Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tour of Hermann 2012

The Tour of Hermann has been a staple of my spring road season for the last 3 years. Sadly, it is going away next season. I will certainly miss this race and the almost 10k ft. of climbing over the three stages.

JB and I rolled over on friday for packet pickup and to get settled in. The weather on tap certainly favored me better than last season's meltdown, highs in the mid 60s Saturday and mid 50s Sunday. The field was certainly of a higher caliber than in years past. Jonathan Jacob (US Elite TT champ), Joe Schmalz, Austin Allison, (and teammate Chris Winn), plus the full Dogfish and Mercy teams all came to play. I was pretty excited to see that there were about 60 guys signed up to ensure that racing would be tough.

The TT went pretty bad. I'm not sure what happened, but ended up feeling bad until about 11 miles into the race. The problem was that it wasn't a useful type of feeling bad, more just like the legs had no energy. This becomes a problem when the race is only 14 miles long. I ended up about 25 seconds off my time from last year. I probably need to spend a little more time on the TT bike. The good news was that teammate Brian won the Masters TT and set himself up well to fight for the overall omnium.

The criterium had an interesting change to the course, It removed a block worth of the course making the left hand turn at the bottom of the hill come a block sooner meaning you could really overcook things if you didn't watch your speed. My legs continued to not come around during my warmup so I resigned to sitting in the group. Things broke up pretty quickly. I ended up being in the second chase group on the road, and we were racing for maybe 10th place. From years past, I knew that some people would come back out of the lead groups, so I just played things patiently. It was interesting that our group seemed to grow and shrink lap by lap. Finally with 5 to go I started to get my legs underneath me, so I attacked out of the group and no one came with me. So I rode the last few laps alone to get 7th place. This ended up being the right move as I was one of the last people not to get lapped by the leading trio. I got lots of comments about my sweet Kuat NV rack at the Stone Hill Winery as we got a good parking spot right by the main entrance. I've always been a roof rack guy, but this tail rack is so much easier to load/unload.

The road race was what I was a bit apprehensive about. Last year I finished, but just barely, with the most severe cramping I'd ever experienced. It probably had to do with the heat, or the fact that I was still eating foods with gluten, or possibly from drinking lots of coffee, or maybe because I didn't eat or drink enough.... Anyway, I decided to take away all the variables and took lots of food and drink, avoided coffee just to see what happened, and the weather played nice (and even drizzled a little to remind me of Seattle). Plus the gluten free diet that has really aided my recovery. But I digress. Justin had found super volunteer Kim Kage to help out our team in the feed zone, so I was set up to have more than enough food and drink.

The race itself was interesting. The group stayed mostly together except for Justin Maciekowicz going solo somewhere around the halfway point through the lap. This meant that we were either going pretty easy or going full out. My goal was to make it to the last lap then see what I could do from there, so I tried to float around the pack and not accelerate too much. At the very start of the second lap, after the Gutenberg wall I was sitting pretty good, but I bobbled my feedback trying to get it over my shoulder and lost some spots. This was bad because I ended up being near the back of the field for the second half of the climb out of town. So I ended up being in a chase group with about 15 others. Interestingly, we caught back onto the main group after not much effort about 15 miles later. On our way back up to the group we saw that Austin Vinton had broken his collarbone and was out of the race. I didn't hear what happened there but it was really unfortunate because he had been riding really well. The main group seemed to have some negative racing going on or something, because after we got back there were several big surges followed by more slow riding. The stretch back into town was the worst, where we were going 12-15 mph for a long ways. Plus it started to drizzle at about that time. Several wily riders went up the road at this time, but none of the "big 4", so nobody was interested in chasing.

Finally getting to the last climb up the wall, I put myself in really good position and ended up about 5th wheel behind Joe, Austin Allison, Chris Winn and Jonathan Jacob. I just stayed there until Joe dropped the hammer on the second half of the climb and Austin and Chris were the only two that could stay on. Jon Schilling and Jonathan drilled it over the top, but we were losing ground fast. I had nothing but took a few little pulls as best as I could. When the dust settled, I was in a group of about 10 and we just kept the pace pretty good and figured out a rotation eventually. Guys kept popping out of the group at the front, so I knew the pace up there must have been brutal and that we were not going to catch back on. I guessed at some point our group would start attacking each other, but wanted to be as close to town before I made a real move. There were several surges but nothing serious. Finally, about 10 miles from the finish, two of the stronger guys in our group jumped away. No one really responded, and then another guy jumped out and was dangling in no-mans land. So I jumped up to him and we worked our way up to the other two. We all were working together pretty good and we caught up to Justin M who had finally gotten dropped out of the front group. He jumped in but said he couldn't do any work. So the four of us kept driving the pace. Finally at the last climb before town, Jared Osterloh jumped and took a big dig at the front and we split Justin and Brian West out of our group. So that left Jared and Brian Eppen with me. We still had to keep the pace high because Justin was chasing hard over the top to get back on. There were only a few miles left and we kept a good rotation, while saving some for the end. I ended up leading into the final corner and decided to open the sprint off that. I think I must have gotten just a little separation on the corner and I was able to get the sprint for 7th.

It was great to finally finish that road race with a pretty good result. I even ended up being 8th overall in the omnium. Brian wrapped up a great weekend with a win in the masters RR with JB and JP playing the domestique duties well all weekend. On to Sheehan and some more TTing this weekend.

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