Since the race I’ve learned that this bit of pavement is fairly famous for local racers. It is said that one Greg Lemond once raced there. This past Saturday I did my part to add to the history of the course. By crashing out. But first the “rest” of the story.
Luke, Nick D. and I piled into Nick’s car early Saturday morning to head over to Indy. We were in good spirits and chatted about racing and cycling culture for the ride over. Nick is already eager for cyclocross season.
The temps were colder than expected, and the conditions were not met with joy from our lot as Luke had forgotten his knee warmers. Fortunately, in a last minute addition to the gear bag, I had added my red tights and could therefore loan out those precious knee accoutrements. (As a double backup, I had also brought a light embrocation. No, I was/am not a boyscout.)
The race start was unnecessarily hurried as we were beckoned to the line for some 10 minutes and then had to wait 2 more for no apparent reason. Normally this would not be a problem, except that in my rush to empty my bladder and get to the start, I had soiled my beautiful, red, specialized tights. Little did I know to what extent I would soil them that day.
After missing my pedal with my left cleat (when was the last time I did that?!) I was under way and slotted into the top 10-15 wheels. My mishaps continued as my shifting was terrible. Like, constant shifting even though I didn’t press the lever, terrible. I decided on lap 2 that I had to make a wheel change and moved to the front. Coming into the straight-away, I hollered at the guys that I was going to the pit, and with a raised hand, accelerated off the front towards the pit. It must have been a sight. I quickly began removing my rear wheel and a guy (never got his name) helped me with my spare. Even more helpful, he lied to the official for me, saying I had a flat. I was prepared to chase down the field (since the shifting issue is NOT worthy of a free lap), but the official told me to take it easy, and that I would enter on the next lap. How fortunate. A small break was off the front as the field came through and I jumped up to speed fairly quickly (it is, after all, what I *do*.) So now I’m in a breakaway. How delightful. Perhaps the bull of the peloton saw the red pants dancing ahead and accelerated? Perhaps we didn’t work well together. Regardless, it was all together within a lap or two.
With nearly 60 minutes of lactic acid delight ahead of us, the team’s goal was to keep the powder dry early. That didn’t really happen (see above) and all of us were in early moves in the first 15 minutes. Oh well. The race went on with futile moves going and coming. Luke was off the front solo for a few laps and Nick took a group with him later, but it was not to be.
The most interesting part of the course was the extremely bumpy uphill section going into the 2nd (and final) turn each lap. Many riders found it difficult to keep the pace up the hill, while the WCC boys powered up it. This is not just hubris here. Every lap I either maintained or gained positions here – even the time I was pushed into the grass. In such ways the bunch was pretty squirly and with only 2 turns it was easy to sit in. This contributed to a larger field jostling for position later in the race.
With about 5 or 6 laps to go, Luke bridged to a move off the front. It was his turn after I had been reeled in last (or was it Nick?). When he got up to the break, the dudes popped, and Luke started his TT thing. Basically, this was a perfect position for us as a team. Luke can time trial 2 categories above his license, so I slotted onto Nick’s wheel and the two of us patrolled the front. I will admit, I was thinking that if it came back together, I was perfectly situated for a sprint. Nick is a bad dude on a bike, and he would provide a smoking leadout. Further, he has good sprint legs himself. I dreamt of going 1-2.
A group of 3 went off the front with 3 or 4 to go and Nick and I let them be. Luke looked secure and it might be the case that if they catch him, he can draft, recover, and then beat them for first. It was looking more and more likely that Luke was going to raise his hands shortly. And a win for one is a win for all.
Luke continued to hold off the chase as the laps slipped down to 1 to go. Coming through the start/finish, the pace was quick but not hot. The pack usually slowed going into the downhill left hand bend, just as the road narrows. Entering this section, I called to Nick that we were getting swarmed. What I should have said was: up up! Meaning, increase your pace, we’re loosing positions. Soon enough the group was swarming us as we set up for the turn. At that moment a gentlemen to my right decided he should occupy the space that I was riding in, and we began to bump shoulders. Usually I do not “freak out” during these circumstances – I have even been racing up a climb and bumped shoulders and bars with another racer, and both of us just soldiered on – but this was different. A rider on my left moved right (to set up for the left hand turn) and clipped my front wheel. This is a gauranteed way to meet the pavement. And that’s what I did. Skidding on the ground a gentleman behind me ran into me and went flying over the bars.
Coming out of the fetal position after a crash, your senses come back one by one – they were there all along, but you were in the midst of the matrix-esque slow-motion-survival-pacing of reality – and you weren’t watching or listening. You are reacting. I began testing my limbs and checking myself for injuries. After spouting some upset words I realized my bike was nowhere to be found. “Where’s my bike?!” As I got to my feet I saw a rider splayed across it 10 feet away. Oh joy. It’s not ridable, but everything is fixable. What may not be fixable are those beautiful red tights. Alas.
At the business end of the race Luke got caught on that little rise before the final turn. He smartly got in the draft and came out of the group (of 4) with 2nd place. A great result. Nick kept his nose clean and powered out of the last turn to handily win the field sprint for 5th. Not bad for a team of 3.
Nick then lent me his Madone for a cool-down spin (a class gesture, as I was bleeding in several places) and I had the kind nurse clean up my road rash while I nursed my recoverite.
A highlight of the day was seeing Axel line it up with the big boys for 75 min of pleasure spiked with pain. Riding solo he put in a good effort and took 10th. Not bad on a 2000g wheelset.
As a result of the crash, unexpected expenses (bike fixing stuff), and a couple of emergency room visits for my son that night (he’s doing great btw.) we (the wife and I) decided to skip Monsters of the Midway last weekend. I am very eager for the CU crits this weekend and hope I can pull out another hometown win. I know, a big ask indeed!