If Luck be a Lady...
then she is one angry lady unleashing some pent up aggression. I JUST BROKE MY SECOND BIKE within two weeks of the first one!!! Granted, biking accidents are not exactly a new thing to me. But to have your two worst racing crashes and only two broken bikes within two weeks of each other...well, Lady Luck is going through a mean streak.
Below: One of the many good parts to my weekend - staying with Kristy's friend and old Colavita teammate Tracy and her cool dog Nuemo. Nuemo is a HUGE Great Dane and it is a good thing he is as chill and nice as he is enormous.
Friday I drove south to Charlotte, NC for a couple races. The first one was a big race, with $25,000 on the line for payout, $500 primes being thrown out like candy on most laps, tv coverage, and crowds lining the downtown streets. This kind of race is addicting. I always think of my psuedo-self watching, and how I would be so envious of those in the race. But I AM in it. I love it.
Needless to say, this race was hot from the gun and the field was strung out immediately. Unfortunately, I violated my first rule in such criteriums - getting to the start line early enough to grab a front position. It's a tricky little thing. Everyone is out warming up, and as soon as one person decides to line up, the start line gets swarmed...if you're not there when that happens and end up toward the back of an 80-something field without the luxury of a call-up, well, you start the race at a major deficit. In some races it isn't such a big deal and you can move up. But in a race like this one, it broke me. Not only do you end up spending more energy from being forced to slow down too early in the corners and then having to sprint back out of them, but then every time a girl in front of you can't hang on to the pace and opens up a gap, you have to sprint pass them and waste all that energy to regain contact with the field. Basically, I spent the first half of the race trying to move up and sprinting to close gaps that people had opened up, but eventually if you don't get out of that danger zone, someone is going to open a gap that you can't close and you will get dropped. Getting out of that danger zone when there are $500 primes multiple laps in a row was a little tricky though. I was surprised to see that I finished 39th out of 86 starters even after getting dropped - not something I am proud of, but reminds me how much the field got shredded. It was a cool finish, with Cat Carroll of Aaron's coming in on a solo break away victory. The race announcer said it was the first time in that race's history - men's and women's - to have a solo break-away win. It was awesome. Props to MABRA rider Leslie Jennings who sprinted through to bridge back to the field on the time that I could not, and ended up with a great finish - 21st and in the money. We were both there as the only representation from the Mid-Atlantic, so it was fun to get to know her better and bond with someone from the home turf.
The next day's race in Winston-Salem was pretty much the same women but not as much $ and hype. I had learned my lesson from the day before and got a good start. The whole race went much better as a result, even though I did ping-pong back and forth a bit between the front and the back. But with two to go, I found just the right gap to get to the front and ended up right on Colavita's lead out train of four. Usually they have the best lead out train and can just drill it single file to the finish for Tina Pic to win the sprint. But for some reason, they slowed up a bit and we started getting a little swarmed with one lap to go. It can get very dangerous on the last lap or two if there is not a team at the front drilling it fast and single file, because then everyone gets clustered together, shoulder to shoulder, and jockeying for position. The announcer started yelling "one to go, one to go, one to go, one to go, one to go...." over and over as we passed through for the bell lap. Everyone gets excited. We're going downhill, all out. Two girls in front of me clipped wheels and went down hard. I almost got around, but a bike flipped in front of me and I went flying over my handlebars, endoing onto the pavement. I looked around and saw this massive pile up of women and bikes everywhere. It happened toward the front, in the middle, at a high speed and had a huge domino effect. It looked like only maybe a dozen riders were left to contest the final sprint. My inventory of damage is a cracked bike frame (where the water bottle screws attach), more road rash and bruises, a sore neck, and an incredibly sore ankle. When my leg came down that impact was concentrated into a single little tooth of a chain ring piercing my skin into my ankle bone. The smallest little wound that makes me see white when I flex that ankle (a.k.a. walking) today.
The great thing about being a cyclist is that you get into such good shape that when you have an accident, your body repairs itself awfully fast. Yep, it works! The health, fitness, fun, friends, and pure exhilaration and adrenaline that come from racing outweigh the downside of the inevitable accidents. Crashing is like paying the piper for all the fun you're having. You realize quickly that road rash and bruises aren't really such a big deal. Although I do have to admit that hitting your head is a big deal, and so is breaking bikes, and so can be the emotional toll the next day. You wake up so stiff and sore and wonder at what point it will be too much. But then you realize while sitting around recouping that the number one bummer is that you are sitting around instead of riding, racing, going...and you can't wait to go do it again. The "what ifs" that come after not finishing a race can only be answered by going out and trying again.
So I am still going to race at Nationals next weekend as long as I can find a rig to ride.
Now, who wants to loan me a bike?! Hahahaha. Seriously though. 54cms.
If Luck be a Lady...