Sunday presented us with a choice of two cross races- either Nashville, which would be a sure thing as far as the course and competition, or a race at Village Creek State Park in Arkansas, which was a first year event that we hadn’t heard much about. At half the car time it’d take to get to the Nashville race, Arkansas won out.
Ryan, Matt, and I arrived at the park, and I wanted to get in a nice, long warmup like I’d done the previous day. We registered, then I changed and headed out to check out the rest of the park (if you’re ever wondering, the path through the golf course is beautiful and somewhat deserted this time of year). I rode for nearly half an hour before coming back to the car to have a *RedBull, make clothing adjustments, and ride a couple of laps on course. While I was doing that, Matt was getting off of the trainer.
The first course “feature” I hit when I left the car was an ~36in tall pile of dirt that looked like a small BMX jump in steepness and texture. You couldn’t see where the trail went on the other side, so I took it somewhat slow and ratchet-pedaled over the top. Following that, the course was a mix of traditional cyclocross grass hills/off camber/grass that took a turn into the nearby woods for a 1/4 to half mile of singletrack. It was pretty smooth, but also included three 3-4 foot wide bridges with on/off ramps and no side rails. They added a whole ‘nother level of sketch to some of the questionable stuff I’d previously seen on cyclocross courses.
As I rounded the last few turns before I was back at the car, I heard a loud “WHACK” noise and yelling from somewhere on course. I didn’t really think anything of it and continued back to the car to make a final clothing adjustment before the race. A minute later, Matt came walking through the field carrying his bike and obviously shaken. He was covered in dirt and was bleeding from his face, neck, shoulder, knee, and back of his hands. As he dropped his bike and sat down, I tried to figure out what had happened and how badly he was hurt. People started to gather, and someone pointed out that his bike was broken-
(Yeah, I know, bad focus in the photo, but it’s what I’ve got for now. You get the idea)
Matt looked bad. He’d gone too fast over the top of the dirt hump and launched just enough to float above the ground on the other side until his front wheel hit at the bottom. His frame crumpled on impact, and he landed on his face and chest. We called the paramedics over. While they were checking him out, he started to feel dizzy and lightheaded. They didn’t know if he’d hit his head or was just experiencing low blood pressure, so they took him to the ambulance and said they may need to take him to the hospital.
Keep in mind, this is about 10 minutes before the race was supposed to start.
At that point, I’d been not warming up for about 10 minutes, and, as racers were lining up, paramedics are talking about taking my roommate/friend to the hospital. I told Ryan to go on, and that I’d decided not to race. Actually, there was no decision. The whole thing had me so shaken up that I just didn’t even think about it. I changed clothes and stuck around the car in case they decided he needed to go get checked out.
Turns out, he was generally OK. They cleaned him up and let him out about halfway through the race, and he helped me cheer Ryan on for the last couple of laps.
Not that I didn’t know already, but I realized even more so how important your brain is in racing. When I’m focused and ready, I can take on giants. If my brain is worried about my friend smashing his face on the ground, I feel physically incapable of pedaling my bike. I don’t feel bad at all for not racing, either.