I’ll hand it to the guy who punched me in the face early in the race, he had a pretty good one for a scrawny bike racer. Enough to draw blood. After he did that he cut course. Lame…but not as lame as this broken chain which put a halt to my race on the 1st lap…
So what’s the deal, 118th place and 3 laps down in Offenburg??!! Well…I really think it could have been a better day. The preparation was perfect, the legs felt great, the sun was out…but much to my dismay, I was dealt a pretty crappy hand in the form of a split eyebrow from being punched by some jerk racer, a broken chain 12min into the race, capped off by a persistent dropped chain/faulty drivetrain.
After a furious start lap, I was focused on doing everything I could to move up through the crowd. In a cattle-herd section I got pushed into another rider, knocking him off balance. He singled me out as the malicious culprit and delivered a solid backhand punch right the to the left eye, smashing my glasses off. I kept the hockey-player reaction bottled up, and instead used the adrenaline to pass the guy on the next climb…only to see him running through the woods outside the tape (cutting course!!) on the next bottleneck. What a jerk! Still, I felt focused, and was ready to pounce on the first big open climb coming up after a short, steep, technical descent called Wolf’s Drop.
Through the roots, my chain dropped to the outside, and when I hit the steep-to-flat transition, my cranks moved just enough to severely twist the chain. Same heart sinking feeling as when I flatted at Worlds, except this time I hadn’t even had a chance to show my stuff. I ran into the tech zone where the USAC mechanic was able to find a spare chain. I counted 37 people go by me as I stood there getting it changed, so by my rough math I think I had moved up to 93rd from 130th…I didn’t get rolling again until the last racer was way past.
I jumped back in, sitting in last place, and fought as hard as I could to make up lost ground. It’s tough to stay smooth and consistent when you’re racing alone trying to catch up, going too hard in some places, not capping off climbs as smoothly. Overall it can result in slower lap times even though it “feels” like you’re going as hard as you possibly can. Something must have happened to my derailleur in the process of the chain bending, because my new chain kept dropping, forcing me off the bike to fix it two or three times a lap. In the frustration I started flailing at the course. Absalon, meanwhile, was putting out average lap times of 14:50. From timing myself in practice, I knew I was capable of at least 15:50, and here I had an open course, but the dropping chain really slowed me up. After the first lap I saw on the clock that I was 6min down, at least 2 or 3 of that was due to the chain. With the bad drivetrain, it was hard to do much with my situation, but I never gave up. I caught the back of the field and passed 10 people, but by then I had fallen too far back and was pulled with 3 to go.
Kind of sad to think I could’ve really had a chance to prove myself. Aside from the punch in the face, that’s just how it goes sometimes. I was bummed for sure, but my preparation and subsequent experience here has been too valuable to be undone by bad luck. Ironically, I further realized my commitment to pursuing these big races. The difference between this mid-season setback and my flat at Worlds was that here, I was in the process of pursuing a larger goal, whereas at Worlds I had already achieved it. Misfortune stings a little more when its effect may prevent success in the future. I was reminded that the risk of a broken bike or other mishap is very real in any race, no matter how good I feel or how important I think it is. Even after traveling all the way to Offenburg, Germany, I realized that it is still a risk I am willing to accept.
After Sunday’s frustrating race, I decided I need to go on a spin to clear my mind. In the process I came across a castle tower called Moostruck on the top of a mountain in the Black Forest. Back home now and headed to the Mt. Hood Classic for a mid-season fitness plug, and looking forward to focusing my efforts to the second half of the season. Spencer.