February 15, 2010
Rewind to one year ago. Valentine’s Day 2009: NC State collegiate road race. I was standing at the start line of my first bicycle race, shivering from the cold – and my nerves. It was the first time I had ridden with this many people, and the suspense was killing me. Once the race started, my nervousness was replaced by the satisfaction of exertion. The pace was well within my ability and I felt good. If anything, we were going slowly. On the first moderate hill of the day, I decided to make my way to the front of the field. And then it happened. SCRRRRRRAAAAPE, THUD…..SHIT!
I was lying on the pavement, trying to comprehend what had just happened. My bike was a twisted mess, with one broken shifter and a brake caliper jammed in the cable stop. There was blood dripping from of my chin and hand, but I couldn’t feel anything. I was carted back to the staging area and driven to the hospital. I left a few hours later with nine stitches in my chin and a bandaged hand. The rest of the weekend was a blur. I didn’t feel well and I could barely eat; but I had just become a bike racer. Two weeks later, I was racing again.
Back to 2010. I returned to NC State last weekend to seek revenge. Sadly, Saturday’s race was snowed out and my chance at redemption was rather ominously rescheduled to Valentine’s Day – 1 year to the day since my crash.
My race started at 4:00, by which time it was sufficiently warmish. I made it through the first lap without incident and I was feeling good. Partway through the second lap, the field was flying down a particularly rough descent. I was stuck in the middle and had no way of avoiding a massive pothole. I came out of if moving, but something was wrong. I was sure I had flatted. But no. When I grabbed the brake lever to pull over, I realized that my front brake was jammed on. My tire was okay. I stopped on the side of the road and started hitting things until the brake started working again.
I remounted and began what would become a fruitless chase. I put in a huge effort and immediately started catching dropped riders. The field was in sight – I’ve never worked so hard in my life. But it didn’t pay off. With the field just a few hundred meters away, I was nearly brought to a standstill by a sudden and unexpected back spasm/cramp. I couldn’t pedal, and I watched as the last riders rode out of sight. Bad luck, again. DNF, again.
Someday I’ll finish a race at NC State.