Wells Avenue Training Race:
I'm standing on the side of the road, at the start/finish line. 1 lap to go say the ref, as the racers come by; I just came down here to get my helmet from a teammate, and thought I would stay and see him finish.
The racers dart around the corner. Brian looks good today, riding at the front , chasing breaks, attacking when the chance presents itself. Maybe he can get in the top 3 I think. There are about 20 people standing around, not including the riders for the next race. My wife is watching too, all the eyes are looking east at the straightway out of the last turn. Everyone is waiting for the pack to come screaming around that corner. There is a slight rumble in the background. Probably a truck in the next office park, pulling away from the loading dock I think. They should be coming out of the corner any second now.
Finally we see a rider. Then another one. Hmmmm maybe a breakaway on the last lap? A few other riders straggle around the corner. Something is wrong, way wrong. Maybe that wasn't a truck.... maybe.. a crash??? One of the riders hits the line, and confirms it.
“CRASH on the backside , Riders down” he yells.
Some of us look at each other. A few more riders straggle over the line. About a ¼ of the riders that were in the race. No Brian, No slurpee green and blue jersey. I look at another guy, standing on my right, and we have the same thought at the same time. We both break into a run for the last corner before the finishing straightaway.
We pound up the road. A few other riders come by, one shouts at us:
“Some guys are really hurt , I'm going for an ambulance.” we run faster.
We start to swing around the last turn. As we run half way into it we see a lone bike in the gutter, its' wheels twisted into ugly painful ellipses. It is laying there all alone. Its really quiet, I think, way too damn quiet. I run a little faster.
We run another 50 ft, when we see the wreck. There are at least 3 riders laying in the road, and about ½ a dozen bikes. I start looking everywhere for the green and blue jersey that will be my teammate. He is not in the group of bodies on the road. There, behind another rider siting on the curb, a flash of green. Its got to be Brian. Yea it is, he is sitting up that good, I'm still running, time slows down. I start looking for blood on his uniform, as I run up.
“BRIAN, Brian, IT'S CHRIS, ARE YOU HURT” I ask him. Brian is disoriented. He looks around and realizes its me.
“Yea I'm, I'm, o.k. I think; man, my arm is really numb” he is clutching his right arm.
I stop to look at the riders in the road, a quick once over. Just in case there is someone worse off that Brian. There are two riders left lying in the road now, both from Mystic Velo, older guys. One has a compound fracture, is bleeding, but not too badly, there is a woman with him, trying to keep him still and from going into shock. The other rider is holding his shoulder, and there is another man with him. From the looks of it its a broken collar bone. Both downed riders have help, so I go back to Brian.
“ It's o.k. Man. So how bad is it? Any thing worse than the arm? hips? legs?” I ask.
“Ugh no, I got some road rash, back of my thigh, just my arm is really numb” he says.
“ Can you move it? Fingers? Rotational motion” I ask. Brian is 36. Broken bones are bad at his age. And mine.
He twists his arm and moves his fingers. I watch his arm, looking at the muscles, seeing if they move normally, but everything looks o.k. Just shock probably, nothing too serious. I hope.
Brian is still dazed, and shocky. “I... I... don't even know what happened. I rode over someone , God I... I... think its this guy in front of us” he says. Then he throws his arms around me “GOD AM I GLAD TO SEE YOU HERE” he says. Yea , shocky. But probably o.k., but I need to keep a close eye on him.
“ Yea man its o.k. , just sit, that was a bad one, very bad” I say.
“I hit him at full speed, there was nothing I could do” Brian says.
“I'm sure. Theres nothing you could have done, Brian. It was the final sprint, this happens. Forget it. You cant change it dude” I say. The guy with the broken collar bone is clearly in pain. And no there wasn't anything anyone could do, It does happen.
“Chris, man, help me up,” Brian says. I reach over and grab his good hand, and pull him up. He is a little wobbly, but can stand. I look behind him.
There in the grass is a bike, wheels destroyed and frame bent, its just exactly like my Eddy Merckx, and my heart stops. Ugh man , that was 5k down the drain I think. And how sad that bike looks. My heart falls. A few minutes ago it was a top of the line, all out racing machine. A thoroughbred, designed for speed and agility. Now its a piece of junk. It is like its dead, damn its sad, almost as sad as the riders in the road. Maybe worse. The riders will heal, but its career as a ridable bike is done. Over. Finished. In the trash can. Bummer. I hate seeing really nice bikes destroyed like that. It is like part of the ride is gone forever too.
