This year, I was on my own again but I felt much stronger and I had my NEW bike! I was hoping to finish somewhere around 3:10ish.
The morning went perfectly. Arrived at a great time, got a good spot up front in the platinum section. Potty break, check, ready to go!
The first mile was pretty good. I stayed to the far right side not close to anyone. Of course I had to work harder, but I'd rather work harder than get too close. My lungs suddenly FROZE up. I think the instant rush of adrenaline plus the cool weather. I pulled out my inhaler & took a couple of puffs. I pulled up a little closer to the pack, but still kept my distance. We were going about 28miles per hour, but I noticed it felt SO much easier than last year. My new bike responds SO well and, I know I was in a little better shape.
Around mile 2 there was a little chaos. A bottle dropped, people swerving to miss it. A guy with a flat tire pulling out to the side. Then, just a minute or so later all went to shit.
I saw some guy pulling right from the center of the group. Next thing you know there are about 5 guys down right in front of me. I managed to maneuver around them but had to unclip to catch myself from falling. Just as I was getting up to go I was hit by a guy from behind. The impact threw me forward into my bike and I lost my balance, slamming my handlebars down to the left. I took a second popped up & looked over my bike. Got my chain back on & looked for a clear shot to jump on & get going. As soon as I started pedaling I noticed the left side of my handlebar buckling. It must have broken on impact.... I knew it wasn't worth trying to ride out, being I was only 3 miles into the race. I pulled off the road, along with another guy who had crashed but could not go on - his front wheel had crumpled in half. He was complaining of his ribs hurting....
I looked down at my legs now & saw the damage. My right shin was throbbing and already swollen. I had bruising starting on my left quad, knee & outside/IT band area. Then I saw the back of my right calf. It had black tread from someones tire. I also noticed the buckle of my right shoe had been busted off & more black tread on the heel of the shoe. Bummer. I was pissed.
Aside from being relieved I was ok, my bike SEEMED ok for the most part, I got mad. I was IN the game. I felt great... wasn't afraid & wanted to see what I could do this year. As soon as the bike support arrived, I used the phone to call Shane for a ride. He was out there ready to do his own long ride, outside of the race. He picked me up & we turned in my timing chip, had the first aid folks clean up my wounds and headed up.
I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. My bruises will heal, I'll have the burn on the back of my calf for quite some time and it's making training quite difficult and painful. However, I know how much worse it could have been. I've seen and heard about some of the horrific crashes, and most of all I know I came out on the better side. My bones are fine, my bike has minimal damage (albeit, expensive) & knock on wood my racing season will continue!
Everyone says how they can't do those races anymore, they are too dangerous - but something about that rush, that feeling of being out there with the big boys. It's SO darn FUN. It's still fun when you get dropped.... I love the feeling, and most of all I LOVE my new bike.
I will never say "never" about another el tour, but for now.... I'm not sure when my next one will be.
Here is the back of my right calf where the tire hit. The dark pink stuff (so I've been told) should heal up in a couple weeks. However, the lighter whitish stuff.... I've been told that's going to take a LONG LONG time. For now I'm trying to keep it moist with neosporin (already on my third tube) and wrap it for bike rides & to sleep. Then I bought some bioclusive to put on it with wrap for swimming. I've been told it's ok to swim like that, but even getting water on it in the shower STINGS like a mo fo. I'm open for suggestions to anyone who has experience!
This is a pic of the front of my legs. There are a couple sores on the left knee, I think I touched the ground when I was slammed forward. My right shin is the worse. It's a very deep bruise about 4 inches long, and is still swollen. My left shin has some bruising and a couple scrapes (also from hitting my bike), but the worse is a deep dark bruise on the outter quad just above the knee, and a 3 inch black and blue bruise smack in the middle of my quad/thigh.