Am I ever thankful for my helmet!

I’m writing this late Tuesday evening because I’m not certain if I’ll be able to get out of the bed in the morning.

Things started out very well. After arriving at Donaldson Center for the Tuesday Night World Championships, I met up with some of my teammates. A group of them were about to go out on the country route. This is a route that does not follow the normal Perimeter Road circuit. They called to me to join them.

I started to follow, but then remembered that Reece was in the house and I was feeling pretty good. It would be very hard to pass up mixing it up in the A Group tonight. Finally, I decided to turn around and head back to the main group. Part of me is glad I did. Another part of me wishes I hadn’t.

Several of us POA guys were on the front to begin. I figured that if we were up there, we could pedal as slow as we wanted! That didn’t last long as some others came around and picked up the pace. By the time we were over the railroad tracks and headed for the start/finish there was an organized move to get away.

I worked to help bring that group back after a short time and tried to stay up near the front of any chase group. Most times one of my guys – normally Randy or Reece would be up in the break. As soon as one break would get caught another POA rider would attack with the next group to go off the front. During the evening, I only went off on one of those.

The rest of the time I was sitting on riders who were trying to chase back my teammates. It was in the process of this that I learned something about cycling I did not know. It was a good thing to file away for the future.

I have learned that when you have a teammate up the road, you don’t do anything to help close the gap. At the same time, you have to be aware of riders who are dangerous to your teammate. Say, if a Spinx guy starts to bridge across and he already has a Spinx rider up in the break, you don’t want him to get up there and turn the odds in their favor.

You handle this by not working with him as he attempts to bridge over. You also want to be in position so that if he does manage to bridge over, you are there to help even the odds. There really aren’t any written rules about this, but there are some unspoken rules of etiquette. That is what I learned tonight.

I had Hank up in a break about halfway around the circuit. A Barley rider and Steve Baker (Hincapie) were working hard to get across the gap. I was not wanting to help in any way. However, I knew if either of them made it up there, I would need to be there to help Hank. So, I sat on them.

This was the right tactic. However, I what I didn’t realize was I was violating the unspoken rule of etiquette. I was getting in the middle of their rotation. As the Barley rider came by me once he yelled, “Pull through! Don’t be afraid of the wind!” I yelled back, “I’m not going to help you pull my man back.” I wanted to come back with the fact that I had already done my time in the wind. “Well, if you are going to sit on then at least go back and sit on fifth,” he replied.

Here is were race awareness comes to play. As far as I knew, it was only the three of us. They were the only two I was aware of around me. I didn’t realize there was a fifth rider! Even if it was only the three of us, I should have hung back in third place and let them know I wasn’t going to help them.

Hey, I’m still learning. One thing is for sure, I don’t want to be one of those guys no one wants to ride around because he is either dangerous or a jerk. I learned a lesson and I’ll try to follow it next time. I do have to add though that I won’t be intimidated.

Speaking of being a dangerous rider. On the fifth lap I slipped back a bit as I had Hank, Matt, and Reece up ahead of me. I was tired from covering all those moves through the race. However, I was satisfied that my team had good numbers. I got on the tail end of a string of riders to recover some for the last lap. Unfortunately, I realized too late and I had latched onto a slowing group!

A gap formed and I tried to come around and catch them. Soon I was stuck in no-mans land with one other rider. I don’t know who she was, but she was stout! The two of us kept digging to see what might happen. I kept hoping that the group might slow as a break will sometimes do when it is larger.

As we went through the dip at the bottom of the hill leading up to the start/finish I could see the group nearing the top. I decided to just put my head down and put out a good cadence and if I had them in sight as we began the final lap, I would give it one more push. I started off taking the lead.

As we began the climb, I heard the rider following me let out a gasp of air. It distracted me for a moment and I started thinking that soon, I might be all alone. I looked down at my computer to see if I was to far into the red zone. It was at that moment I heard her say, “Watch ou…!” She didn’t even get the “out” out when I slammed into a cyclist in front of me.

I was going 20 mph at the moment I hit him. My wheel rode up the left side of his rear wheel. It flipped my bike up over it and I was slammed down on my right shoulder. My head followed and I felt the pain in my neck as it whipped to the ground and my head bounced off the asphalt. For a moment everything was spinning, but I never blacked out.

Before long there were riders around me. They asked me if I was okay. I told them to grab my leg. The only thing that was hurting right at that moment was my right calf that was seizing with a cramp! We got that under control and I stood. Wow! No blood. I think the reason why is because I didn’t slide at all. It was just a body slam into the pavement.

My helmet was busted in the back. Looking inside, I could see where the material had a crack across the inside. My jersey was just a little roughed up on the right shoulder. My left brake lever was broken – though the shifter still worked. Only thing I can figure is when I went down, I grabbed the shifter and broke it. Besides that the bar was askew. I’m really hoping my steer tube was not bent. As for the carbon frame and fork? Not a bit of damage. Not even a scratch. I was amazed.

I apologized to the guy I ran into and helped him make sure his bike was okay. Again, amazingly, it was just fine. Most thankfully, so was he!

Another lesson learned. No matter how hard you are digging. Don’t assume you know what is happening ahead of you. Always look out at least 10 feet in front. What happened to me was I looked up and saw the group. What I didn’t realize was that it was made up of two groups – the A Group breakaway and some C Group riders returning from the country route. I took off after the faster group and didn’t look up again thinking they were the only ones ahead of me. I found out otherwise.

I made my way to my car and just sat on the back staring at the ground. I felt like I had been beat up and I was very embarrassed by my accident. I was about to mist up, I felt so bad. Then Reece came by and told me that the POA guys had pulled off the win! There were enough guys up front to help get Reece to the line.

What is it they say? All’s well the ends well.

Good night.