This time last year I was laid up on a couch, sleeping vertically, and determined to regain lung capacity. A season marked by 11 wins had abruptly come to an end when a mechanical left me with a broken shoulder blade, 3 broken ribs, a contused lung, and a ton of road rash. While breathing through a spirometer I sat watching nearly every televised hour of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Frustration associated with being injured at such a pivotal moment ignited a fire within me.
That fire burned brightly last Sunday, August 18th at the New Jersey State Criterium Championships. Having missed the opportunity to compete in 2012 due to injury, I was hell-bent on proving myself worthy of the white jersey. The field was small, yet like the previous week’s South Jersey Criterium a single team composed 33% of the field. The race was very aggressive, with attacks from the gun. Though that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. This was the state championships after all, no one just shows up for a workout. Which also meant that the other 67% of solo riders composing the field equally shared a will to chase.
We worked together, fending off each consecutive attack. The course included a long finishing straight approximately 700+ meters in length. As we entered the final lap, I strategically placed myself at the back of the field, patiently followed the Peanut Butter & Co. lead out train, then launched for a long sprint ~250 – 300 meters in length. The resulting outcome was very similar to the Mengoni Grand Prix, however this time I managed to create several bike lengths of separation between 2nd place and myself.
After the awards ceremony and an hours’ rest, I jumped back on course to try my hand at the Men’s 1/2/3 championships. To my surprise, I was able to hang with and move throughout the field with ease. Sweeping turns combined with a 72 person field made for a comfortable slipstream, yet did not provide enough attrition to safely navigate through the final lap. Little did I know what was about to unfold.
As we sailed through turn two, I cheered on Glenn and team passing by in perfect lead out formation. This reassured me that I would in not interrupt the boyfriend’s shot at glory. While we already established that it is okay to Chick, it is better to be wise and mindful of a significant other’s delicate needs. I then looked after my own positioning, grabbing spots on the backstretch, avoiding a crash in turn 3, and then against my better judgment took an outside line through turn four. The turn was very wide, sweeping, and should have been free of crashes caused by trajectory miscalculations. In previous laps I had relished the feeling of hitting the apex and effortlessly moving up within the peloton. With ~700 meters left to go, I thought it might be my last opportunity to advance within the top 20 before all hell broke lose.
However miscalculations were made and so the line I chose was compromised. Guys started throwing themselves on the ground as I desperately searched for an escape route. When it became evident there was no avoiding the impending doom, I hit the eject button throwing my bike to the ground while leaping towards a patch of grass. With luck I narrowly avoided hitting the curb and safely landed on a more forgiving surface. Post crash, I returned to the wreckage. My bike no longer possessed a will to roll, yet I was determined to finish. So I removed my shoes, shouldered the bike, and ran in the ~600 meters to the line. While 60th place is one of my worst results in a men’s field, I am proud to say I finished.