After my first bike race in August, which went rather poorly, to say the least, I decided I would spend the next two months training for the last road race of the season in Jamestown, Rhode Island. During those two months I rode at least 5 days a week, did intervals, recovery rides, group rides, and I even played some tennis for cross-training. All that training paid off: I lost 8 pounds, rediscovered my once-sculpted legs, and generally felt much fitter, faster and stronger on the bike. In other words, I was all ready for my second bike race.All week I have been tapering off my mileage while still throwing in a few hard efforts, just as all the training manuals recommend.
Yesterday I did a 10 mile ride, carbo-loaded in the evening and gorged myself on lactic-acid-freeing H20 molecules. I awoke this morning feeling good; I had a solid breakfast, got my stuff together, threw my bike into the car of the person with whom I was going to the race, and off we went. In the car were myself, Michele, and three others racers from Brown: Casey, Graham and Priscilla.On the way to the race (which is only 30 minutes by car from Providence) it began to pour. As I was warming up for my 9:00 A.M. start time it was still drizzling and wet, but not nearly as bad. My race, the CAT 5 19-29 age group, would be contested on a 19 mile out and back course on the island of Jamestown, RI. I was both nervous and excited once the race got underway; nervous because I did not want to crash, excited because I knew I was fit and ready to race.Unlike my first race, this course is almost entirely flat, with such a few brief rises in the road, but nothing steep enough to separate the weaker riders from the stronger ones. Consequently, 10 miles in we were all still in one big bunch.
The rain had more or less stopped, but the road was still wet. The pace was very odd: most of the time It felt like we were going really slow, but occasionally the speed would pick up enough for me to have to get out of the saddle to keep up. The importance of this inconsistent pace will some become apparent.12 miles into the race I started thinking about when to attack. I felt strong, and the pace was slow enough for me to try to make a move. Unfortunately, since we were still all in a 40 rider bunch and I was in about 25th place, I couldn’t really weave my way to the front of the pack. At the 14 mile point we came to a decently long if not very steep hill. I was still about in the middle of the peloton, but I could see that someone had attempted an attack off the front. Eager to get in on the action (and responding to the increase in speed that the attack had precipitated) I got out of the saddle and picked up the pace. The guy right in front of me, however, slowed down, apparently because he couldn’t maintain the same speed; I attempted to brake, but because my rims were still wet my stopping time was greatly reduced, and I slammed right into the guy’s rear tire. Before I knew what had happened the cement had rushed up to meet my right shoulder; out of the corner of my eye I saw two guys go flying over my head, and I ended up on my back with my legs still clipped into the pedals, the bike waving in the air.
I immediately stood up with the intention of getting back into the race since, thankfully, I knew I was uninjured aside from a few bruises and cuts. But the moment I look down at my bike I knew I was done for the day. The handlebars were all twisted out of shape, the brakes were mis-aligned and the brake hoods were completely bent inwards.Of the three guys that fell, one of them was able to immediately get back on his bike and ride, the second guy was completely uninjured and would have continued racing were it not for the fact that his brake cable had gotten messed up in the fall; and then there was me, bleeding and standing next to a now useless. Ironically, as soon as I got back up the sun broke through the clouds, and a beautiful day began cutting its way through the hitherto dreary weather.
I waited half an hour for a race official to come and drive me and my poor bike back to the start/finish area, where Michele was nervously wondering what in the world had happened to me.What’s most frustrating about the crash is that I had spent so much time training for the race, and also that I was feeling so strong on the road. Not that I would have won the race; right before the finish line there is a sharp-turn and then a wild decent, where I would have surely gotten too nervous to ride on the front. Nevertheless, I am certain I could have at least tried to put in a good, solid attack and I know I would have finished with a high placing.I wasn’t even the worst off. There were several nasty races on the course, and I decided right then and there that road racing in a big peloton is too dangerous for me. In the future I want to train for time-trials, triathlons or any other cycling event in which I can ride on my own and against the clock. I do greatly enjoy having something for which to train, and I love cycling, but I think riding in a big group of people that don’t really know what they are doing is too risky for me.I am now nursing deep bruises on my elbow, quads and shoulder, cuts on my legs and elbow, a damaged bike and a swollen shoulder. Regardless, I feel proud of myself for having truly trained for the event and having had the courage to get out on the roads and race!So, that’s the story of my second heroic attempt at cycling glory. Stay tuned as I attempt to save the world in a single bound!