Frustrating & Sad End To My Season

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Photos by David Ford

This was it. I’d started my season of training in February and seven months later I was ready. All year I’ve been thinking about two races. The first being the Bloomington Criterium and the second being Chequamegon 40. This past Saturday I rolled up to the start line of the criterium, which happen to be the 2016 Illinois State Championship. I felt good in the hours leading up to the race and even better as the race went on. I was riding smart. I could stay with the attacks and sat in where it made sense. I stayed in between third and fifth conserving energy and watching for breaks that may stick. I was riding well physically and mentally. About 30 minutes into our 40 minute race we were going around turn six as we’d done so many times…

Then it happen.

At first I was confused. I knew what had happen, I was laying on the tarmac watching people run into me and my bike, hearing the horrible sound of carbon and metal scraping the ground at speed and bodies desperately looking for hope in chaos. In the apex of the turn at about 25 miles per hour my front tire went flat. I felt my tire not hold the angle and turn I’d asked it too. I knew in the split second before I hit the ground my front tire was flat and then I heard the rim hit the road followed by my body. I say I was confused because it didn’t feel real. I’ve crashed on the dirt plenty but until that moment, I’d never crashed on the road. I’ve thought about it, hoped I’d never know first hand what it was like, but I found my mind realizing that I was living in a moment, I’d spent so much time hoping to avoid. I couldn’t believe it happen.

When my front tire went flat, it didn’t feel normal or right. Something felt off. I walked to where my team was at, sat down and was trying to come to terms with what happen. My wife who is a nurse was tending to my wounds and my good friends that own my local bike shop were right there making sure I had everything I needed and was alright.

Then I heard about the tacks. People were finding tacks on the course. Handfuls of tacks. To be clear, my race was the third of the day on the course and no one from the previous races had any tacks or flat issues. The Sram neutral support found something like 15 tacks in tires from my race (cat 4), my teammate alone had three tacks in his rear tire. My rear tire still has a tack in it. To me the abundance of tacks in tires in the cat 4 race but none in tires from the previous hours of race course use makes it probable someone threw tacks on the course after the cat 5 race but before the cat 4 race.

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This next image is a little graphic, sorry if it makes you squeamish. My hands are just one part of my body with skin missing now. My left hand is pretty bad. My elbows, my left hip, thigh, knee, shin, and both ankles. My right shoulder. My chin.

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Here’s a video of the crash. It happen so fast and from my perspective out of nowhere.

Video by Patrick Murphy

I still don’t know how I feel about all of this. I’m typing this with bandages all over my body and hands. My body is banged up, my bike is pretty bad, and my season is either over or will have a different ending than I would have had if someone hadn’t decided to throw tacks on the race course. A frustrating and sad end to my season.

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2016 Lake Tahoe Trip

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The highlight every year cycling for me are the big group trips. Winning a race is amazing, but doesn’t come anywhere close to a great trip. Time spent with special people who feel like family, amazing locations, and shared experiences that will last a lifetime are as good as it gets for me. This year, we traveled to Lake Tahoe, California. The week we spent was perfect, great weather, amazing trails, smiles shared on the porch around meals, I could go on and on…

A lot of the amazing downs are captured in the video at the bottom of this post. Check that out, I’m pretty proud of it.

Day One, Cold Water Downhill – Garmin Data

After unpacking our bikes and building them up, I joined a good friend for an out and back to get our tires into some Lake Tahoe downhill action. The trail’s surface was made up of sandy granite dust, dirt, and rock. The elevation wasn’t as bad as trips to high mountain areas but rides starting around 6,500′ and climbing to above 9,500′ on some days did remind you where you were.

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Day Two, Armstrong Pass to Corral Downhill – Garmin Data

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My loved Ibis HD3 and I were in real harmony this trip. It’s dialed in to what I wanted in a trail bike almost to my idea of perfection. I love the one by eleven drivetrain. The 28 tooth chain ring paired with the 42 tooth cog allowed for easy work up any pitch and the 10 tooth cog allowed me to pedal as fast as I dared. The brakes were great, the tires were great, I’m really happy with the bike.

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My good friend Matt riding his Ibis HD3 much better than I can, making fun work of the terrain. It’s really fun to ride behind him until he disappears riding away from me. His bike skills as well as his character are equally impressive, and I look up to both traits, even if his signing is pretty bad on the climbs. Spending time with him and his family make these trips a great experience.

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Day Three, Star Lake Loop – Garmin Data

This was our big ride of the week, climbing over 3,800′ to Freel Pass at 9,535′. The last 1,000′ were pretty steep and tough. The views were great up there though.

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On the descent, we passed by Star Lake, a real beauty tucked away in the mountains that my iPhone picture doesn’t do justice.

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Day Four, Family Beach Time

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Day Five, Mr. Toads Wild Ride – Garmin Data

Mr. Toads Wild Ride is probably my favorite downhill I’ve ever ridden. It’s really good. The top section has tech far bigger than I feel comfortable riding but it soon fades into tech right at or slightly above my comfort level, making for great fun. The trail didn’t let up like many of the downhills I’ve ridden. Mr. Toads Wild Ride felt like the tech, speed, and fun were turned up the entire down. I loved it.

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Day Six, Armstrong Pass to Corral Downhill Revisited – Garmin Data

We revisited the Corral Downhill on day six, it didn’t disappoint the second time, great trail.

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Day Six, Flume Trail – Garmin Data

Flume Trail was one I wanted to ride after hearing about it, so I doubled up on my last day to catch it. The ride had a 1,400′ sandy climb up and down on the out and back route I rode. There wasn’t any real tech and once on Flume Trail, there was no real climbing or descending, but the views of Lake Tahoe were second to none. The beauty of the ride for me is only rivaled by 401 in Crested Butte, CO.

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Beyond the amazing riding, this vacation was perfectly rounded for me personally. There was a great balance of family time, resting away from work, hanging out with friends, and cycling. It was a great recharge, and a reminder of what cycling trips mean to me.

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Here’s a video I put together of some of the downhill awesomeness. The climbs were definitely worth it. The video is a bit shakey in parts and there’s the occasional annoying Camelbak chest strap in the view. I’m still learning and to be fair, tech is bumpy :)

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