Monday, April 20, 2009

Tour of Hermann - All up and down

The rolling hills along the Missouri River with German vineyards occupying the steep-sloped hillsides makes a great backdrop for racing. Throw in cool temperatures and some overnight rainfall with sprinkles during the day and it was perfect!

Stage 1: Individual Time Trial, Saturday morning

10 miles of flat and straight out and back. I had calculated the time I wanted to achieve, based on last year’s results, at 24 minutes flat. I thought I could hit this number without digging into reserves that I’d need for the upcoming crit and road race and still get a pretty good result. That plan worked well except I came up 37 seconds short of my goal and the overall times were slightly faster this year- that was enough to push me waaay down the standings. I finished just outside of the points. I was disappointed with that but still felt good b/c I knew I’d saved a lot for the other races.

Stage 2: Criterium, Saturday afternoon

Wow. Wow. Wow. What a course. 1.2 miles of all up and down. The start/finish was located at the gates of the Stone Hill Winery situated atop one of many hills surrounding Hermann. The climb up to Stone Hill is short at just over 200 meters, but it’s 8% pitch (my best guess) was enough to separate out the true contenders. Once across the line, the road levels out along a ridgeline until the course turned 90 degrees and dumped us straight back into town at 45+ mph. Then, a couple of hard and fast corners brought us right back to the base of the Stone Hill climb. Awesome.

I got 2nd on the prime lap and crossed the finish in 5th. At three laps to go, two riders got away from us and were able to stay and finished 30 seconds ahead. So on the final climb, it would be a sprint for 3rd. I was with a group of 6 riders ahead of the rest of the field as we hit the base of the climb. When I jumped up to start the climb, I skipped my wheel. Immediately, I was at the back. But I was able to regain my momentum quickly and came around 3 riders. I gave it everything and was closing on the 4th placed rider but I blew out just before the line and settled into 5th. What a beautiful painful ride!

Stage 3: Road Race, Sunday morning

I wasn’t sure how my legs would race on Sunday morning after the TT and crit on Saturday but during our neutral roll threw town, I was enthused to be feeling pretty good. The parade ended at the edge of town where we hit the first of a series of relentless climbs. There was not a single stretch of flat road for the first 15 miles and this first climb just happened to be the biggest of them all. At the front, riders bolted and poured it on and the entire field of 50+ riders was immediately strung out. I hung on to the top 10 over the top and was feeling blown out but after a few more climbs I started to feel better and actually started to work with a few other riders to pull back a break of 5 that was getting up the road. All was good in the legs and the mind, but on each successive climb, my left cleat was slowly unscrewing itself until finally at around the 7th climb my foot began ejecting itself and I was unable to get clipped back in. I was on the front of the chase, so I pulled off and waved the others through. I continued to ride, soft pedaling with my left leg but I could tell that wouldn’t last long. I began begging for a screwdriver and when nobody had anything to offer, I stopped and waited for the wheel car, praying they had tools onboard. Unfortunately, after searching the truck for a few minutes, no luck. So, I threw my bike on and climbed into the back seat with a broken heart.

Looking back, I could’ve finished the ride but at the time I had tunnel vision of finishing at the front and watching the back of the 4’s filter past while sidelined at the wheel car just made me give up. Even with that bit of bad luck though, it’s my favorite race ever. So beautiful, so so hilly, and so much fun.


  1. Thanks for making the trip Hermann, nice job with the crit, bummer about the RR. See you next year!

  2. Too bad on the RR, at least the crit was a good result...That race sounds like it fit your riding style!

    Think of the RR as saving your legs for VTGP this weekend!

  3. Dan, your passion for the race was dripping during this post. You should check out Tim Krabbe's "The Rider." Krabbe talks about his 130km in awesome detail, a true rider's perspective. It's great to hear you were in good form. Sounds like you were a top contender out there. Technical failures suck. Get em this weekend.