|Saturday's Criterium included a very steep incline through a picturesque wine vineyard overlooking Hermann.|
"Dude, whatever your do, make sure you bring a 25 tooth cog to the 2012 race...come on man, don't kid yourself, you might be able to turn that 23t around for awhile, but you will need that extra gear... no, I don't care how much stronger you think you are, bring a 25t cassette... seriously."
Hopefully you can gather from that message to my future self that this race had a lot of hills. It was everything I hoped it to be and more... a truly great race weekend.
STAGE ONE - TIME TRIAL
After spending a delightful night in the very historic town of Hermann at the Vinchester Inn... I headed over to the Time Trial course Saturday morning. It was a 14 mile long out and back course.. that is all that I knew. As my fellow teammates came in, however, I began to get a feel for the situation. Apparently, it was very hilly. Lou came in looking strong but had some technical issues, so wasn't happy with his result. JJ Bailey also seemed not to be that happy with his performance. Paul, however, seemed to have had a good ride, despite getting caught behind a car during his effort with a time of 32:15.
Well, the time to beat was about 31:22 (around 26.3 mph average). I had yet to ride my TT bike outside this year, and was rolling on a brand new Gray Wheel set and Bontrager Race X-Lite handlebar configuration that I had yet to familiarize myself with, but otherwise felt fairly confident. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure that I could get shifted back up from my small ring, so I 'big-ringed' the whole event to be safe... note to future-self..."Please, please, please, don't be an idiot in 2012... make sure to shift to the small ring for some of those steeper inclines...seriously, that was poor judgement"
When it was all said and done I finished 13th overall, as my clock indicated I had a time of 32:49. So, me and Paul had some points toward the omnium stage race, with plenty of opporunity for the rest of the team to get on the board, and/or help us advance higher during one of the next two stages.
STAGE TWO - CRITERIUM
I was really optimistic when I saw the layout of the criterium course, later that same day... A steep incline and no real technical areas to slow me down. Yeah, the descent was super-fast (my max was about 47mph without pedalling) but it was straight with plenty of time before the turn. In fact, I was so gung-ho about this race that I actually attacked the group right before the descent to win a points prime early in the race.
|American Equity Team Mates Lou Waugaman and Paul Deninger putting the hammer down up 'Stone Hill'|
I also need to mention that it was hot... So, the nature of the course and hot conditions caused the field to shatter into many smaller groups. I simply rode at my limit, trying to minimize my losses once I lost contact with the leading riders. I finished 13th overall and snagged 4 more points (5 including my field prime) as the race awarded points for the first 16 places at each event. Everyone in our team finished the event, which was a great accomplishment, as 13 of the 36 Cat 1,2 starters weren't quite able to complete all 19 laps.
STAGE THREE -
Note to future self..."Ok, what were you thinking last year? Three water bottles? Really. It was 92 degrees over a very hilly 90 mile course that took over 4.5 hours to complete. PACK AS MUCH FLUID AS POSSIBLE THIS YEAR."
This was another challenging course that had more hills than any race I have ever entered. I truly enjoy this kind of race, as it was a strong man's course... unfortunately, I wasn't the strongest rider that day... but I still enjoyed the ability to be competitive at this level.
I couldn't believe how hilly the course was (oh, I already said that). There was a hill at the start of the second lap that was so steep, it seemed more like a wall than a road. I guess they don't get much snow in Hermann, because cars would slide right down this thing and into the Missouri River if it ever iced up.
Early within the first lap, I enjoyed watching teammate Paul Deninger launch up the road and get into a break. Later Lou was able to sneak up the road as well, into a more select chase group. Hmm, things are looking good for American Equity at this point. I went towards the front and was enjoying the concept of 'blocking'. I have never had a reason to do this before, so I was intrigued by what it felt like to purposefully try and slow the race down so your teammates can get a bigger gap.
Later,David Carpenter launched an attack, and I got on his wheel for a free ride up the road. Unfortunately, we passed Paul on the way, and after we got up to Lou's group, he mentioned that they weren't working together... so this break wasn't going to stick. JJ Bailey was still in the mix and we rotated through a few times to try and close the gap a little bit, so that our team could still have a shot of one of the four paying spots.
After the start of the second lap, there was that very steep hill, followed by another one just a bit down the road. (A one-two punch of sorts). I managed to hang on, as did teammate Carson Christen. It seemed though, that we were the only two left on our team after that point, which changed the dynamics of things. Now the idea was to let the course take it's toll on the field, and allow race attrition to dictate the finishing order.
Approaching the third lap, I began to cramp severely. I was out of water and praying that our teammates would give us a hand-up at the last feed zone... Yes! JJ and Paul hooked us up. I drank that bottle instantaneously and then began focusing on making it up that steep wall-like incline. Believe it or not, I was slightly concerned that I might have to get off my bike and walk. Nope, I hung on, and began to realize that my 23 tooth gear was no longer my friend... I could just barely turn it over.
Crap, there was another hill just down the road, and almost as steep. I couldn't turn that gear over, my legs were too weak after 62 miles over this hillacious course. Fortunately, there was carnage all over the place, with many guys behind me or DNF'd, and a handful of guys that I would later pass as they popped. Slowly but surely, the field disappeared from my view.
I basically road most of the last lap solo. Everything ached and I was severely dehydrated. Luckily, there was some neutral water on the course, and I was able to keep a pretty good tempo to finish the race in the 16th position (just within the points cut-off). The two pre-race favorites (Nick Coil and Andrew Coe) were actually amongst the guys I met on the road, and subsequently road away from .They ended up being the last of the finishers in the 21st/22nd positions, while 17 guys posted DNF's, mainly due to attrition... a testament to how grueling this race was. Carson had a great day and finished 13th.
I finished 11th out of about 32 guys in the Cat 1,2 omnium and managed to get points all three days... so a relatively successful weekend. Only 14 guys were 'still standing' by the time it was all said and done, with respect to the stage race results. Everyone on the team seemed to take something positive away from the experience, and I enjoyed racing with them. I was also happy to race with fellow Iowa guys from Mercy-Specialized. They brought a strong team, which included Matias Perret who finished 7th in the omnium (awesome). Look for that guy to be dominant all season.
Tour of Hermann Results