Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monstrous Midway 2009

I love the Monsters of the Midway crit that University of Chicago's cycling team hosts each year. For me, 15 years ago now, it was the first Cat IV crit I finished after I got my upgrade and I love the history of the course, racing up and down the Midway Plaisance, home to the fabulous amuesements of the Columbian Exposition 116 years ago. This is one of my favorite crits every year and despite the tight turns, I've escaped unscathed, each year. In fact, in 15 years of racing, I've only wrecked twice, both with little damage to my body. Yesterday, my luck ran out.

About 100 riders lined up to contest the Cat IV race. Stephen and I rolled to the line after getting talked through the course by Ed from Tower Racing. It was good to know where the trouble spots would be. Also in the yellow & blue of Wheel Fast Racing was Cully, newly a Cat IV. We quickly moved up as we rolled out. We charged through the turns and then with a good headwind, battled the half mile trip north. The guys at the front wanted to push the pace and it was a hard first lap! I found my rhythm, figured out where I wanted to be, and found Stephen nearby. Good.

I was doing ok, the tempo was fast, but it was settling in and I figured that with the reduced race time of 30 minutes + 2 laps (miles) I'd be fine. We rushed through the Start/Finish and headed into Turn 1. I don't know quite what happened, but there was a pile up outside and I ran out of room and piled into the back of the crash. I fell and jumped up checking my bike, extricating my front wheel from another's handlebars. Crap.

Now I'll take a step back for a brief moment. Today was the day I'd race a 20 year old Cannondale 3.0 - the late 80's early 90's classic criterium bike. Bryn had purchased it in the Spring of 90 when we were freshmen at Illinois and I got him hooked on cycling. When he upgraded to a Bianchi, remember these were the days of Moreno Argentin, Stephen took possession of the black Cannondale. When he moved away, it came to my basement and as the saying goes, "Possession is 9/10ths...." After sitting idle for years, this past winter I set out to update it a bit. I had some 8 speed Shimano 105 still from my upgraded Bianchi and so scoured eBay, hit a bike swap and cobbled together a pretty nice looking bike with some carbon to soften things up. Finally, I crowned it with a set of Easton EA50SLs and Easton bars & stem from our sponsor. It looked gorgeous and it proved to be a fun crit bike, solid and stiff.

I spun my new front wheel that now had probably 4 or 5 miles on it. It rubbed the pads. Oh no. My heart sank, but there was no time for sorrow, I hustled back to the pit and with the help of Rodney Anderson, a fellow rider I've known for years, I switched to my back up wheel, a good Mavic Open Pro I purchased from Chris a year ago. As the field came round, the 5 or so of us from the wreck slotted back in the field. Stephen found me and again we were racing. The adrenalin bump was good and I felt ok. Surely this race would be over soon enough.

With the headwind, the guys would pour on the gas out of T2, but couldn't sustain and a few times as I felt like I was about to popped, I rode right back into the group and recovered fine on the remainder. So, with 2 laps to go to the finish, I rode right back in. Then, all hell broke loose.

The riders in front of me stacked it up and suddenly the rider directly in front went airborne. I had no where to go. I couldn't swerve lest I take more riders. I've always been able to skirt the wrecks. This time, no dice. I piled right in from behind and got tossed up and over the top going from 25 mph to 0 in the space of several feet and landing right on my face. The thuds, oomphs, screams and such of the carnage that followed just didn't register this time. I was one of those thuds & oomphs and I was bleeding all over. I got to the side of the course and somebody dragged my bike off the course. A rider lay in the road across from me. I sat there, a bit dazed, bleeding on my gloves trying to ascertain where it was coming from. Nose? No. Teeth? Seemed to be there. My lip. I wouldn't learn till later, but my lip was split badly and face scraped. Suddenly Kim was there.

Bits and pieces of memories: somebody gave me a napkin; a man gave me a handkerchief to mop the blood; a Triple X rider gave me a water bottle to help; a rider in black named Mike gave me a bit of triage and helped calm Kim. Stephen rode by on the cool down and didn't know I'd wrecked. He asked if I was ok, and Kim replied no. It took forever to get an ambulance and finally we made the decision to try and get to the ER ourselves. At first I thought I could make Good Sam, but that wasn't a great idea and so we headed a couple of blocks to University of Chicago Hospital's ER.

I cannot say enough good things about the doctors and staff that cared for me. They were absolutely outstanding. In a few hours time they had me sutured up and out. One of the other victims from the wreck was next to me and he was doing a bit better from when I'd last seen him in the road. He had his IV, but otherwise Mark from SCW seemed to be doing better and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Kim and Stephen stayed by my side and kept me positive and pretty relaxed. Not being able to see the damage, I know now that they had to have been trying to keep a good face on. Thanks!! One person needs a special thank you and that is Brian Boyle from SCW. He noticed me in the waiting room and came over to chat and kept our minds off things and gave some aid later, too. It was really great of him to help. Honestly, in a moment I really needed people, from Brian, to Mike, to Stephen and Kim and the guy that gave me a handkie, people helped. A lesson to remember the next time I see another rider go down.

The spare front wheel of the Cannondale was completely destroyed save the hub. It was amongst the worst pretzels I've seen of a wheel. So, three wheels need to head to Bicycles Etc. for some work. Otherwise, the bike seems ok. Between the ER and the wheels it was an expensive day in the sadddle. But, I'm ok, skin heals, the stitches will come out, the wheels will get fixed, and I'll be racing again soon enough I suppose. Two wrecks in one race are hopefully enough bad luck for one season!

Thanks for reading,