Better to hit the grass than an SUV

In an effort to pull myself out of my funk, I decided not to do the Asheville race on Saturday. The plan was to go out and just have some fun riding with the guys. Turns out what should have been a simple effort turned into a ride of survival.

I showed up at the Hour of Power ride with my Garmin set to show only my speed and distance. No heart rate readings and no power data was going to distract me from just having some fun. I might ride hard. I might take it easy. I had no agenda.

Things started off well enough and I even did a number on the guys and took the Meece Bridge Road sprint in commanding fashion. Better yet, I was still feeling pretty good afterward. Perhaps this could be the day that things would turn around.

Between that sprint and the quarry road sprint, we have a section where we form a pace line and go for a couple of miles at a good pace. I got on front early on and started to pull the line. Looking down I could see I was holding a steady pace of around 23 mph and feeling more power was in the tank.

As we hit the base of the quarry road challenge, I wasn’t sure how I was going to work things with Tyler. He had said he was going to go for it on this one. It didn’t matter to me, but I wasn’t sure if he would prefer that I help pace him up for the win or if he would want to beat me. I decided he would probably prefer to beat me.

Turns out he wasn’t the one I needed to be concerned with. Randy Hutchison was there in his Greenville Spinners’ Race Team kit. He had given me a run for my money on Meece Bridge and now he was attacking right away on this climb following the wheel of Luis.

I love Luis, and he is a great guy to get behind at the start of an attack, but I knew he wasn’t going to sustain that all the way to the top. Randy on the other hand might easily use the pull to get a good jump on me. It was time to move.

They stayed ahead until we reached the false flat. By just putting out a steady tempo, I managed to pull myself and Tyler up to them without overdoing it. Then it was time to sit and recover before the next effort.

Randy was behind Luis (who was still there on the front as we neared the final turn) and I began to move out around them. My plan was to trap Randy behind Luis as I attacked. It would allow me to get a bit of a gap on him and that might be all the difference.

As I attacked I swung just a little too wide to the left and it opened a space for Randy. I just had to put the hammer down. It seemed to be working because a quick glance between my legs showed empty road. There was still some time.

However, rather than just spinning it out to the end, I eased slightly to shift to my big ring thinking I could bring that up to speed and put the nail in the coffin. Problem is, I never got the chance. Just as I starting to turn the pedals Randy came by me. Of course, I was in too big of a ring to respond. I let him go. He played that one well.

Then the ride went south.

Not nearly as bad as it looks.

Not nearly as bad as it looks.

I have become experienced on the bike enough that I don’t cause other people to wreck. However, I have not yet learned those bike handling skills that help keep me from being wrecked by other people. Is there a text book out there I could study?

We were in an easy pace line between zones. I had moved to the back just taking it easy. My wheel was lined up right behind the rider before me. Suddenly, he slowed and moved to the left.

I avoided my brakes in attempt to keep from having the rider behind me plow into me. My bike shifted slightly to the right and my momentum carried my front wheel up near axle of the rider in front. This is called overlapping – or crossing wheels.

The ride ahead weaved back toward the right pushing me near the edge of the road. I was flirting with the edge of the asphalt when he served back toward the left. Ahhhhh, I slowed some and moved back away from the edge. Unfortunately, he moved back my way one more time and I couldn’t avoid it this time. It had only taken a couple of seconds.

My bike slipped off the road into the thick grass and I did a Jens Voigt into the shoulder of the road. The first thing I felt hit was my head. It turned and I felt my neck wrench. Then it was my right arm and shoulder. I was too worried at that moment about my head hitting to think about what was happening to my legs.

Embarrassed, I disentangled myself and jumped up. Because I went down in the grass, the bike appeared to be in good shape. There were no wounds on my upper body, but I could see blood pouring from my knee. All in all, I felt pretty good with the fact I hadn’t broken anything.

Then someone pointed out that my right shifter was broken. No way! This is the second SRAM Force shifter I have had to break in the same place. Yes, I know, I wrecked, but still! Two times in the same spot tells me that they could come up with a better design.

The day wasn’t over. Thankfully, the bike shifted fine and if I held the lever a certain way, I could still brake. There was still opportunity to salvage the ride.

Randy attacked early on the State Park Road sprint. I was pacing myself to slowly pull him back when Luis came around me and yelled for me to hop on. I did and it was fun to watch the space between Randy and us get eaten up without me having to work hardly at all.

As we neared him, I saw him glance back. He was aware of us and I knew he would tried to accelerate and get in our train. I needed to break his draft. As Luis began to come around him, sure enough Randy sped up. However, I swung wide left which disrupted the draft for him. Once I saw we had gapped him, I moved back to Luis’ wheel. It worked.

We really needed one more rider, but I had to do what I was dealt. Luis had to drop off before the descent to the bottom of the dam. I was going to have to work a bit for this one. I put the hammer down and came around the turn that is followed by the quick descent.

Up ahead I saw a truck in the road. He looked to be driving slowly along. I was moving at nearly 40 mph by this point. There were no brake lights, but suddenly it dawned on me that the guy wasn’t moving! The distance was closing fast.

There was no way I was going to be able to stop. I looked ahead and saw there were no cars coming. About that time he saw me and put his truck in gear. All I could do was swing wide to the left and come around him.

My momentum was messed up and my timing was as well. I have the timing down for exactly when I need to shift my gearing for the climb. The truck incident messed me up and I was caught in too big a gear with no momentum. Tyler came around me and there was nothing I could do.

Still, the success was in the fact I didn’t plaster myself to the back of an SUV!

This morning I am soooooore. My neck is stiff and my right shoulder hurts. It will work out. Maybe yesterday was just what I needed to purge myself of the bad vibes. You’ve got to think that things will turn for the better at some point.