Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hermann RR + Belleville Crit

Tour of Hermann RR

A few weekends back was the 5th and final Tour of Hermann Omnium.  I skipped Saturday’s festivities as I took the family over to KS to visit the grandparents.  Our trip was delayed a bit but we had a good time between gardening, horses, tractors, good food, etc.  Suddenly my children are old enough to really get into things.  Speaking of good food – my dad’s smoked ribs are second to none.  He was disappointed with how they turned out, but it was all I could do to cut myself off before I ate my way out of the Hermann RR the next day. 

Since the drive from the rents to the race Sunday was 3+ hours, we decided to stay in COMO for the night.  I guess everybody else had the same plan as our hotel was full.  Instead of a room w 2 beds, all 4 of us “slept” on 1 king.  Needless to say, I was pretty fresh for the RR.  

One of these things is not like the others!
Photo Credit: Dennis Fickinger

Weather was perfect Sunday morning, mid to high 50’s!  I hope all those skinny jerks suffered in the cold, cuz I’m the fat kid that will pay all summer long in 90F+.    Anyway, we rolled off to a “Hillsboro Neutral” and went up the 3 tiered climb out of dodge.  The first climb wasn’t that bad – Gerro and others were cracking wise while we huffed and puffed up the hill.  Things sped up quickly and breaks were tried.  I foolishly followed wheels up to one and it was soon brought back.  I say foolishly because I have zero business mixing it up at the front of a 90 mile hilly road race.  Zero.  It got pretty embarrassing when we hit the first KOM and I sagged it a bit to stay fresh.  But the throttle was really opened so I got onto the back of the group.  During this time the field was splitting and I panicked.  I tried to be a hero and close a gap between groups – wrong decision Frenchy!  I was out the back on the next climb.  10 miles in?  It was going to be a long and lonely day!!

Over the top of the next climb I could see Kevin (Bikes To You) in red, who also was shaken loose.  I eventually recovered and caught him.  The two of us worked together well and kept a good tempo.  Before long we could see a few other stragglers like ourselves.  Kevin and I were even more motivated as we saw the rabbits ahead.  They weren’t pushing themselves as it was clear the peloton was long gone.  We did manage to get a rotating paceline going for a bit after we caught them but on the next climb Kevin and I rode away from the group.

Fighting the headwind on 100 coming into Hermann Kevin and I kept our tempo up.  Both of us figured that we were getting some training in while way out of contention.  As we neared the old KOM hill (from previous editions of the race) we caught sight of a long line of cars.  We were shocked – could it be the peloton?!  Indeed it was!  Tactics in the group must have played out such that they were going super slow.  So we kept up our pace and made contact with the “race caravan” at the base of the old KOM climb.  I encouraged Kevin to stay with me and burned a match up the climb.  Coming into town I passed all but the last 3 cars.  Kevin had been popped or figured it was a fool’s errand.  As I hit the S/F the pack was on the first pitch of the Guttenburg Wall, but that’s as close as I got.  As soon as I pointed the bike skyward, it was game over.  
Guttenburg ended that hope!
Photo credit: Natalie Renkemeyer

I soldiered on after the feedzone but kept blowing up on every decent grade.  Had I made contact with the field I probably would have yo-yo’d off the back all lap anyway, but I have to think that if I had made it back I had a chance of at least completing the lap with the group.  Regardless, I kept a steady pace and avoided the shame of being passed by the cat 3 field.  Signaling the old “slit throat” to Mark Ewers, lap 2 was enough for the day.  But I wasn’t sure if my wife was still in the feedzone (atop Guttenburg) or not.  I asked around but nobody was sure if she was up there or not.  So…one more time up the hill!  Hup hup!  And she had already come down.  C'est la vie.

It was pretty humbling to be completely outriden in every way by the rest of the field but it shouldn’t be too surprising: I’m not pulling on the maillot a pois any time soon!!

Belleville Criterium

A.k.a the Belleville Bicycle Race, a.k.a. The Ardie Miller Memorial Criterium, a.k.a. The Devin Clark Crit Clinic.

