The Chapman Short Course – Just when you thought it was safe to race.

6 05 2010

The Chapman Short Course

My goal was to finish with the pack since I was previously sent sideways by that virus. A secondary goal was to understand what was happening with the other teams. The third and last goal was to understand how the course would be exploited for the win. In retrospect, some of these goals were met, but other lessons were learned too.

I suppose it was a typical day for this working-class racer wanna-be. My timely departure from work, hampered by the last-minute appearance by a genuine purchasing customer, was succeeded by a truly illegal speedy transit to Cheney in order to arrive before the close of registration. Now that wasn’t very smart-registration went fine.

Speed limit signs on the highway

"This is the limit right?"

I found a convenient place to park and started race preparation. With my number pinned-on I set out to start a warm-up only to break-out my stationary trainer after one lap up the road…riding in circles didn’t appeal to me. I watched the other racers pass by on as I spooled-up into the proper training zone. I saw a few acquaintances here and there. Kevin B. from Emde passed by with a big grin on his face-looks like he was doing pretty good.

The pack sequence was starting to gather so I moved the gear back into my pickup and locked it down. I rolled over to the staging area and chatted with Ron B. , my only teammate for this race. I noted that Emde and Vertical Earth were out in force. Later on IMHO, they would vie for control of the race. The race officials give us their standard briefing and soon after A-pack rolled-out for the neutral start.

Five minutes later myself, Ron and the rest of B-pack click into our pedals for our start. It seems that the lane width isn’t enough for our column-of-two. I chatted with Cris L. of the Arrivee team. His teammate, Mark H. is who I road with back to the start area during the Frozen Flatlands race. Our lead car approaches the course turn at F Street/Mill…and keeps going. I hear questions and comments echo up and down the pack.

USAC rule #3B4– “The responsibility of keeping on the prescribed course rests with the rider.” We should have turned right without the pace car. Additionally, any racer who had would have had a rightful advantage were they able to exploit it. The pace car makes another turn past what I think was a donut shop. I hear sighs and laugh to myself. Chains and gearing pop as we crest a small hill on our return back to the course.

There’s at least two sets of railroad tracks to cross before our lead car will signal the race start. Ron and I passed those without pinching a tube or losing a water bottle. Seconds later, we hear the two-honk signal from the pace car…the race is on boys.

Cris is the first to attack, the pack lead surges and he is absorbed. His pace sets the tone for the course. The quartering headwind buffets us from the southwest. I try to maintain my position in the front third always keeping one or two racers in echelon ahead of me. I’ll have a tough time without being able to draft and save energy. Our pace quickens again.

The lead trades off from time to time. Every now and then a racer jumps and makes a bid to escape but for the most part the pack remains whole. There’s also a few close calls as someone gets near someone else and a crash is avoided. (After the race someone counts up to eight near-misses.) Another characteristic of this race is created. My own pucker-factor pegs as I hear brakes sounding their resistance just in front of me. I learned long ago to stagger my front wheel from the racer in front of me. Nonetheless, that racer’s wheel can decelerate pretty damn fast…always be on the left or right and give yourself a route out and away. Not-so-famous last words as it turns out.

We arrive near West Tritt Lake, or mile 23 I think. Up ahead is our lead car apparently slowing near the end of C-pack. I hear exasperation as we bunch up. I eventually regain my breath.  Looks like we will get to pass them. Our pace picks up, I thought I heard someone saying, “C-pack go neutral” or something like that. The passage takes some distance to accomplish, I’m in the front-third thinking that I’m out-of-gas to contest the final sprint. We finally complete the pass maybe near the 200m marker.

We’re inside 200m. I remember the left and right flanks of the lane filling-up with racers. It’s really packed-in and our energy’s building, coiling for the sprint just seconds away, about 150m now. I’m in my top gear. Then it happens, but not the sprint that I’m expecting. Two bikes draw together in a violent motion-almost a blur. I hear that odd noise, that of metal, tubing and fiber. Time clicks into slow motion. Right in front of me a bike and rider is sideways then down. There’s nowhere for me to go, no escape path. I yell something like, “Oh *&^*!” I know I’m going to hit then…nothing.

I find myself on the side of the road kneeling down. I realize I have crashed-I wonder if my bike is trashed. I feel pain, a quick check says that nothing is broke. I don’t know where my bike is. There’s riders and bikes all over the road. I stand up and note the road rash over my shoulders and right side, a huge contusion is building over my right hip. I see my bike about twenty feet away. I ask a rider near me if he’s alright.

Alan J. finds me and asks if I’m OK. I reply same and start to move toward my bike. He stops me and sits me down. I feel like I need to walk this out-maybe residual adrenaline. I try to stand up, he sits me down again. Ugh, my joints are starting to get sore. An EMT puts some compresses on the parts that are bleeding. More small talk. I can’t remember what happened in between, those few seconds.

I see a racer in an arm sling, another is getting prepped for a back-board and transit. Alan lets me get up, just a bit wobbly now. I walk over and pickup my bike and note that the front wheel is knocked out of true, my new saddle is broken and twisted. I wonder what else is wrong with it.

I end up in the back of someone’s truck (thanks to whoever you were) riding back to Salnave park. I hold my frame away from another rider’s bike trying to examine for other damage. We arrive. I unload myself and walk back to my truck, pack the gear in, bid “later on” to some of my friends. Alan tells me that some other riders are covered and don’t need a ride. I call Barb, explain that there’s been a crash and to have the first aid kit open and ready for me when I get home. I have to clean all this road out of my skin. I regret not shaving. Medical tape and body hair doesn’t mix well.

Nine days later. I still can’t remember what happened. Even after talking with other racers and officials. I only have their perspective(s). Erika K. made a video from the finish line. I would like to see more detail, in order to fill that gap in my memory.

See ya’ next post.




4 responses

6 05 2010
Spokane Al

Wow. I am glad that you encountered no structural damage to your body.

As always your race narrative is gripping and compelling. I will be hoping your next racing adventure turns out a bit more positively.

6 05 2010
Eric Abbott

Thanks Al. I appreciate that. You might enjoy this years rendition of “The Corsa Brutale Road Race”. There’s a more positive ending.

26 05 2010
cris lucas

scary memories….
great post.

7 06 2010
Eric Abbott

My apologies to all who have left comments. My spam filter has removed some of your comments and I cannot retrieve them.

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