It is late on Saturday night as I write this. I am tired and sore. So, let’s just cut to the chase and get to the “good” stuff.
Today was the South Carolina Road Race Championships held in Fork Shoals. It was about a 13 mile loop of rolling hills. My Cat. 4 teammates and I would be doing three laps with about 60 other riders.
I was kind of nervous because I really wanted to do well in this race. Matt Tebbetts has been really strong as well. So, I was hoping to be there at the end to lead him out and finish strong – or if he didn’t have it, go for the win myself. Finally, I was going to get to race something other than a criterium!
We rolled out with the POA Cycling Team toward the back. This wasn’t so bad because we knew we had plenty of time to work our way to the front. The key was to time things properly.
The first lap seemed so slooooooow. I think I will invest in a brake pad company. I’m not sure what it was but riders would be on the front going downhill and be braking! I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let it roll. It wasn’t like they were having to work while they were coasting.
Nothing really changed during that lap. I did move up a bit in the beginning. However, there was a wreck that happened when a rider got moved over to the edge of the asphalt and his wheel slid off the edge causing him to go down. Just as I was passing him, a rider in a Clemson kit t-boned him right in the side. Ouch!
Well, that caused the referee to neutralize the field. It also caused me to get shuffled back and I lost all the ground I had gained to that point. Finally, after an announcement about the yellow line, we were underway once again.
It was starting to get frustrating because I kept getting behind guys who would not close up gaps. I would be stuck behind them (there were just a few, but it seemed like I always ended up near them). No way was I wanting to be back here for the final lap!
The final lap did come and I moved quickly to the top ten or so. No more Mr. Nice Guy – I was going to hold my position and not get shuffled back. My teammate Billy made it easy by going off the front and stretching things out just a bit. This allowed me to sit back a few wheels from the front.
When Billy came back, a GlobalBike rider went off the front and formed a good gap. I picked up the pace just a little and started to slowly pull the field back toward the rider. Matt kept holding me back. He was hoping we could stay together.
Billy attacked once again and I tried to move with him. However, I was blocked and it took me some time to work free. Meanwhile, my teammate Luis came through with a hope to stretch things out with a counter attack. Before you knew it, we were in a pace line finally picking up some speed.
On the new climb that was added about halfway through the course, I got on the wheel of Kelly Lowry and followed him up. This put us in the top four riders at that point. It wasn’t my goal to break away on the hill. I was just wanting to make sure there wasn’t a break that I wasn’t there to cover. It didn’t happen, so we got engulfed by the field.
Only once after that did I slip out of the top 10. I did get boxed in a bit, but finally worked free to be there at the turn with 1 K to go. Things looked good! I felt good! The team was there and the yellow line was lifted on this narrow road, so we should be able to do something.
I held my pace knowing that often riders attack to hard to early on this climb and then don’t have it for the sprint at the end. My plan was to help lead our team up to about 200 meters with a measured pace. We could let it all hang out after that.
With 500 meters to go, I realized that the sprint might start happening a bit sooner. However, I picked up the pace just slightly so I would be able to react if needed. Matt was on my wheel and Billy was behind him.
Just about that time a rider came careening into my left side from slightly behind. My first reaction was to lean against the blow. However, he was coming with such force that it forced me right. I then thought I could steer right away from him. However, it must have been that something on his bike stuck to mine.
All I remember at that point was being thrown violently to the ground. The first thing I thought about was my shifters! Then I thought about my hip. I knew immediately I had a bad case of road rash.
Where was my bike? I looked up to see the bike that hit me wedged into the frame of my bike. My bike was on it’s wheels at that point being held up by the other bike. My shades lay broken at my feet. I let out a good “Dog gone it!” and then tried to get back on my bike.
Billy was there trying to calm me down. Those who ride and race with me know I don’t lose my temper that often. This time I was angry! Well, I was certainly going to finish the race. So, we messed around with the chain and I limped it across the finish line.
It was there I learned the extent of the damage. Cracked frame. Cracked helmet. Road rash on bruised shoulder and bruised hip.
Matt also went down and cracked his frame. I’m hoping his wrist is okay since it was giving him some pain at the time. Billy didn’t go down, but was basically taken out of contention and he was kind enough to come back and help us out.
Later this evening I learned from Wade Greene with GlobalBike that what happened was the guy who hit me first hit a GlobalBike rider with enough force to cause that rider’s seat to get twisted. Wade’s teammate stayed up, but that is what must have sent the rider so violently into my side.
I’m really pretty sure that Matt could have made it into the money (maybe me as well?) I certainly felt that with the legs I had and the position we were holding that I could have nailed down a top ten. Instead, I rolled across the finish in 47th.
The silver lining? I learned what great teammates and friends I have. I’ll lick my wounds and see what I can do about getting back on the bike. I know there will be people there to help me.