Let me begin by saying the Tour of Hermann is by far the hardest road race of the season. The course has CRAZY hills and they seem non-stop from start to finish. My main goal for the day was to make sure I got into the winning breakaway, and fortunately I was able to do it...unfortunately the break contained about 40 riders! Seriously, who would have thought the race wouldn't have broken up more!
Anyway, 75 riders rolled out of Hermann for the start of the 60 mile road race. Things went well for most of the race and I thought I would end up with a good finish. I usually have problems cramping in long races, so early on I made sure I was drinking plenty of water. On the start of the second lap the field shattered as I set a difficult pace up the Hermann Hill. At that point the main field was down to about 40 riders. A couple of breaks tried to get away for the next 20 miles but nothing serious ever materialized. Finally with 10 to go the field realized the last major hill would be where the race was decided and the leaders would make a mad dash into town for a field sprint.
With this in mind I made sure I positioned myself on the front line for the hill. From the summit we would have less than two miles to the finish, so I knew that I needed to be up front to have any chance at winning. My legs were feeling fine as we began the climb, but about half way up my legs began to cramp. It was a helpless feeling. I suddenly felt like I was riding in reverse after riders began passing me on both sides. All I could do to stay upright was soft pedal and hope to get to the summit without having to hop off my bike to stretch my seized up hamstrings. Fortunately I made it to the top, but I soon found myself behind almost everyone remaining in the main field.
Over the top of the climb, and with some relief to my legs, I began to let it rip on the downhill. I quickly caught up to the field but now found it difficult to squirm my way through the remaining riders to get my way to the front of the field. I gave it a shot, and inside that last mile gave myself an opportunity to sprint to a finish inside the top 20.
Officially... 18th. A disappointment for sure, but a result I will definitely learn from. Most importantly my fitness right now is the best it's ever been. Now all I have to do is learn to race a little more intelligently and I think the results will follow. As for the cramping issue, it still remains a mystery. Hydration wasn't the issue, but I think now I will have to begin drinking electrolyte replacement drinks in any race over an hour. I'll find out soon if this will work, as Saturday I go to the Hawkeye state to compete in the Iowa City Road Race, another 60 miler. Wish me luck ;)