A.K.A. One of the unluckiest/luckiest days of my life.
Saturday morning, Matt and I drove down to St. Francisville. We stopped on the north end of the course and pre rode the 2nd and 3rd (previous years, these were the 1st and 2nd, but the course was changed this year) sections of gravel. It was sandy and treacherous as usual. I was happy with the fit & feel of the new bike. In case you were wondering, a CAAD10 rides very nicely- the handling is great, and, though it’s a tiny bit less “rockety” than a super stiff carbon bike, it’s miles better than the 2009 Madone I briefly owned a couple of years ago.
Sunday morning, everything was shaping up for a good race. For the first time in 15 years, women had their own separate start (in previous years, they’d raced with cat 4 and/or masters men). I haven’t road raced in the area in a couple of years, so, other than Louise Smyth (a.k.a. best TTer in the South & last year’s winner) and Amy Phillips (who I’d met racing cyclocross in TN), I didn’t know who the horsepower of the bunch would be.
The race got off to a little bit of a slow start. Fine by me- we had 104 miles of course ahead of us. However, as we approached the fist gravel road section at about 18 miles in (a new addition to this year’s course), Louise, who’d been sitting on the back, moved up to the front of the group. I glued myself to her wheel, and, as we made a sketchy, loose, hairpin right-hander onto a gravel road, she and I got around clean while the rest of the field faltered.
Hammer = down.
Louise can throw down on some gravel. We pounded through the rest of the section, and as we neared the exit, looked back and saw that one lone rider, Amy Phillips, was dangling in no-man’s land behind us. We decided that with ~80 miles to go, it’d be wise to include another good rider into hammer time. The three of us worked our butts off to the next gravel section. Behind us, I can only imagine the infighting that was keeping the group from getting organized and chasing us down, but Louise and I agreed that it was unlikely that they’d catch us if we stayed steady.
Gravel #2 (the longest gravel section) was a little sketchier and sandier than the first section. We paced ourselves- going just hard enough to make it through everything smoothly, but not so recklessly that we couldn’t see the washouts and waterbars ahead of us. Unfortunately, right near the end of it, Louise stopped as we approached the crest of a hill. Amy and I stopped at the top and yelled back at her to see what was up, and she said that she’d dropped her chain. We soft pedaled for what seemed like an eternity (it was probably only about a minute, but in “off the front” time, it felt like 10) before deciding that we didn’t want to stick around long enough to see the rest of the group. So, Amy and I set out onto the road as a duo.
We agreed on sharing the work in steady, two minute pulls and settled in for what was going to be a long, hard day. Unfortunately, this is where the bad luck comes into play. At mile 58, we were on a long, flat, straight section of road. Amy mentioned that (because of the lack of hills or turns), this would be a good place to see if anyone was behind us. While she pulled, I took a good long look over my shoulder.
Nope, nothing back there except a car in the distance.
Seconds later, I heard a fraction of a second of car brakes panicking on the asphalt. Before it could register in my head what was happening, the car I’d seen behind me seconds before plowed into me and my bike. I was airborne long enough to picture myself dying on the side of the road. It was the most absolutely terrifying moment of my entire life because I was moving so fast, and everything hurt so bad.
(just typing this now is making me feel clammy and anxious)
The rest of my story is in a police report, and, because I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do “legally,” I’ll leave the details out except to say that I went to the hospital, was x-rayed, and was discharged with nothing broken. Just to clear up some of the rumors I’ve heard- no, it wasn’t a hit and run.
As for the race, Louise caught up with Amy, who’d stopped when I was hit. They battled it out for the QOM on the next gravel, then rode together til the last gravel, where Louise attacked her and rode in for the win. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t there, but I’m happy that I’m not in a hospital or dead right now.