2 weeks late, but oh well.
The state road race championships were held in Henderson, MN this year - the same course as the Sibley Road Race, so I was stoked! Visions of Championship titles danced in my head as I readied myself for the day's endeavor. With my rockin' new bike and a great season beneath my belt, I felt confident about putting my best effort forward. Unbeknownst to me, the story doesn't always play out as you think.
The field of women was a mix of solo riders, void of any power teams and filled only with single riders and friend-alliances. The pace started off hot, though, with some new 40+ riders driving the pace at the beginning. We got an ugly pace line together to try to keep it fast and did what we could at the top of the ridge. About a mile out from the fast descent, an attack happened and split the field in 2. My little princess knew what to do instantly, and helped me make the 7-gal break.
Since it was only the first lap, we made our way down the 40+ mph descent with caution, being smart around the 90-degree turn at the bottom with nothing to prove. Unsuspectingly, not 200m after the corner, a gal rubbed another's wheels and caused the entire group to split and tumble before me. With teh confidence of my cyclocross experience, I tried to steer my bike to the shoulder to avoid the crash in front of me. The momentum was too great for both my breaks and my intentions, sending me sliding out sideways into the ditch. "Protect the bike....protect the bike" were the only words I could hear, pressing against the inside of my skull in a panicked scream. Dust flew up around me as I laid it down in the ditch. When I sat up, I saw Lisa laying face down on the road.
I scrambled from the ditch and ran to her, as I heard her scared voice ask "why do I see blood?". I tried to reassure her as the other's came and I untangled her feet from her front wheel gingerly. Her face was bleeding, but none of us would know how bad it was till later. (luckily, she was alive and able to be repaired - my best wishes are with you, Lisa!). When I looked back the road, I noticed Megan was also down, suffering from a lot of road rash and having been run over by at least 2 other cyclists. Once a car came by (don't get me started on how pissed I am that we didn't have an official follow-car), the severly injured were taken away and the rest began to return to their bikes.
With blood flowing freely from my right knee, I grabbed my bike and saw no marks. Whew - I saved the bike. Skin will heal. When I climbed on, my rear wheel bottomed out on the blood-stained road....WTF?! My tubular was completely flat. I spun the wheel only to find a 3-inch long hole that ripped through every layer of the rubber. (again, no follow car, no wheels).
Tears flooded my eyes as the realization hit. There were still 23 miles to go, a long fast decent, and 2 miles of climbing before I could be done. And 6 miles to go to get to the car for my spare wheel.... I haven't quit a race in 3 years [knock on wood].
Michelle, luckily, was there to tell me to ride. Very simply - ride. So I did. I watched the field as the road away from me. 14 mph was all I could get it to before the rear wheel would begin to slide out on me (thank heavans for tubulars). Heck, I rode a 15 mile mountain bike race on a single speed with a rear flat....this one might take all day, but I could do it. Sure, I could ride 6 miles back to the car, try to replace my rear wheel on my own (I'm married to a bike mechanic, but that doesn't mean I know what to do), then ride 3 miles back to the race course, and do a solo 18 miles to the finish.... sure, I'm German, I'm stubborn, and it's what I do.
After 2 miles alone, our junior rider's dad, Neil, and Dag came upon me and offered me a wheel. I couldn't have been a more greatful person if I tried. After mere seconds, they had me back on the road and ready to finish yet another race. After a short while, I came upon one of the junior women from our field, Annie, riding solo. I joined her in a ride to finish, and couldn't be happier.
There's something so great about meeting new people - especially the women. I love to get to know these fabulous gals, and it was great to meet such an enthusiastic young lady. We spent the next 20 miles getting to know each other, discussing our passions with cycling, and enjoying the lovely day in front of us. It was everything to remind me how very much I love this sport. Thanks, Annie!!! It was such a joy. And happy belated birthday!!! Can't wait to see you out there next year.
When we made the climb for the final time, Jay found me 1/2 way after he had finished. Knowing how badly I wanted to be there for a sprint-finish, he asked me what was wrong. I showed him the trail of blood down my shin and left it at that. As my hubby-of-the-year always does, he reminded me how proud he was of me for finishing, and seemed pretty impressed that the Princess made it out unscathed. What more can you ask for than unconditional love and support? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Lucky in love and road rash,