My first bike race (Time Trial)…that was not to be.

Ok, ok, I know that a Time Trial is not a real bike race, but (USAC) United States Cycling is the governing body that puts together this race and you don’t have to swim or run before or after the race, so in my book that is a bike race. This also means that I can push the bike as hard as I can as I don’t have to conserve any energy, a new concept to me also.

On Tuesday morning I received a text from a friend of mine, Elena, who told me about this Time Trial. The race is a 12 mile TT starting from Lyons, CO and ending at the entrance of North Boulder. I ride the course a lot, as it is the same as Boulder IM and Boulder Half Ironman, but most times I'm going the opposite direction, so I thought this race was going to be interesting.

For about a month I have been injured with IT band problems. My knee has really been bothering me when I run. It never hurt while swimming, biking or doing any other activity. I didn’t know if pushing it in the other two sports would make it worse on the run, which meant that I couldn’t really go hard while training. Some friends call me the best “exerciser” for doing Ironman triathlons. I always considered a joke, but for the first time I truly felt like I was simply “exercising” during this time. It has probably been the most frustrating month of my life as an athlete. If you break your foot, you get a cast and you wait until it heals, you can’t do anything, you know how long it should take to heal, you have a timeline. If you injure any other part of your body you usually feel it in all sports, so you wait and you rest and the doctor usually gives you a timeline. I’ve had other injuries in the past, but I had always had a timeline. Rest for 2 weeks and do this, or it should heal in 5 days, etc. But being able to still train, just not hard is the most frustrating thing ever. With this injury you never know when you’ll get better, you have no timeline. The IT band is also very interesting; you can’t really massage, roll or needle it well. The IT band is so thick it's really hard to put pressure underneath it. How do I know this? Because I did all those 3 things for a while without noticing improvement for a while. A couple of times it started to feel amazing and then after 2 miles, there it was again. I decided to continue rolling, massaging and dry needling my IT band, stopped running completely for 10 days and finally this week was the first week that I have been able to run twice without pain.

Having gone through that, I was so excited to really be able to push it in a race setting. I haven’t raced since Panama, which now seems like forever ago to me. I signed up for the race and actually got pre-race gitters. The registration process was interesting, if you don’t belong to USAC or have never participated in a USAC event, you have to sign up, pay for a 1 day license, pay for the entry fee and go through a lot online forms. The website also said that there was no “same day” sign up, so I had to do it that afternoon or I was not going to do it at all. I was so excited and wanting to push myself, so I signed up.
The next day, Wednesday, I had a plan, to put my bike together (carbon tires, get rid of all the extra bottle holders, make my bike “lighter”), drive to Elena’s house and from there we’d ride and warm up for the race. Work took longer than I had expected and then I had some problems with my bike and had to stop by the bike shop on my way to the race. This should have been my first sign that it was probably not my day to race. This delay made me have to drive to the middle of the course, where I parked. I got out of the car and I got a text from a friend of mine, wishing me good luck and that he hoped that I wouldn’t get soaked. I looked up and the clouds were black, not grey but black. In Colorado that can happen but then they can get blown away and you get nothing, not even a drop. That’s what I was hoping for. But it was not to be.

I got my bike, put my gear on (Aero helmet, racing gloves, sunglasses, shoes, etc.) and started riding to the starting line. After 1 mile it started to rain a little, no big deal, I have gotten wet before while riding. But suddenly it turned to hail, about a dime in size. I was also going about 30mph, that part of the course goes downhill. At first it didn’t hurt, I could hear the ice break on my helmet and on my wheels. I tried to slow down, but it was hard as the breaks were soaking wet and a loud screech would come out every time I tried to slow down. On top of that the wind had really picked up, the slower I went the more I felt it was going to tip me over. This lasted for 5 minutes. I could see and feel the ice exploiting against my arms and legs. About 2 miles out, I considered stopping it was hurting so much, but a lot of the pros had already passed going the other way, so convinced myself to keep going not to miss my start time. This should have been sign number 2. Finally I got to the registration truck, where they were handing out your numbers. My skin burned, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the cold or because of the hail. Temperature had dropped 15 degrees in a matter of 15 minutes. It didn’t matter; I was there, I had a number and had gotten there on time to start.

Once there, I met my friend Elena and another friend Aubrey, who recently became pro! We took this picture together, looking "aero".

Elena was supposed to leave 6 minutes before me and Aubrey 90 seconds behind me. Aubrey and I were joking around that if she passed me I’d stop and she said that the only way that would happen was if I got a flat, it was very funny at the time... Because of the hail, the race was about 7 minutes late, but when it came time for Elena to start the rain had stopped and I was able to appreciate something very small but cool for us triathletes. When it is your turn to go, there are 2 people at the starting line. The first person counts down and the second person stands behind you and holds your bike. I thought that was the coolest thing, coming from a sport in which you have to push your bike until the transition line and then jump awkwardly on it and hope that you can clip on your pedals quickly before too many people pass you. This way you are already clipped on and ready to go.
Six minutes later it was my time, the judge counted down to zero. Finally...I started, the first part has a decent of about 1%, so I was feeling great. My legs felt so rested, I was pushing very high Watts (for me) and not really feeling it in my legs, I started to see the rider that had left 30 seconds in front of me, which made me tuck in a little more to get more "aero” and pushed about 10 Watts harder. Really close to the only turn of the course, about 1 and a half miles in, I heard a loud pop and my back wheel immediately started bouncing on the pavement. I stopped, thought I was going to have to quickly change the tube, which is not that easy with 80mm carbon tires, but to my relieve and surprise as soon as I looked back I saw this:
I have no idea how it happen, both the tube and tire have a huge cut in them. Obviously I didn’t have a spare tire with me, just a spare tube but that wasn’t going to help. This was the third and final sign. My first bike race, was not to be! I waited about 25 minutes, at this point the temperature had dropped quite a bit, so I was really cold, but once everyone had gone by the event car was nice enough to give me a ride to my car. Times like these make you wonder what’s going on, with you, with your luck, if it’s not one thing is the other. Once I got home I took one more picture, I couldn't believe it!
Later I spoke with Christelle, my wife, about it and she was very supportive, my daughter made me feel so much better when she said: “Papa’s bike c'est cassé” which means “it's broken”. My wife also told me there was nothing I could do and it was at that time that I realized that it is better that all of this happened now and not in a triathlon race. There will be another Time Trial next month; I hope that one will be better. I liked the experience, until the tire explosion of course, I will be back!

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