I had been getting pretty excited about the Glencoe Grand Prix. I knew it was a big event in the area and that it was a well-organized race. In addition, I had been getting more and more confident in my ability to maintain good position, in my ability to corner, and in my understanding of race flow.
While I was bummed that the Cat 5 race was relegated to the non-technical four-corner short course, I also felt this played into my strengths - being a heavier rider with a relatively high threshold, a flat non-technical course suits me and allows me to carry a lot of speed through corners. I envisioned launching a late attack (2-to-go) from a few wheels back in the pack and then TTing to victory. I'm not delusional, and knew the plan had a slim chance of succeeding, but I thought maybe I'd have enough of a jump attacking from behind and enough energy saved from sitting in all race, that I just might be able to pull it off.
I ended up getting bib #8, which gave me the last spot on the front row of the starting grid, which gave xXx three total in the front row. Jim and Kevin were aware of my plan and were planning to launch attacks earlier in the race to string out the field, and then be ready to slow down the chase when I jumped with two to go.
From the start, things were a little uneasy. Approaching the first corner, I noticed the group bunching up 4 or 5 wide, and I didn't think it would turn out well for me, as I was on the inside, so I immediately throttled up and went to the front, giving me a clean line through the corner. I kept the pace steady and eventually a couple guys came around and I found a wheel. We made it through turn 3 with no issues, but the pace slowed again and the group started to cluster again heading into turn 4. Kevin came up on my right, and there were a couple of others to the right of him, putting them way to the inside of the approaching turn. I commented to Kevin: "that's not a good line" and had a bad feeling about the approaching corner. Kevin laughed in agreement, and in that very same moment, a rider to my left suddenly lost control and fell sideways into me (yes, we were still going straight at this point).
That's when time seemed to stand still for a few moments. Several thoughts simultaneously went through my head:
1. well this sucks
2. I'm about to hit the deck at well over 20mph
3. this sucks
4. there goes my plan
5. hey, this is going to be my first bike crash!
6. this is really gonna suck
7. remember to tuck and roll!
As surreal and still as the moment seemed, before I knew it I was getting up off the ground and searching for my bike. One or more bikes had hit my body while I was on the ground, but I'm really not sure where they struck, because everything kind of hurt. I looked around, and spotted my bike, about 20 yards further down the rode. I ran over, my thoughts scrambling, not sure what to do. I picked up my bike and noticed I was missing a bar-end cap. Found it, plugged it. Then I saw my sunglasses, still intact, yay! Then I saw a Garmin on the ground, quick check, mine was still attached to my bike. Felix was spectating near the crash and yelled at me that my chain was off. I tried to simply use the shifter to get it back on, and per Einstein's definition of insanity, kept trying to do that, to no avail.
I was in a lot of pain and kept telling myself my day was over, but Felix kept yelling at me, and I thought, no, I'm not done, I get a free lap. Still not having yet fixed my chain, I started running with my bike and for some reason thought I had to stay off the course so I ran through pit row back to the start. I finally got my chain back on there and rode to the wheel pit, just as the pack was passing. I yelled at the judge, "crashed out, free lap?" He said "where the hell have you been? it's already been a lap." I didn't have a good answer for him, and never really stopped...I just asked over my shoulder "can I go?" I didn't wait to hear his answer, I just hammered it and caught on to the back of the pack as they hit turn 1. (I didn't get DQed so I guess I was ok!)
The back of the pack was being rubber-banded very badly and I was suffering as a result. I tried to remedy that by passing a couple riders on every straight, trying to work my way back to at least the middle of the pack - it seems most that I passed eventually got dropped, so this was good. I finally got to about mid-pack with two laps to go, and thought, "well, I could still try my plan," even though I knew I burned through a ton of matches just getting back into the race. My justification was that at the very least, I could set up Kevin for a counter-attack, even if he didn't know it was coming. So as we came around the final corner to hit the 2-to-go mark, I jumped, and jumped hard, passing the entire field from about 20 wheels back before turn 1. Having come from so far back and having already burned so many matches, I didn't pass the front with as much speed as I had originally planned, but coming out of turn 1 I heard one rider on my wheel yelling "we got a gap, keep going!" I was starting to feel it and flicked my elbow hoping he'd come around and help us both break away, but he refused, I ran out of gas, and we were both swallowed up.
I found a wheel in about the same position from which I had launched my attack, but I did my job, the field was strung out. The pace slowed a touch, but then picked back up on the bell lap. I didn't have much left, but managed to finish at the back of the field for 25th out of 52 starters. Not bad for a crash in the first lap, I guess.
In the end, I escaped my first crash with very little road rash. Decent sized patch on my elbow and a couple small scrapes on my legs. Overall I was just plain stiff and sore. I decided to skip the masters race and call it a day, and will soon take my upgrade to Cat 4 with the hopes of escaping such demolition derbies in the future (there were 3-4 total crashes throughout the race, one racer left in an ambulance).