Race Report: US Pro Nationals Criterium
I have a few emotions about how this race went. Somehow it managed to be one of my best and worst of the season, leaving me excited, frustrated, thankful, but mostly wanting more.
The rain. It rained through my warmup, and started up again as we waited at the start line. I honestly wasn't super worried about it, but definitely aware. I was getting cold and eager to get started.
When they sent us off, I didn't move. It's like my foot didn't get the memo to kick off and clip in. I didn't panic, did what I needed to do, and latched on to the pack. I knew I hadn't made things easy for myself, but I also knew I wasn't giving up on this race before it even really got started. I fought for it. Hanging off the back really sucks. It's such an energy drain, ESPECIALLY when there's a hill on the course, Lucky for me, most crit racers aren't the best at climbing, and this hill was just long enough to give me an opportunity to make up some ground. It took me a few more laps than I would have liked, but I eventually snuggled my way into the pack. What a relief.
I liked it there, not to far back, but not in the front either. Never discount a good draft, especially on that windy course. It was technically a 6 corner crit, but 3 out of the 6 corners were very forgiving. It was definitely a fun course with a bridge crossing, and screaming fast downhill into a 4%-ish hill that seemed to go on for just a bit longer than necessary, into two really tight final turns that reminded me of a back alley shortcut in Battery Park.
There were quite a few crashes, but for the first time in the season, I seemed to be in front of them all, until it was me.
While I was warming up, I decided I'd play a fun game. Since I didn't have a team, I could just secretly pretend to be on someone else's when it suited me. I found this to be a huge confidence builder. Brains are so weird, and it amazed me that something so simple could boost my sense of belonging so much. Whatevs, I was into it. I floated around as a secret teammate with all of the benefits and none of the work. My favorite was when Coryn Rivera came rolling past me, i said to myself, "guess I'm on team Sunweb now", I followed her forward and cheered on the inside as she involuntarily showed me her magic. I enjoyed the lesson until she slipped into a tiny space where I knew geometry wasn't going to allow me to follow. "I guess I'm not on team Sunweb anymore."
Shortly after, my race would come to a finale that I wasn't counting on. With 5 to go, there was a small gap forming in front of me, I prepared myself to go into turn one. I heard "ON YOUR INSIDE" just behind me. I'm not sure if i changed my line to go wider, all I know is as soon as I hit the cross walk, my tires slipped and the next thing I knew it felt like I was on the slip n' slide at a summer BBQ. No bueno.
I slid for what felt like forever. I slid on my back, I slid on my left boob, but thankfully I never felt any real friction. The same rain that took me out of the bike race, helped me hydroplane across the pavement. My eyes were closed tight, and involuntary reaction. I felt contact with something, I heard the sound of metal. I thought someone was running over me with their bike. I immediately felt bad for taking someone else out. Then I felt the impact on my face. I wasn't moving anymore. I opened my eyes.
What a peculiar position. There was a barrier on top of me, my head was throbbing, my neck was a little sore, but the rest of me felt absolutely fine. Folks were crowded over me telling me not to move, asking if I was okay. I asked "How does my face look". Call me vain, but I've broken my face in three places before, and it looked like I grew a second face that day. They said I looked fine.
I wasn't ready to move, I had no idea where the course was in relation to my landing position, and I knew I'd hit my head and that made me pretty nervous. The spectators worked together to lift the barrier off of me. They helped me get up and over to the grass.
Someone came over from medical, checked me out a bit. The people looked amazed that I wasn't more broken. To be honest, I was also a little surprised. I railed my chin against the barrier pretty hard, I was in shock, but still did my limbs check dance and felt pretty fine. They checked my neck and my spine, I imagined myself in a neck brace, not into it, but if it was necessary I could always bedazzle it like Kristin Chenoweth when she fell of that dangly set piece while performing in Wicked. I asked about my bike, (I still haven't really checked it out, but it looks okay!)
I was okay to walk so we made our way over to the medical tent where they checked me out more thoroughly.. They sent me off with Ice, advised I get myself some tylenol, and told me to stay alert for concussion symptoms.
I got lucky. I got really lucky. The pictures, the video, the recounts from witnesses, all a bit scary. But here I am, feeling mostly fine. No neck brace, no broken bones, don't think I have a concussion, barely even lost any skin. SUPER DUPER LUCKY.
I had so much fun before I went down, I really want to get back out there with my bike friends. But perspective is everything. I don't feel at my best, so I've decided I'm not sharp enough to participate in the road race. This is both a very hard decision and a very easy one. Yes, I could compete, but god forbid anything happens, and I make it worse for myself, I could end my season, my career, or in an extreme scenario, life as I know it. I have too many friends who can't ride bikes anymore because they pushed too far too fast.
To crash at high speeds, slide across the pavement, rail my face against a barrier and get up and walk away with barely a scratch? We had a talk about it, and Black Jesus doesn't suggest I push it.
Thanks so much for all of the concern, for everyone who checked in, and reminded me to take care of myself. Thanks to Paul who walked my bike and kept joking with me at a time I needed it most, and to the volunteers, staff, and med folks who checked me out. I'm pretty ambitious, but I try not to be foolish when it counts the most. I'm excited for what comes next, and there are some pretty rad things coming next. I can't wait to get back out there and absolutely crush it. My time is coming y'all, I'm getting closer for sure.
I want to break barriers, just not with my face.