Belleville was my first 1/2/3 race (ever) last year.  It didn’t go so well as the rain had me totally sketched out.  Devin Clark (The Hub) won it out of a break in a 2 up sprint with up-and-coming junior Jonathan Schilling (Slipstream-Craddock Junior Dev).

Speaking of junior development, it was my pleasure to introduce crit racing to a friend’s 11 year old son that day.  He and his mom had stopped by a few weeks prior, so while my wife and Ang chatted, the junior helped me tinker with the bikes.  Of course, you have to test-ride the changes…Next thing you know there’s a race in Belleville (their town) and I had some platform pedals on my wife’s bike.  The kid was still figuring out the shifting as the 15-18 year olds took off.  Homeboy is only 11 (though he looks 15) and finished the race!  He showed real courage as he pushed himself to his limits – and that during his second road bike ride!  It was a real pleasure which I don’t think will be eclipsed until I see my little bro shredding the CX circuit this fall or my little ones clip in.

After the morning’s junior campaign I came back out with the fam to terrific weather during the 1/2/3’s.  The field was 40 strong with the largest team being Korte Hammer Down/Bike Surgeon.  I had BJ, Jason, Nick, and Keith lined up for Quantum Mesa.  The latter three all doubling up after putting in a big effort in the cat 3 race.  Early attacks were tried and I mostly hung back trying to discern which move was “the one”.  The course definitely lent itself to breakaways with it’s 6 turns and slight kicker on the backside.

Joshua Leibowitz (BigShark) took a solo flyer 20 minutes in and looked quite comfortable on his own.  Not one to ever turn down a chance at a TT, Justin (Dogfish) decided to join him.  The rest of us had to decide if two of the strongest TTers in the field should be left all alone.  Fortunately Devin and Dan Damotte (BigShark) started moving up and I knew it was go time.  The three of us bridged and started rotating through.  Andy Lister (Wheelfast) probably saw the move gaining time and came across solo.  I imagine that wasn’t an easy move!

The six of us stayed away for the next 30+ minutes and the pack was not in sight for the majority of that.  It was pretty humbling to be the weakest guy in the break.  I knew every one of my break-mates could out ride me.  So, how to win?  Certainly I couldn’t attack early and stay away, so I had to sprint.  Devin as the best sprinter in the group would be the best wheel to follow into the finale.  So when the punches started flying in the final laps I kept an eye on him.  On the last lap I was sitting fourth/fifth wheel and Justin was on the front having just caught Dan’s 2-to-go flyer.  I saw Dan tap Josh (his teammate) on the hip and Josh was off like a rocket!  Devin jumped to close the gap and I grabbed Devin’s wheel.  Josh had attacked on the long straight into turn three, but just before the rise.  Turn three was a downhill left hand 90* - the most technical on the day.  Flying into the turn at 35mph I felt we were going a touch fast and let a gap open to the lead pair.  Sure enough, Josh took too wide a line and high-sided into the outer curb.  Devin railed it and took a 15 bike gap out of turn four as his reward.  I began to lose the back end but recovered without soiling myself.  Dan jumped me on the hill so I grabbed his wheel hoping he would pull back Devin.  Devin was long gone though, knowing he had the race in hand.  I jumped Dan on the finishing straight and pipped him at the line for second place with Justin hot on our heels for fourth.

Dan and I deciding the podium, with Justin keeping us honest.
Photo Credit: J.M. Williams

It was a bummer for Josh who certainly had the legs to go for the win and animated the race quite a bit.  I feel extremely fortunate that not only did I not eat it and crash into him but that I landed on the podium – my best result in bike racing thus far.  As a special bonus, my wife, kids, and in-laws* got to see the race.

A big thank-you to my Quantum Mesa teammates for covering those early moves which allowed me to be fresh enough to barely hang on in the break!!   

*The last time my inlaws saw a race I finished 60-somethingith in a wet crit, off the back, after crashing! 

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