So I was out to improve on my 5th place in the TT, at the Natz Road Race. The course is super technical and lots of little hills, also lots of hard corners, and of course 100 guys all wanting to ride near the front. I had seen a few races already, including Kevin's race on Tuesday when he finished a fine 5th. Also the race right before mine was the 40-44 which Roger Aspholm handily won from a ten man group. All of the races had blown apart due to the nature of the course and agressive racing. It had been well over 100 degrees all week, but by Friday it was in the low to mid 90's. That hardly seems great but the humidity was also down making the "feels like" temperature a good 20 degrees cooler than Wednesdays races.
We hit the line at 2:30 in the heat of the day and it was fast and frantic right away. I was able to get to the front just in time to avoid being in or behind a pile up about 2/3 of the way around the 1st lap. We hit the hardest climb and I was 3rd wheel feeling fine. I fought the urge to attack when the guys around me were clearly breathing a lot harder than me. Over the top a couple guys shot to the front before a hard off camber left hand turn. I had ridden the course the day before and got all the corners dialed in, so I was confident in my lines. When the 4 or 5 guys in front of me slowed way down and took it real wide, I thought "what pussies". I held my speed and at the last second dove hard for the inside apex of the corner. I had a beautiful line and a clean line of vision. In that split second I thought "this is how to ride that corner ladies". Before that thought was even gone from my mind, I heard and felt an interuption at the base of my rear wheel. I was going fast and railing the corner. The wheel made a boney scrape and I slid a bit. I reacted well and got the bike back under me for an instant, then my rear wheel felt like the brakes had been squeezed hard and i went into a washout skid. I seemed to actually pick up speed as I pinwheeled around the bend. I couldn't save it again although I tried all the way down. I hit the deck hard and bounced a bit then slid, still on the inside of the turn and taking out no one else.
I hopped up instantly and scurried off to the inside on the sidewalk. The group sped by as I took inventory, shoulder hurts bad. I tried to move it and it wasn't too too terrible. I felt the collarbone, nothing obvious. My leg had a good size patch of roadrash at the calf. No worries. My hand hurt a lot, but it was at the knuckles under my now crimson gloves. The index finger that was on the front break in the ready position looked like hamburger. The pavement was that chip seal crap that just destroys flesh. All in all I was up on my feet and not in pure agony.
The back of the bunch went by and I was now looking at my rear wheel. I had rolled a section of the tire off the rim. That was the initial part of the loss of control. In the time it took for the wheel to rotate up to the brakes I had regained control, albeit for a nanosecond, but at that level of hyper awareness I knew I had saved it. Then in the next nanosecond when the part of the tire that was off the rim lodged itself in the brakes forcing a lock up and skid, I had "re-lost" control and this skid lasted long enough due to my velocity that there would be no saving it at that extreme body lean angle.
The wheel car was right there which surprised me, because the other pile up was only minutes before. I think there may have been 2 wheel cars. At any rate those guys were on it. I knew I took a hard hit and my hand was bleeding really bad. I told him I was all set as I was rolling the tire back on the rim. He looked and said "Oh you rolled it".....and so my embarrassment began. Thats just SO non PRO. Theres actually a penalty in the rulebook for rolling a tire. Or at least there used to be, I don't know if it's still there, but it should be. I'm so greatful that I didn't take anyone else out or hurt them. Then I'd feel 1000 times worse. The wheel guy asked what I needed and I said I'm done. I knew I was injured pretty bad in the shoulder area and my hand was seriously messed up.....actually worse than I realized at the time. I was in the drops and my fist took the initial impact ripping 3 big holes in the knucles from the pinky to the middle finger. The index finger that was forward, on the brake lever was spared at the fist knucle, but was not so lucky on the middle knuckle. That was the hamburger spot.
I got back on my bike after everyone had gone and just spun back toward the finish area. My plan was to start my drive home after my race. I figured I'd better have the paramedics clean me up a bit before I saddled up to drive. I had to ride half way back around the course to find one of the ambulances, and when I came to a little punchy hill I stood up to pedal a bit and thats when I started to really think I had broken the clavicle too. I've done it before, both "greenstick" and "displaced". Displaced is very obvious and ver painful immediately. Greenstick can vary, but it basicly means the bone is in tact structurally, but it has a crack in it. I self diagnosed it as a greenstick fracture at that point. My white handlebar tape was now bright red as was my Dura Ace shifter. When I got to the ambulance. I took off my helmet, shades, and gloves. I didn't like what I saw when my left glove came off. The 3 holes in my knuckles were VERY deep. There was white inside at the bottom of the wounds and I said "Oh shit, thats right down to the bone". The paramedic looked and said,"Ya dude, you're going to the hospital. I said, "maybe, lets just clean me up for now".
As I sat on the steps to the Ambulance and got the wounds washed up, I started to feel a lot worse and I was hopeful the collarbone wasn't busted but I knew it was. I was right. I decided to skip the ambulace ride and drive myself to the hospital. I was able to change and load my bike without too much pain and then took a walk up to turn in my timing chip and then over to the feed zone to thank those that were gonna feed me and grab my cooler.
At the hospital, they actually had a hand division at the ER. They eventually got me in there but I had to have lots of X-Rays done, on the hand and clavicle, and ribs which were now giving me a ton of pain and making it real hard to breathe. My race was still going on back at the venue. Eventually the surgeon decided my hand was not broken and after some painful tests it was determined that there was no tendon or joint damage. It turns out the white at the bottom of the wounds was the tendon, not the bone. He was straight from China and his english wasn't very good at all. I didn't care as long as his medical knowledge was good. The nurse told me was an outstanding hand specialist and that was good enough for me. Well he may be a great surgeon but his bedside manner and awareness of other injuries was a bit lacking. He proceeded to make me his bitch as he stabbed at my ripped apart hand with the anastesia. Squeezing the back of my hand that was extremely tender and jerking my arm to the position he desired. I have what I consider a very high pain threshold. I can sit there and suck up the pain that came with my injuries, but when I start getting tortured at those specific locations, it gets a little......shall we say.....aggrivating. I finnaly had to scream with one particular movement, and then in a very BOLD voice I yelled. "Does this guy even know I have a broken collarbone?"
