On Any Given Sunday

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I can’t say that last weekend was my best. It started badly on Saturday, and little did I know, would keep deteriorating as the hours/days proceeded.

Saturday, I’ve already posted about. Lots of flats, very hot, very unrewarding.

Sunday I woke to drizzle and okay temperatures, in the 60’s. But that wasn’t to be. Soon after waking up the temperatures started dropping. The Lago Vista Road Race start time was at 12:45. It was supposed to be in the upper 30’s by then and raining. It was cold and wet, but not really just all out down pouring by the time we got there.

I would rather road race at 35 degrees, in the rain, than race a MTB race in the mid 80’s right now. I can sort of dress for the rain situation, but you can’t dress to cool yourself.

Lago Vista loop is a great race. The first time I rode this course was close to 30 years. I especially like the loop counterclockwise. It is pretty much a 5 mile loop, half climbing and half descending. The climb on Sunday is much harder, thus much more selective. I was looking forward to testing myself against a higher caliber of riders.

The road race went good initially. I wasn’t planning on missing an early move, or any move for that matter. The way these rainy races usually go, especially after a hard race the day before, is that a break gets up the road, everyone else loses motivation, gets cold and quits. So, the early break wins.

But, I missed the real early move. I tried to mark everything the best I could, being only me, but a couple guys rolled, then two or three more, and finally Stefan Rothe, from the “new Elbows” team, jumped up there. 7 guys rolled away and we kind of just sat.

Luckily for me, the “new Boneshaker Team“, that has Heath Blackgrove and Logan Hutchings, missed the move too. They put some of their guys on the front and throttled it for a couple laps.

That hurt a lot of guys. There was a bunch of wind and what really hurt the field was the side wind sections, not the climbing so much. It was obvious when it was going to hit the fan. We went across the start/finish area super hard and started up the climb without losing a beat. I was in pretty good position, right behind Heath, but when he jumped, my chain popped from the big ring to the small ring. My Di2 has been not self adjusting the trim for the last couple weeks. I’m sure it is something I did wrong, but for whatever the reason, when I’m crosschained, or one down in the back, the front derailluer is staying out. Then it adjusts and pops my chain to the small ring. Anyway, I missed the initial move.

Zack Allison, from the Think Team, went with Heath, then some other guy jumped with my friend Joseph Schmalz, newly to the Hincapie Pro Team, on his wheel. So, I was a bit back. I jumped on the next step section and rode up to the back of Joseph. The guy infront of him did a pretty big effort and pretty much bridged up to Heath and Zack, but Heath put in a big dig and the guy got popped. I thought I was going to have to jump past Joseph to get up to Heath. I thought I had just one jump left, not a pull. But, Joseph put his head down and we bridged up to Heath right as he was latching onto the back of the leading break.

I recovered pretty quickly and looked back and there was nothing. I felt pretty good making the hard move to get up to the break. I knew some of the guys that were up there wouldn’t be in contention at the end. Heath has won this race so many times, my plan was just to only mark him the rest of the day. This normally is a good course for Joseph too, but from my observations, he didn’t seem like he was having a good day. He and Heath had ridden the 40 miles back from the race the day before, so he had big miles the day before.

Anyway, it was all for nothing. We kept going hard for the next lap and on the climb, I started feeling my valve stem of my front wheel hitting the asphalt. Shit. I looked over my shoulder and there wasn’t a follow car. I rode a couple hundred more meters, realized it was nearly completely flat, said goodbye to the other guys and did a u-turn. I started down the hill and a small blue VW pulled over and asked me I had a problem. I said a flat and the guy got out and said he was the wheel vehicle. I told him it was “just a tad” late and keep coasting back to the car.

I was fairly depressed. I’m not sure how the last half of the race would have went, but I felt like I was good enough to give it a go. But, like I have said many times, I’d rather be riding good and not get a result, than riding bad and win. But, not getting a result by flatting sucks. Especially after the day before’s fiasco.

I don’t know how the race went after that, other than Heath Blackgrove won from the 2nd day in a row and Zack was 2nd, which was a good result.

But, the day kept getting better and better/worse and worse. First, the highway between Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth was a parking lot. It was mainly weather related. Freezing drizzle. The roads weren’t horrible, but they were bad. And they kept getting worse. Just only ice.

It took forever to get up to Dallas. North of Dallas, at Denton, I stopped and bought some more windsield de-icer and wiper blades. They have no de-icer that goes below of 30 degrees, so all of it freezes, since it was below 10. We kept driving and got to Oklahoma City, which is 150 miles north. The roads were clear there and I thought we were good. Our ETA at that point was going to be around 1:30 am, which was alright. But right north of OKC, it got ugly.

It started snowing hard. On top of that, it was super windy from the north. Nearly a white out. But the real problem was that they had plowed only one lane and everyone was driving in just that lane. And most people were going 15-20 mph. Everyone had their blinkers on, which I personally hate, but if you’re driving 15 mph on an Interstate highway, then maybe you should use your blinkers.

A truck passed me and he was going pretty good, maybe 40 mph. The problem was the snow. Everytime he pulled into the passing lane to pass the slow cars, a plume of snow would appear and it was a complete whiteout. I got the rhythm down and would back off another 50 meters or so. I wasn’t following him that closely anyway, maybe 75 meters. But, I didn’t want to lose his tail lights, because it was hard knowing where the road was without them.

We came up upon 3 cars that were driving on the plowed side. They were going maybe 20-30. I stayed in the plowed lane, behind them, while the truck passed them. Then I accelerated and moved into the passing lane. I got past the first two cars and when I got up to the first car in line, it went bad.

