Tonight things didn’t go according to plan. Not that there was a plan, there really ever is beyond “stay efficient, mark the fast guys, try for glory at the most opportune moment”.
But tonight things went spectacularly bad… just short of being catastrophically bad.
I’ve got two sets of wheels. The first set are Mavic Ksyrium SLs (which I can’t spell OR pronounce without assistance). The second set are some lovely Zipp 303 tubulars. The Zipps cost about 4 times the street price of the Mavics, but they feel fantastic to roll on and they are great for crits, especially tonight’s, which feature a short steep hills and six tight turns in 1 kilometer.
I had the wild thought to go with the Mavics tonight precisely because the tight course had a higher probablility of crashes, but I thought “I got the Zipps to race ‘em, so I’m going to race ‘em”. Plus they look cool, and I like looking cool.
Well, race them I did… for 3/4 lap, and that’s when my race hit the fan – or in this case when my chain dropped, got caught in the spokes, ripped the derailleur off, bent a dozen spokes, and finally, ripped a spoke and nipple through the rim.
It happened in a sickeningly loud grind-snap-crunch. This sequence of events warranted a pit-stop. As pulled off and examined the damage, the full weight of what had happened started to hit me. I’d just blown through over $1000 worth of gear in a blaze of non glory. My rear 303 in particular was the top casualty. My race was over as soon as it had started. I looked up. People were staring, children were wimpering, grown men were crying. “Fuuuuuuuuudddddddggggggeeee”.
I started walking off the course towards where my Director Sportiff and kids were waiting, themselves looking puzzled as to why I’d stopped. To add insult to injury, the rear of the bike was so jacked up that it made a terrible racket simply rolling off the course. So I picked it up and and started walking, the click clack my shoes all of a sudden sounding like the loudest pair of high heels on the hardest of hardwoods on the planet. People stared some more, and it hit me why: Blinged out $5k race bikes and racers look absolutely ridiculous outside of their intended environment: the peleton at high speed.
The shock of the moment was still washing over me when I overheard the race official call out “racer 1021, DNF”. D. N. F.: Did Not Finish. That was the first time I’d ever heard that called out in reference to me. This was the first race I hadn’t finished in my long and not-at-all illustrious bicycle racing career.
Needless to say, I was now pissed off, and more than a little depressed. Here I was standing with the crippled hulk of my bike while every fifty-seven seconds the men who had previously been my competition streamed by in blaze after blaze of glory. Every time they went by my self pity piled on a little thicker.
As my Director Sportif and my walked up and I explained what happened, she said something about how horrible that was, and her expression showed some concern for the damage that this was going to do for our checking account, but then she added a final thought to the equation: “at least you didn’t crash!”.
There I was, depressed, feeling sorry for myself, and nursing my wounded vanity. I’d overlooked the most important thing: I hadn’t crashed, I wasn’t injured, and aside from a bit of broken carbon and aluminum, life was actually very very good.
I’ve raced bikes on and off for fifteen years. This year so far I’ve done thirty-seven races. In those thirty seven races I’ve been within a stone’s throw of dozens upon dozens of crashes that have resulted in the victims experiencing everything from bent rims to extended hospital stays. I haven’t crashed a single time this year. I haven’t had a bad crash with an injury ever.
I’m not going to cheapen all of this by knocking on wood. But what I will do is try to appreciate it all and attempt a major attitude adjustment from grumpy racer who had a bad night to husband and father who has a lot to be thankful for.
… Of course I’m also looking forward to Tuesday night when I get a chance to race again and get my mojo back. This time, for obvious reasons, I’ll be racing on the Ksyriums.