"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


March 14: What Goes Up, Must Come Down

Today was the Wall. And perhaps a defining moment in my time on the bike, past, present and future.

There was nothing new learned. Technically speaking. That it until we were almost home. But more on that later. Today we put all we'd learned over the course of the week into practice.

The day seemed jinxed from the start.

We rode out on 101 as we had on Monday and on Thursday, going through the Cal Poly campus. We stopped for my flat tire on the way to the beach and the ride was almost over before it began. A teammate off the back came by as I was flipping my bike over, and head turned and mere feet from the rest of the pack standing on the shoulder, said, moving at full speed, "need anything?" She then ran full speed into our coach, Randy Warren.

He lay there, groaning for several minutes. I thought we were headed home as the fire truck rolled up, but by then he was standing. He walked over and thanked them, and then asked me, as two other teammates had, if I was done truing my wheel. Ha ha. I was taking my time, a bit in shock at having seen the whole incident.

We were rolling again.

At the beach in sunshine before the pain, chaos:
The Wall Day - at the Beach

We pulled up to a beautiful stretch of beach and got ready for The Wall. We divided into 4 groups based on fitness, ability, or experience, depending on how you looked at it. The idea was for the slowest riders to go first and the fastest to go last, so the wait for the regroup at the top of The Wall would be minimal. Randy volunteered himself in the first group, as just an hour earlier his whole right side had been numb from the tagging he'd received on the highway.

The second group had many xXx veterans in it. I was with the third. With George, Peter, Newt, Stocky, Carter, and Francois. We were about 20 miles from the climb of my life. 13 back on Highway 101, and 7 from the exit to the top of The Wall.

We instantly fell into a rotating paceline, which we worked for several miles. But the headwind kicked up and the rollers increased, so we began a single line with short pulls. I never really got a chance to take very many, as the stronger riders really took charge. Twice while waiting for Peter's speed to drop and his elbow to flick, George would storm up to take the lead. And right before our exit from the highway, Carter took a pull for what seemed like an hour at 23mph into the wind, never flagging once.

Off the highway, we hit rough chip n' seal pavement and began encountering riders from the 1st group. Bob was already on the side of the highway. He'd had to abandon his Black Mountain climb due to his Achilles tendon on Wednesday, so The Wall was out of the question. George kept Stocky in check: "Don't chase, don't chase. Steady. Stay steady."

The pace was fast but manageable in the draft behind Stocky, and suddenly it was my turn up front. Just then, group two came into view. Right then, the order came to chase. Peter immediately pulled to the fore with the other group to our right and the first steep incline hit us. And hit me.

I hit the incline at full speed overgeared, tried like to hell to keep on Peter's wheel, and promptly went supernova. Everyone in both groups flew past me on the right as I tried to get myself under control. It was embarrassing. I hadn't even taken my share of the pulls and I was the first one off the back. Randy came by just as I was opening a gel that squirted all over my hands and bars. My only option was to was settle in, recover, and try to catch everyone on the climb.

I did just that. For some reason, I can't really hammer out on the flats. I blow up easily. I guess I just haven't put in the interval work yet. But, while not exactly a picnic, I can climb a bit faster than most my size and still stay at threshold. Mentally the climb was as tough as Black Mountain. Physically I came a bit closer to losing control as there were more marks ahead pushing me harder. About a half-mile from the top, Jeff Holland heard my breathing, turned and yelled back, "Is that you Morrissey?! Get your fat ass up here!" Had the climb been just 150 yards more, I would've caught Stocky and been third to the top.

It was a cold and windy place to be, standing and sweaty. It was warm and inviting to sit in the sun out of the breeze and that's where we stayed, while the group came up, one by one.

Peter, Newt, Brian


Mark, Me, Jacques, Kirby:
Mark, Brian, Jacques, Kirby

Luke was top of his game all week:
Luke on top of the World

Coming down was fun as hell. I was off the back, first after a cautious descent on the initial tricky descent, then after getting gapped when the leaders jumped on the last roller before another long downhill to the regroup at the highway. Again, it was Randy, George, Kirby and I, with Francois as well.

Luke had a camera mounted on his handlebars...here's how to stay at the front:

We headed back to town, one extra loop somewhere in there, and then we were back on Los Osos - the scene of yesterday's hammerfest. Some where planning on heading out for an additional 15 to get the century. I was feeling the hotspots in my feet again that I did on Monday, so 85 was going to be it for me. The group came together, and the speed had increased in the strong tailwind when it happened as quickly as I'll describe it.

Stocky, in front of me in the inside line, hit a groove on the shoulder in some patchwork, along with a couple wide potholes. He tried pull his wheel out but his bike was bouncing quite a bit, and at 30+, very unstable. His wheel came down sideways, and simultaneously, he was thrown out into the roadway and his bike was kicked back inside, right in front of me.

Almost at the same time, my shoulder hit the ground and my head cracked the pavement as I rolled onto my back, but strangely, I had time to realize my shoulder was OK, and my head was clear enough to realize a millisecond later it got hit again by someone's wheel.

I put my hands on my face, as I sat up to make sure I hadn't split the scar on my lip open and check for blood. Nothing. But then I heard the moans in the road. Brian was badly hurt. A crowd of riders was soon around him, and I decided right there to give them room and count my blessings.

My helmet was cracked in four places, the coating scraped and crimped, and my brand-new black vest shredded on my left shoulder. My knee warmers were ruined with blood seeping through, and even my shoe covers were trashed. George and JT at first were convinced my collar bone was broken, but I told them I had almost no pain, and when we got the vest off, it was obvious why. The base layer I was wearing, the one Erik talked me into buying the night before, saved me. The vest caught my jersey, ripped, the jersey ripped and slipped on the tight, slick underlayer, and didn't catch my skin.

Lesson learned. Always always always wear the base layer.

The toll from the crash? 6 riders down. One in the hospital with a broken scapula. One frame, one kit and two wheels ruined. Flying over the handlebars at 32mph and riding away? Are you kidding me? Priceless. I wish I could say the same for Stocky.

Strangely, it may seem, the crash will not slow me down. Seeing everything in slow motion like that for the first time - I can see every moment of it even now: the bike kicking back into my line, the conscious thought to roll over on my back even before I hit it - is a lesson...keep thinking where you want to go, not where you don't. With this experience, maybe I'll make it around next time. But at least I know again that crashing isn't the end of the world.

The team dinner was subdued and mellow. Most of us had at least one drink. Me several. Cross-discipline, as well. Won't look forward to sleeping on the hide-a-bed tonight. My left side is bruised and rashed from knee to shoulder. And I won't be riding tomorrow. Will probably be moving so slow I will only have to time to pack, anyways.

We leave on the bus at noon.

1 comment:

Tamara Fraser said...

Glad you're OK, Morrissey. Love your enthusiasm for racing and your sweet nature.