We look for Brian's bike, an unpainted TI Merckx, and its behind the other one. I pick it up and start checking it over. Brakes look good, frame isn't bent, wheels, hmmm ,yea they both still spin true..... O.k. looks like it survived the pile up. “Brian is a damn good thing you didn't bring the Cervelo today” I say. The Cervelo is carbon fiber. It would be a piece of shattered glass right now , if it had been in that wreck.
“Yea are you kidding, I ain't riding that here” he says. I take his bike and we start to walk back to the finish line. I look back once at the injured riders in the road. Both now have at least 2 people with them and I can hear the ambulances coming in the distance. I turn away with a shudder. Looking at the aftermath of a bad crash is not a good idea for a racer, its bad for the nerves. Brian looks at me and says:
“ Hey I think I want to ride back to the finish line.”
“ mmmmmmm” I look at him, look at his eyes. Is he o.k. to ride? Is he back from the ozone layer? Yea the eyes look good.” o.k. , but if you feel the least bit woozy or anything pull over and stop and wait for me o.k.?”
“ Yea I'll do that” he says. He takes his bike and checks it over once. It looks o.k. to him too, I can tell by how he checks it out. He puts it in the street and mounts up, a little wobbly at first. He looks o.k. though as he pedals around the corner, albeit slowly.
I walk back to the finish area. Slowly. My heart is going about 200 beats a minute. I'm good in the immediate aftermath of a crisis but my nerves go to hell after that. I look down at my hands, I'm shaking. That was a real bad one. Broken arm, broken collar bone, and at least 5 people with cuts and road rash, and bruises. And maybe more, won't know till we get everyone looked over.
I get back to the finish and look at Susi. She looks really concerned. I must look that way too. “ Brian come by ?” I ask.
“ Yes, he went over there to the registration desk , is he o.k.?” she asks.
“ More or less. Two people with broken bones. 4-5 more with road rash. I'll be back in a minute.” I walk over to where Brian is.
“Hey how do you feel man, “ I ask. “ Why don't you let us give you a ride back to your house, just in case the bike has any problems or anything” I say. Brian is fishing around in his backpack, he rode over here from his house. He pulls out my helmet.
“Yea good idea. I feel pretty stiff and sore, here is your helmet.”
The officials give him the once over, and decide he is alright to leave, they ask him too, if he has a ride, since he put his stuff with all the other peoples stuff who rode over here. He tells them that hes got a ride. Once he is done, he come over to me and I take his bike. “ Yea I didn't feel so good riding over here, I think you are right I will definitely take that ride home.” he says.
I nod at him. Good, I'm glad I don't have to argue with him cause there was no way I was going to let him try to ride home after that. Bad bad bad idea. Typical bike racer though , to try and do that.
“ Hell, it just happened so fast” he says. “ We were all lining up for the sprint, some guy was doing a lead out, you know, like Fassa Bortolo sprint train style, and then he drifted back into the field. Then all hell broke loose. I just couldn't help it, riding over that guy...” he drifts off.
“ You cant do anything about it man, just forget it. This sort of thing happens. Doughhead should never have drifted back into the field though. Dammit people should NOT try that stuff if they don't know what they are doing. Forget it. As far as I'm concerned Wells Avenue is a dangerous place to race, there are always crashes in that final corner, its visually deceptive.” I say. “I have seen like 10 crashes there in the last 3 years.”
“Yea, everything was going good, I rode in the C race to coach, there were a few minor incidents, 2 guys went down, but not badly, got back up and they kept going. Then in our race went I felt great, was doing well. Then... “ he trails off again.
“ Forget it Brian.” We come up on the car, Susi is waiting for us.
“Well it will be a little tight, but is much better to give you a ride home” she says.
Then we take everything out of the front of the truck. I bolt Brian's bike into the bike rack in the back.
“Hey since you guys are giving me a ride home, why not come in for a minute and have a cup of coffee or something” he says.
I look at Susi for a second , to see her reaction. Its definitely positive. “Yea Brian I think thats a good idea. We will take you up on that. By the way is your girlfriend there? My guess is you are going to need some help this afternoon. Your going to be one hurtin pup in a few hours.”
Susi speaks up “I got some Ibuprofen.-- double dose?”
“Yea, good idea.”
We load up into the car, and pull out. The A race has just gone off. I turn left out of the parking lot. Another day at the races....