After spending the night at Debbie’s house on Thursday, I moved to another location. She and her entire family came down with a bad cold on Wednesday, and we all thought it was best if I wasn’t around to catch it. Luckily, she owns a vacant condo a few miles away, so she took me and all my stuff over there, where I spent last night and will stay for the next couple days.
I rode up to Murrieta today, only about 10 miles including getting lost, and signed in for the race. There were 120 riders, and a couple big teams. Rock Racing, Ouch, BMC, Fly V, and a fair amount of elite teams as well. The weather was very nice. Probably in the upper 60’s, sunny, and windy. I warmed up with some hard efforts, and about 20 minutes to the start of the race, I ran into someone familiar. He was heading the opposite direction as me, and we both slowed down, staring at each other in disbelief as we approached. It was Orion, and we both circled around each other three or four times, laughing, before we said anything.
The crit started 20 minute later. I had made sure to be up near the front, although with wide streets and only four corners meant there would be plenty of opportunities to move up over the next 90 minutes. Pretty much throughout the race, I stayed in the top third. A few times I went up and bridged some small gaps off the front, buy that was all I could do before getting sucked back into the pack as 30 or 40 people passed on all sides. No getting into break aways for me today, I realized. This was a fast race, but not nearly as difficult as a Belgian Kermess. I think it will take a little while for me to build the kind of speed I need to be competetive in these fast races, although I was able to recover quickly between efforts. The endurance and threshold are good right now, but anything above that needs work.
There were some close calls in the field today, riders swerving, wheels overlapping a few times, but nothing too bad. There were a number of crashes, but I avoided all of them, until the end. With five laps to go, four or five riders went down ahead of me. I had plenty of time to react, and swerved between some hay bails that separated that section of road from some oncoming traffic on the other side of the street. I merged back in after passing the pile up, and actually moved forward a few spots.
A break away of a couple guys had gotten off the front a while before all this happened, and they had over 30 seconds. There was no bringing them back, but Rock Racing went to the front for the last 6 laps to lead out their sprinter, Bahati.
With one lap to go, I was in the top 40. Not a good place to be. I began moving up a bit, but my chances of being up at the front for the finish were slim, especially since Rock was burning off guys up at the front like something that you would burn really quickly in order to make something else move forward at a fast pace.
We came into the second corner and I heard a loud gunshot: the sound of someone’s tire blowing out. That guy went down, and the two guys behind him went down, plus me. I saw the whole thing unfold very slowly. I put on my breaks, watched as the three guys in front of me crumpled and flew to the cement in spectacular aerobatics. I was launched up into the air after them as I went over the handlebars, very high. I remember thinking, “damn it, I’m way up here in the air. This is going to hurt, especially since it looks like I’m going to land smack dab on that there curb. Yep, this is going to hurt.” I flipped in the air, and landed just like I had predicted, on my back on the curb. I let out a loud grunt, my bike fell on top of me, and someone slid into me I think. Immediately, the EMTs and race volunteers, who had been attending the crashes on that corner all day, got over to us and pulled our bikes off of us. One guy stood over me and told me not to move as the rest of the pack came around us. I layed there in the gutter for a few minutes, regaining my breath. I had the wind knocked out of me, and my back hurt a lot. Ok, enough laying down, I thought. And, with help from a race volunteer, I got up after telling the paramedics that I was fine to get up. They checked me out and made sure nothing was broken and that I could feel all my fingers and toes. Luckily, my back took 100% of the impact on the curb, so the rest of my body was very minimally damaged. As equipment goes, I have another tear in my bibs, my glasses are broken again, but nothing a few more strips of electrical tape wont fix. My rear wheel is completely out of true, but I think it can probably be fixed as well. And I only have a few cuts on my hands, back and shoulder, elbows, knees, and a small one on my nose–all probably from bikes landing on me as I lay on my back. The one on my back is a straight line where I hit the curb. It looks pretty cool.
I checked my bike for damage after the EMT let me go. He moved on to help out the others EMTs as they called an ambulance for one of the other riders. My bike looked ok, but I saw that my powertap was missing. I looked around for it in some weeds, but couldn’t really bend over or walk too much, so some other people helped me. I suspected it went down the gutter into the sewer, because that’s right where I landed and there was a big opening there. They checked the opening of the sewer by getting on their hands and knees, but couldn’t see anything. I waited around in a bit of a daze as the team manager (of the rider who went down hard and still wasn’t up) argued with the EMTs about having the ambulance come. It was a Mexican team, and I suspect the team manager didn’t want to have to pay for hospital fees, or the rider didn’t have insurance or something. The EMTs were pissed, and yelled at the team manager asking if “you want your rider to die?” Eventually the rider got to his feet after 15 or 20 minutes. I think he was just a wimp. He had landed on his back on the curb just like me, and I wasn’t crying like a baby on the ground (ahem, Tony Guisto).
Anyways, I got the race officials to open the manhole on the sidewalk with a bent piece of wire and sure enough, after climbing down the ladder, one of the guys found my powertap sitting on top of a large turd. I thanked them, and started walking, really slowly, back to the start/finish to get my bag and head home. I tried to get on my bike, but couldn’t. So I called Orion for a ride home but he didn’t pick up.
Luckily the race director and his wife Jennifer, offered to take me home. So I sat in their car as they took care of some stuff. My back was very sore, and my ribs were aching too and it hurt to just sit there. Orion called back and I eventually got a ride back with him and his wife, although Jennifer thought it would be best if I went home with them when she found out I was staying by myself and didn’t have a way to get to the hospital if I needed to. She ended up calling me an hour ago to check in and make sure I was OK. I’m always amazed at how far ordinary people will go out of their way to help a stranger. Like Debbie finding multiple places for me to stay, the race volunteers for climbing down in the sewer, and Jennifer and the race promoter helping me out.
I got dropped off by Erin and Orion and limped into the apartment, took some ibuprofen, struggled out of my race kit and into some shorts, and walked back outside to ask some guys working on a car if they had any ice. The got some ice for me and I went back inside and eased onto the air mattress I have here, and iced my back. Damn, it hurt. I could barely get up. After 20 minutes, I walked outside to the hot tub and pool area. The hot tub felt amazing. My back began feeling better immediately. My scabs started floating off my knees and elbows, leaving the murky red streaks in the water. I transferred over to the pool, which was breath takingly cold. Dead bugs, grime, and mosquito larva floated on the surface. I had to pee, but there was no way I was walking all the way back to my room, 30 meters away. “A little horse urine won’t hurt the dead bugs,” I thought. I went back and forth from hot tub to pool for an hour and now my back feels much better. I can walk ok, bend over a little and sit up. I’m not racing tomorrow, but I’m sure I’ll be fine to race San Dimas next weekend.
I might as well get all my crashes and sickness over with in the early part of the season. Time to eat my quinoa and tomato sauce.