It turns out he didn't. He works on hands and in his mind the hand is it's own entity. I'm laying there with road rash all over my leg and hand, and it took me quite a while just to get down on the table and get my arm out to the side where he needed it, with the ribs and collarbone shooting pain signals all through my body, and it never occured to him that I may have other injuries. After that he was better, but not by a lot. The hand is a delicate area to have to work on, I didn't realize it was gonna be so bad, but I aged a couple years in that little room.
After that I got a sling for my arm and then I had to ask them to dress the "dollar bill" size road rash on my leg so it wouldn't harden up while I drove. I walked out of there at 8pm. I had been there over 3 hours, and now as I walked out into the parking lot with fading daylight in Louisville, KY after an incredibly long and draining day I looked at my car and realized it was gonna be my prison cell for the forseeable future. I went to Walgreens and got my anti-infection antibiotics, and then went next door to a sandwich shop and got a sub. After I ate it, it was 9 o'clock and almost dark out. I headed East. 1000 miles from home.
I drove for 4-1/2 hours and stopped at a rest area after seeing way to many deer on the highway. I got out and walked around a little and started to realize that I was pretty jacked up. I didn't fill the Vicoden scrip, and I won't. That stuff is pure evil. I'd rather feel pain any day over what that crap does to you. I wondered if I should have accepted Nancy or Jamie's offer to fly out and drive me home, but I could never let them do that. I'm independant to a fault. I climbed back into my cell and reclined the seat to try to sleep a little. I had already decided that it would actually be easier to sleep sitting up and that I wasn't gonna get a good nights sleep no matter what. I actually went straight out, and surprisingly slept off and on for almost 5 hours. I was really wrecked.
Wakeing up in a world of pain in a West Virginia rest area with a dark gloomy fog all around and big rig diesels idleing nearby was unpleasant to say the least. Every little movement brought pain to something, but the ribs were the most acute area at the moment. I managed to get out and take a walk and have a squirt. My breath and body stunk like shit, and I felt sorry for myself as I walked back to my cell.
Then something happened. I thought of the vets that are coming home from needless, pointless wars. They're missing arms or legs while life back home really goes unchanged. They risk their lives and lots of them lose them too. So I figured they'd love to wake up in a car in West Virginia with a broken collarbone and some hand wounds. They'd be so thrilled to be able to drive to their home on that very day. And so thats what I decided.....to be happy. I decided to shut up and drive. I'm not gonna lie and say I had that attitude all the way, but during the bad patches I made myself think like that. At times I thought, "boy I should have just driven home from the Catskills race on a high and I'd be all good right now. But then I said "No, you don't know that, you could have been in a fatal car accident if you went that way, or some other thing. Theres no way to know, you just have to go out there and live life. The decisions I made led me here. Thats fine, I'll heal and rest and come back stronger.
I finally pulled into Nancy's place around 7:30 Saturday night. She was at her high school reunion that she had planned for months. (I told her not to cancel her plans to look after me). It was a tough couple of days, but the're behind me now. Thanks for all the calls, texts, and emails from friends and family.....you know who you are. I couldn't take calls on the road because my left arm was slinged hard against my body and my right arm was stuck to the steering wheel
About my tire rolling off. I can blame no one but myself. I've glued hundreds of tires on in my life and never rolled one off. Some of the thoughts I have are that I left the bikes and wheels in the car most of the time I was out there. It was well over 100 degrees in the shade (where the temperature is taken) but in the sun in a black SUV, it was probably 150 or so. I was careful to let air out of the tires so they didn't explode, but I honestly never considered the liquifying effect that the heat may have on the glued up tubulars. My bad. I also rode the course the days before the race getting the corners dialed in on my training wheels which are aluminum rimmed clinchers. It's not possible to roll a clincher. I was very confident in my speed and line entering the corner, I had done my homework, I knew the corner perfectly. I threw it in there hard, but not dangerously.....I didn't think. I'd do it again, because thats what I've always done. I recon the corners and know all the geometry before I get to it in a race. I practice them at speed so I don't get surprised in the race. My gluing method is similar to all the expert articles you can read on the subject. My tires were new right before the Hilltowns race, where I had no issues and also none at the Tour Of the Catskills, although there was never a corner as severe at those races. Either way you slice it, if I did a bad glue job, or stupidly allowed the glue to "cook" off the rims, or if I just overbaked the turn it's my fault, no one elses, so that, believe it or not, makes it easier to accept. I'm very embarressed about it and so glad I didn't hurt anyone else in the process.
So thats it, my road season is now over. I'm very sad to be missing D2R2 (anyone wanna buy my entry) especially after talking about how much fun it was gonna be with Sammy and Kev and John Funk and Jay Gump etc. I'm very sad to be missing GMSR, which is maybe my favorite stage race. I've got the best climbing legs of my life and to have a go at the overall there would have been a dream. As it is though, this is easily my best road season ever. So I'll take rest, and heal up and try to get ready for the Cross season. (The real season). I'll be on the line in VT at the first Verge weekend, ready to rip in the Stars & Stripes.....and you can be damn sure I'll have the corners dialed in!
Thanks for Reading, JB