through downtown till the two block right left combo that will put them on the highway that goes over the Missouri River and into North Kansas City. This run over the bridge is downhill and very fast with caution needed to stay away from the edges before the bridge as there are some nasty bumps that I enjoyed flying over but the road bike guys were having issues with.
From here the course is fairly flat with a few bumps on the highway that are not even enough to call rollers until they pass Parkville and then turn away from the river valley through the bluffs following the highway. The bluffs provide some leg burners until they come down to the valley again for a longer north run to the turn around point. If the wind is like it was on Sunday they will spend the whole ride north going into the wind. It can be pretty strong as the bluffs tend to channel it right along the highway.
For me the turnaround came at Parkville and then it felt as though I had wings as the wind was behind me for the run in. Expect it to be fast for them coming back into town. The climb from North Kansas City into downtown might be a great place for a break to occur as there is a immediate right hand and then left hand turn as you get to the top before a mile to mile and a half downhill slope through the middle of town. Nice way to get away.
The finish circuit is on the shorter side and they will do it three times. (which on a totally selfish note is good because I will have time to finish my course marshall duties and then still make it for the finish.) The circuit is on a road that looks like it was made for the job. It is three lanes wide each way on has a wide grassy strip down the middle that at is smallest is 50 yards wide. ( excellent place to see the race) The sprinters would be thinking it is ready made for them until you see that the circuit has a nasty hill in it about a 1/3 of the way around. Plenty of room to maneuver though and the turn around is exactly that. A large 2 lane wide round about with a Large fountain in the middle. Expect high speeds as they come back down the hill and then do 2 sharp left hand turns to complete the circuit and cross the line to do it all over again.
All in all I would have to say that it is a great course for viewing the race and really getting to experience professional riding at its best. The out and back design allow multiple opportunities to see them as well as the great finishing circuit. It could not have a better venue to see the fireworks. By the way if you are looking for a place to watch for crashes then the last left hander completing the circuit is your spot. It will be fast and is on a slight downhill with an outward slope to it. They referred to it at the volunteer meeting as "Hay Bale Corner". The winning move will have to clear this corner fast on the last lap as it is only 400-500 meters to the finish from there.
I will post some additional thoughts about how things went on Wednesday.