Ride Sally Ride
- Prep and clean bike. Check.
- Gather bike tools and accessories. Check.
- Lay out clothes. Check.
- Write down directions. Check.
- Set alarm clock for 6am. Check.
- Ready to race! Check!
This is my typical routine the night before an early race. I like to have everything ready so I’m not stressed out trying to track down everything in the morning. This allows me to gradually wake-up, drink my coffee, and eat a light breakfast. This is exactly what I did yesterday morning. Meg and I left the apartment at 7:15am and arrived at the race around 8:00. The race began at 8:45 so I quickly registered, pinned my number on, and warmed up.
This criterium (aka crit) was a 1km triangular course on smooth, wide streets (4 lanes) and sweeping turns closed to traffic. The second and third corners required moderate skill to navigate. Giving way to a slight downhill, the second corner required you hold your line to get through due to the high speed coming out of it. A gradual uphill led into the third corner, which then opened up to the finish line. A fun course!
Sizing up the competition.
At this point everything was going great. Low 60s with a slight breeze, I couldn’t ask for better weather. My legs were feeling good and my coffee buzz was kicking in. I pulled up to the line a little early, because I like to start toward the front. I’m trying to stay calm as I size up the competition. Looking around the pack, I recognized a few guys from previous races as well as two teams that had a strong showing of riders. I took mental note of the guys who I should closely watch. My heart rate fluttered as the official explained the rules for our race. Then he blew his whistle and we were off.
The first few laps were easy as everyone tried to get a feel for the course and the other riders. It didn’t take long, however, before the first wreck sent two guys down as we entered the second corner. Thankfully, the crash didn’t influence my positioning. The next 15 minutes consisted of two teams taking turns firing guys off the front only to be caught with in a lap.
Disorganized field of riders.
All of a sudden, I hear theses two guys on my left side yelling at each other, and before I knew it they crashed. In this case, the guy next to me got his handlebars tangled up with the guy on his left. I know we were riding three wide – dangerous! This crash occurred right before the second corner resulting in the guys in the front picking up their speed trying to split the pack. My legs strained to hug the wheel of the guy in front of me all the way up the hill. But we now had a slight gap with five laps left. I was hoping that we could take this group to the finish line. Our smaller group would not last long though. Apparently, one of the teams didn’t have a guy in the lead pack so they organized at the front of the second group and caught us with three laps to go.
At this point, I made my way to the front. I wanted to be able to attack if someone tried something in the final two laps. I rolled through the first corner just fine, and then it happened. This guy swung right into my front wheel and down I went. He had to be racing for the first time judging by the fact that he tucked his jersey into his shorts and the way he inefficiently hammered away like the energizer bunny all race.
Here is what I recall. As I hit the ground, my sunglasses flew off my head landing some 15 feet away. The bike slid out in front me on the non-drive side as I rolled once before coming to a skidding halt along the payment. I remember some guy yelling, “Oh Man! Not Again!” But with my adrenaline pumping, I snatched my sunglasses and hopped back on the bike. I vigorously tried to pedal my way back into the peloton, but it was no use. When he hit my front wheel it bent a spoke causing my wheel to go out of true. I finished the race almost dead last!
Where is everybody?
This is my first case of severe road rash. And yes, I now have baby skin! My right elbow and left knee got it pretty good and will need some time for the skin to heal up. My shoulder is sore from slamming against the pavement, my right hip has a golf ball sized strawberry on it, and I can’t figure out how I got this weird scratch on my left pec. In the mean time, I have Meg playing Miss Barkely in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms by nursing me back to health, dressing my wounds and bringing me beers. So at least I have that going for me.