Gearing up for my first omnium I was nervous but did not anticipate how the three days of intense racing would turn out. The checklist for the race weekend went something like this: Make sure to eat a lot of calories to help with recovery, have something to eat/drink right after each race, skinsuit, shoe covers, borrowed helmet and wheels for TT. The TT was on a Friday evening and thus required a mad rush to get to the race in time for a short warm up, get my number pinned on, then 3, 2, 1 and I was off…
The TT started rather odd as it took me a moment to click into my pedals. First mile mostly downhill. This is good for me as my strengths are downhills and turns. Then the perfect storm hit. A car had stopped in the roundabout and I locked up my brakes and veered to the right to pass the vehicle. Then I heard a mother yell something that I could not make out but the panic in her voice was undeniable. As I looked forward I saw a young child who was in the crosswalk and was directly in my path. The car had stopped to let the family cross the street. At 36 mph I was still going entirely too fast to stop. Do I hit the car, the child or the curb? I hit the curb and my body was hurled into the air and across the street and grass. Amanda Cyr who started 20 seconds after I did, saw me laying on the ground with a startled look and asked if she should stop. “No, keep going” I yelled towards her, she did but seeing this affected the remainder of her race and weekend.
A course official and the family both stated that they were sorry and should have been paying closer attention. The two thoughtful medics who saw the whole accident stated that I did the best that I could and anyone would have had to hit the curb to miss the car and child. I spent the next 30 minutes getting cleaned up by the medics and peeling my shredded and bloody new skinsuit off. Good news- no broken bones. I had roadrash on my left leg, hip, arm, back and hand. It also happened to be one week before I was the maid of honor in a wedding and before this race my biggest worry was about tan lines. I asked the medics if I could finish the race, even though I was in no shape to do so. Later the race official let me know that I was still eligible for the rest of the omnium. Hence my team could get points for the weekend if I showed up to each event regardless of my placement.
As I was getting cleaned up my incredibly thoughtful team was looking for me and were genuinely worried and sympathetic. They provided words of encouragement and were kind to stick around until they knew I was safe and had a ride back to Denver. I was rattled and in too much pain to drive back on my own. Then all the kind words, calls and emails started pouring in.
I have to admit I was sad about the situation, exhausted from all the adrenalin and tears and utterly scared to get back on my bike. The most distressing thought was that I could have hit that child and who knows if at that speed the impact would have killed him? I was so scared. I received advice from fellow cyclists who had been through similar situations to get back on my bike when I felt ready but that it is best to do so more sooner than later. When I got home, I realized what was not on my checklist for that weekend…Tegaderm. Now the closest Walgreens to my house is sold out thanks to my spouse. I showered, scrubbed the abrasions, tegadermed the left side of my body and took ibuprofen.
I did not sleep well that night as I was unable to get comfortable due to the pain. I got about four hours of sleep. It was cold and raining the next morning. I could not wear leg warmers as no matter where I placed them, they would rub my road rash. No leg warmers it was. Bundled up and with significant support from my team, including (but not limited to) Barb who came out in the freezing cold to cheer us on and Amanda who was my chauffeur I decided to follow my fellow cat 4s, (wo)man up and do the crit. The hilly, wet, technical crit. I was dropped after the first lap but that did not matter as my biggest concern was getting back in the saddle. It ended up that it was good that I got dropped and was not close to the lead group as there was a crash towards the end of the race but I never saw the accident as I am unsure if I would have continued if I had seen it.
Sunday the weather took a turn for the better. It was sunny and warm. I could not put sunblock over the Tegaderm and was aware that the abrasions were sensitive to the sun. I placed gauze pads over each area that would be exposed to sun and then a nylon band around my lower leg, this would protect the areas and look rather bad ass. We all lined up for the 30 mile road race and then the bad news, we had a neutral lap until we got to the roundabout. Yes, the roundabout. Then we would have to go through the roundabout two more times during the race. I did not care about the hills or the distance but was terrified of that roundabout. What happened to my confidence in going fast and around turns?
I began the race near the front of the pack and all the ladies were encouraging. Then we got to the wall and I was dropped. Amanda stayed back with me (although she clearly had enough energy to keep going). She said that her only goal that day was to ensure that I finished the race. She pulled me for several miles as my confidence began to increase once again. We caught up to three other ladies and all worked together to complete the race. I once again was able to go fast on the downhills and through corners. I even got compliments from people who did not know that I had crashed a few days prior. We came into THE ROUNDABOUT and I dropped to the very back and was able to ride through it rather well. The last lap, I went into it first, did not brake and cornered like a pro.
This weekend was exhausting both physically and mentally. I learned how to conquer fear, be strong, bandage wounds and persevere. However, all of that is nothing compared to the biggest lesson of the weekend, which is that I have the best cycling teammates that anyone could ask for. Thank you to all the Bellas for the love and support. Also to Amanda who made me laugh with the picture of me as Johnny Hoogerland.
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