Breck Epic Stage 2
Today's race experience can be summed up by two words: flat tires.
Actually that is not really true at all. There were many other things to take away from today. It is true that I suffered three punctures, went through four compressed air thingies, gave my left index finger CO2 frostbite when one of the canisters went berserk and nearly blasted me in the eyeball and had to borrow two pumps in order to finish the stage. In the end, I finished about 45 minutes down in spite of my best efforts to be prepared for any trailside emergency.
There were some positive things to take away from today however. For the second time in six months, Cannondale Factory racer Garth Prosser rescued me from certain death. The first time was last year at the Pisgah Stage Race in Brevard, North Carolina. I was climbing a steep section of trail when my chain went between my spokes and the last cog. By "went between" I mean, it was wedged in there with an extreme disposition. I pulled on that thing for a full 10 minutes with all my strength and it was not going anywhere. Along came Garth, who saw the expression on my face and quickly synopsized that I was at my wits' end. Together, we summoned our collective bike racer muscle and pulled the chain out.
Today, he gave me my fourth CO2 after the previous three had proven ineffective. Thanks, Garth! This was enough air to get me halfway down the descent, where I stopped by a huge tree which was requiring everyone to dismount. This was an optimal place to solicit an inflation device, because my tube was holding air, but not enough to make it home. First, Charlie Hayes stopped. Actually, he was in a bizarre ballet stretch when I got there, attempting to loosen up his back. Unfortunately, his pump did not work. Thanks, Charlie, you need to buy a new pump.
Next Jeff Kerkove came along with his coed duo partner, Sonya Looney. They are leading the race in their category, but they were gracious enough to pause and loan me a pump. Thanks Team Topeak-Ergon!
This is what is cool about mountain biking: the event is extremely competitive, but there is also an understanding that ultimately, the primary battle is the athlete vs. the mountain, and there is camaraderie and mutual respect in that regard. Riders look out for each other on the trails.
Now that I think about it, Jeff and Sonya's teamate Yuiki Saito saved me from an unfortunate fate last year on the Guyot stage when he gave me a CO2. I was at about 10,500 feet and 40 miles from anywhere civilized at the time. I guess I owe their whole squad a round.
I also got to ride some of the best singletrack on the planet. We were on the Colorado Trail for about 90 minutes today. About 30 minutes of the stage included some new sections which I had never ridden, and it was a treat. So in spite of my mechanical misfortunes, I was able to enjoy some great riding.
If things go smoothly for the rest of the week, I might be able to claw my way back into the top 10 by the end of the race, which would be a good ride considering the competition here. I could be bummed out about my puncture today, but that is bike racing, especially mountain biking. The rock which went through my tire today was pretty much a shale arrowhead, and it would have deflated a tank tread.
So what can you do? Perhaps I need to make an offering to The God of Sharp Objects.
I would normally not be so bold as to suggest an award for myself, but maybe Mike will elect to find a used, rusty Big Air CO2 cartridge on the side of the road somewhere and spray paint it gold with cheap krylon paint. He may then choose to award it to me as the unluckiest rider at the Breck Epic for two years running. I narrowly beat out Blake Harlan last year with five flats in one stage, over his four. Now I have a running total of eight.
Of course, the race is not over yet...