It was a crisp Sunday morning and I intentionally had not pre-registered for the criterium race because of Colorado’s notorious winter-like weather conditions in the Spring. It had been only 26 degrees and snowing the day before! I arrived early at the Stazio Baseball Fields for the University of Colorado Stazio Criterium. I sat and watched some of the collegiate races as the sun continued to burn off the crisp morning air. I was exchanging text messages with a teammate and soon concluded that if I did register for the race, I’d be the lone representative in the peloton from my team. I finally decided to end the procrastination and registered for the race.
I headed back to my car and bumped into a former teammate who was also racing. We agreed to meet after warming up and head to the start line together. It’s so nice to see a friendly face before a race! The peloton was quite large with 30-40 cyclists as they had grouped both beginners (Category 4) with more experienced (Category 3) racers. As we took off on our first lap, there was the usual shuffling for position as we rounded the first corner and started up a slight hill. Then we crested the hill, headed downhill and around to the start line. The second lap began much like the first. As we circled back to the start line again, I noticed that the peloton slowed significantly as we rolled by the announcer and what few spectators were there. I had moved to the outer left side of the peloton in anticipation of the right turn we would be taking. Ahead of me, a couple of cyclists began to wobble back and fourth. Suddenly, the woman to my left was thrown over her handle bars to the pavement. I thought I was over far enough to avoid her and her bike. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind when I found myself laying on my back on the pavement. As bodies and bikes came to rest around me, I found myself still clipped in on both sides, struggling to free myself from the bike so I could get up. A kind spectator came to my aid and helped me out of my pedals. I laid on the street for a couple of moments, wiggling all ten toes and all ten fingers, trying to decide if I was going to be able to pick myself up. Everything seemed to be in working order, nor was there any substantial pain or blood. I slowly stood up to see a shocked crowd of people staring back at me.
I grabbed my bike and quickly inspected it for damage. I knew the peloton would soon be coming around and I wanted to get back into the race without dwelling for too long on what had just happened. The race official directed me on where to line up as the peloton approached. I was off for the second time. We did two more laps before the race was brought to a stop to allow for the ambulance to pick up two injured cyclists who had not moved from the road since the crash. We continued circling the parking lot in an attempt to keep our legs warm. When it was time to line up and restart the race, I began to notice the aches and pains I had sustained in the crash. Sharing the story of what had happened with understandably curious racers didn’t help me mentally. As I started this race for the third time, my body was aching and my mind was no longer competitively engaged. I had lost my race mojo for the day. I just wanted to finish it and go home.
I had two opportunities to bail out on this race: one when the crash happened and another when the race was stopped for the ambulance. I’m not exactly sure what it was that initially got me up and going again. However, getting those two laps in with the peloton before the race was stopped for the ambulance was critical for me. I was back in the race before I had the opportunity to overthink what I saw, heard, and felt during that crash. Several people have asked me what’s next in terms of racing. I don’t necessarily know the answer today… but I’ll figure it out come race day. Just like I did at Stazio.