This wasn’t how my month of racing out West was supposed to go. In my mind’s eye I dreamt there would be suffering but it was the self inflicted kind and was usually rewarded with some kisses from a pair of exceptionally cute podium girls. Instead my left arm is in a sling, the backs of my hands are covered in road rash, and my cheeks are lipstick-less. Reality, it would seem, has an odd sense of humor.
A lot of people saw this picture on twitter first:
And this one a few hours later:
Of course there is a story there and of course I’m going to tell it.
Stage 3 of the Cascade Classic began and finished on top of Mt. Bachelor. The first hour and a half of the race was blazing fast; my SRM read an average of 49.7 kph. Soon after the 2nd feedzone, Joey asked me to push him while he relieved himself. I oblidged. As the two of us began making our way back to the front, I took an ill timed drink of water. Mid swig I noticed the field of riders in front of me slowing quickly. I tried braking with my free hand but not quick enough and I ran into the rear wheel in front of me.
I panicked, crossed wheels on the left, leaned to the right, and unclipped my right foot in an attempt to stop my fall. I got this. It didn’t work. We were going too fast for it to work. Instead of catching me, my foot caused the bike to flip the opposite direction and highside to the left. I looked down at the ground and thought Never mind. This is going to hurt.
Someone told me that skydivers whose parachutes fail to open don’t feel anything because the mind turns off in the final moments before impact. I don’t remember any impact. I remember waking up and screaming because my shoulder felt like it was on fire. I remember seeing Casey saying I was going to be ok. I remember seeing Craven tell me that he had to leave but that I was in good hands. I remember seeing Cari look like she was about to cry and trying not to. And I remember crying as I got strapped in to the ambulance because my job that day was simply to survive so I could help the team in the final two stages and now I couldn’t even complete that simple task. I felt like the sled dog, Dave, from Call of the Wild who was taken out of his harness and forced into rest.
-“Sick as he was, Dave resented being taken out, grunting and growling while the traces were unfastened, and whimpering broken-heartedly when he saw Sol-leks in the position he had held and served so long. For the pride of trace and trail was his, and, sick unto death, he could not bear that another dog should do his work…He pleaded with his eyes to remain there. The driver was perplexed. His comrades talked of how a dog could break its heart through being denied the work that killed it, and recalled instances they had known, where dogs, too old for the toil, or injured, had died because they were cut out of the traces. Also, they held it a mercy, since Dave was to die anyway, that he should die in the traces, heart-easy and content. So he was harnessed in again, and proudly he pulled as of old…”
I held on to some small glimmer of hope that I would be able to start riding soon and still race Utah. There would be 2 weeks to recover. But it was a pipe dream and Tuesday I flew home under the watchful eye of Craven. Wednesday I met with the Team Doc who said I’ve got a fractured rib and mild concussion. While the 6 weeks until I can race again hurts more than a horseshoe to the face, I do realize how lucky I am. Things could have been a lot worse. Looking at my helmet for one moment screams it.
I wish I could reply to every person for the messages, tweets, emails, calls, texts, and best wishes. The outpouring of love and concern was overwhelming at times. People I had never talked to before came up giving me hugs, albeit the non-touch kind, telling me how glad they were to see me walking. The team’s biggest sponsor sent me a message asking if I was doing better. Even here in Greenville a lady came up to me in a coffee shop, asked if I was the Hincapie rider who crashed, and wished me well. It must be the deep sense of solidarity that comes from wearing spandex together that knits cycling so close together. Whatever it is, its beautiful.
Thank you Cari, Meaghan, and Brian, for helping me do anything and everything right after crashing. Craven for flying home with me. My teammates for doing little stuff like cutting my food. Dr. Rick for the extra pound of tegaderm. All the ladies in the Hincapie office for their hugs and head rubs. Spencer, for going on walks with me. Wrona for taking me to the Drs instead of going training. And Giro for saving my life.
A grateful Alder.