I bled first.
Stage Four was a big let down. I couldn’t sleep the night before since I was so excited about it, so to have such a crappy race sucked quite much. Stage Four took place on the Laguna Seca (or Mazda) motor race track. There’s a steep one-minute climb into some headwind followed by a corkscrew descent, where we reach the harrowing speeds of ‘something way too fast’ miles per hour. The rest of the course is flat and curvy, and I think like 2 miles long or so. I can’t be bothered to fact check right now. Seems longer than that. I’ll say 2.5 miles.
I took the first KOM sprint point with ease, missed the other two since breaks were up the road, then snagged the final one with three laps remaining. No problem. Goal number one of the day to keep the KOM jersey was all locked up. Now I could focus on blowing that final lap climb out of the water and going for the win either solo or out of a small group. It would have been hard to stay away on the flat section to the finish, but I was going to give it a shot since my confidence was sky high. I’d been conserving my energy well and had never felt like I was in any difficulty so far. But disaster struck at the very top of the climb with one and a half laps to go (out of 15). I was sitting fifth wheel after a somewhat hard acceleration mid-way up the climb. Just as we approached the top of the climb, the guy in front of me threw his rear wheel back and swerved to the left just a bit too much for how close behind I was. I went down immediately. I won’t point fingers….but it was definitely his fault.
Actually I don’t know. In hindsight if that ever happens to you it’s partially your own fault for being too close behind, except on a dead flat road when things are lined out. I’ll take 3% of the blame, hows that. Although I’ve hit my head almost every time I’ve crashed in a bike race, this was the first time that my head hit the ground first, smacking loudly and shattering my helmet–while also taking much of the impact off the rest of my body, which is the important thing. I’m sore a tiny bit sore and have a little road rash, especially on my hand since I wasn’t wearing gloves, but nothing bad.
I would have been able to get back on and finish with the group had I been able to straighten my derailleur hanger out in time. Instead, I finished three minutes down with a couple other guys that crashed on top of me. There went my somewhat decent 10th GC, but more importantly the chance for the stage win or podium placing. I wasn’t down for long though, since it was a beautiful day and I had that nice KOM jersey for more than enough consolation. I spent the next four or five hours riding out to the beach, getting a double flat, hitching a ride back to the race, begging for a free tube, refilling my bottles with Osmo (11 bottles of it) and then going back out for more riding. It’s such a cool area and the weather was fantastic that I could hardly bring myself to stop. I felt like I could have kept on going for hours. Neither boredom nor tiredness could find me that afternoon. After the great day I spent three hours driving 80 miles to the Bay Area, where I had a big dinner with my grandparents, a short night of sleep, and started a long day of travel and work on Monday, beginning at 3:30AM. Yowza.
I’ll definitely be back to Sea Otter next year. The environment, the cool venue and big crowds, the scenery–all of it’s fantastic, and of course the racing is a blast. Next up is GILAAAAA!!!