I’m not sure if the truck did something in front of us or not, but all of a sudden it was a white out. Then, just when that cleared, there was a huge snow drift in my lane. I hit the huge drift of snow across the road and felt like I was drifting to the right, but you couldn’t really tell where the lanes were. I thought I was past the first car, but I guess not because I felt a little bump on my rear end and that sent us spinning. We did a 360 and hit the guard rail pretty hard. We were facing backwards, stopped in a deep pile of snow.

That was it. The radiator was pushed into the fan. The other car wasn’t bad at all. They called 911 and we waited. That is when it got scary. The other people kept getting out of their car and standing outside. It was so cold and super windy. Plus, the visability was nothing. The cars passing weren’t a problem, it was the trucks. They would come by at 40-50, so close. I got nervous, not liking my car facing the on coming traffic, so I proceeding to start the car and try to get it dislodged from the snow bank. It took a few minutes, but I finally got out and moved it down the road 30 meters, under the bridge, where it was clear. The other car moved too, pulled up and got in front of me. I still didn’t like the situation.

I called 911 and told them my situation. They patched me to the officer’s cell phone and he told me that they weren’t taking any reports, that there were a million accidents and that all we needed to do was exchange insurance information. I told him that the other car was pretty adamant that they wanted a report. He said to let him talk to them. So, I got out and went up to their car and gave them my phone. They were all Hispanic speaking, but spoke English. They talked to the officer, but for some reason, I don’t think they thought he was a Highway patrol officer. He said he was just a few miles away and would be there in a few minutes.

Anyway, he showed up, had us exchange insurance information and told me to leave. There was an exit just a couple miles away, luckily, because that is about as far as my car could run. The radiator was punctured and there was hardly any coolant left.

We got a room and yesterday morning, my brother Kris, got into my van, went and got a tow dolly and came down the 200 miles to get us. He got there around 12:30 and we were back to Topeka by 4.

I’ve only had 3 crashes before. Once, when I was 17, I was throwing newspapers out of my dad’s Ford Granada and clipped a parked car with the front passenger side. Then twice in team vans, once in the Levi’s van, on US 75 in Dallas, I was hit from behind and once in the Schwinn van, up in Canada, I was hit from behind. This one was different though.

We had talked about stopping, where we ultimately did have to stay. But, Kansas was only 30 minutes away. And here, in Kansas, we plow both lanes of a highway and use salt/sand. It is weird driving through states in the winter, that don’t really have the infrastructure to deal with weather. I’ve experienced it twice now this winter. I understand it a lot better now, but still don’t like it much.

Okay, I was supposed to go out to Moab, Utah and do a camp with my friend Vincent and his cycling team. Road and MTB. I’d still like to do some of that, but need to regroup a bit and try to figure out what I’m doing. I’m pretty exhausted and a little depressed.

Talking with Joseph at the start.

Talking with Joseph at the start.

Lots of this between Austin and Dallas.

Lots of this between Austin and Dallas.

It got worse later.

It got worse later.

The windshield cleaner buckets at the gas stations.

The windshield cleaner buckets at the gas stations.

Morning paper in Blackwell.

Morning paper in Blackwell.

Picking the Isuzu up in Oklahoma.

Picking the Isuzu up in Oklahoma.

Back in Topeka.

Back in Topeka.

6 thoughts on “On Any Given Sunday

  1. peter k

    Ouch. Sorry to hear of your misfortunes. Glad to hear that you all are ok though. Vehicles can be fixed bodies take more time. Go out to Moab and recover if its warmer. otherwise go to Sa Diego instead.

  2. Neil Kopitsky

    Wow. I’ve been reading your blog pretty much daily for years, and this is first the first time I’ve remember seeing the word “depressed” . . . even after your woes last season! But it makes sense given the trifecta of bad luck this weekend, just when it sounds like you were putting together some training/form after all your ailments.

    Dimestore psychology. Dump the Di2 components for a little while, dig out some old super reliable stuff from “the day” that is a pleasure to ride and never breaks. Head out to Moab, enjoy the desert, the camaraderie and sharing your passion and knowledge for the sport with like minding folks.

  3. SalRuibal

    Bummer, but it looks like everyone escaped unharmed. We’ve been hammered by ice all winter. Snow is OK in Virginia, but the ice comes first and then the snow, so its double-trouble. Arizona for 24 hrs of Old Pueblo was warm and beautiful, chilly starry nights. Good luck with the Trooper. I had one for several years and it was pretty steady until transmission, etc. started becoming a problem. Bought an extend cab Toyota Tacoma TRD 4WD pickup (a 2003 model in 2004) and set up bike rack and storage in the bed. Marla Streb was my first passenger. She brought me luck. Anyway, hang in there and best to get your bad luck out of the way early in the season.

  4. Brian D

    Hey Steve, If you need parts for the Isuzu you can check car-part.com. They have a huge selection of used parts. Good luck

  5. Oldster

    After reading the title I thought this was going to be a story about Steve McQueen, Mert Lawill and Malcolm Smith? Braaaaaaap! Ol’ Mert had lots of trials and travails in that documentary

    When it rains it pours. Sometimes it feels like once it starts going bad, you can do no right. When it starts going that way these days, I just pull the plug and head to the beer tent. At my age, bikes are supposed to be fun and a way to relieve stress

    Glad you made it back safe, the side of the interstate thing sounds like a scary experience


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