There were only 2 C5 females at road nationals. For my first ever national race, the 16km time trial, to finish in a silver medal, all I had to do was cross that finish line.
I woke on the morning of the time trial feeling incredibly fresh and ready to roll. Everything ran smoothly, to time, even ahead of time! Breakfasted, car packed, at the race start and ready to start my warmup 5 minutes early. BRILLIANT.
I get on the bike and start warming up. I’m moving steadily up through the gears when CLUUUUNK: chain suck! And then chain: chucked. The DI2, which has indeed been giving me significant headaches of late, had just given me a new one, at the worst possible time.
Mick cut his finger getting it back on in a hurry and identified a problem with the spacer, so he was off to the car to fix it with the tools and my warmup time slowly ticked away, without any bike for me to ride.
10 minutes later and Mick has the bike fixed, or so we think, we get it back on the trainer and I start warming up… When the DI2 chucks a complete wobbler, moving up and down the rear derailleur of its own accord with no rhyme or reason. I’m due on the start line in 11 minutes and running to find a mechanic.
He gets to auto-tuning the gears and, when it isn’t resolved with 2 minutes to my start time and with me 300m away from the line, Mick goes to see the commissaire and tell him about the problem. They kindly give me a second shot, with a new start time of 36 (initially 9:29). Hallelujah! The gears start working sensibly and, though with a very shaky start, I ride tentatively towards the start line.
They see me coming and start yelling the count down. 30 seconds. 20. 10. They’ll have to catch me and send me through… But that plan fails. I fall on my side and my right hand, split open in last week’s crash, opens once again and streams blood.
Tom sets about fixing the bars on my bike while first aid attends to my hand and we are told I can go on 41. By this stage, I’m shaken. I am, however, determined to ride my race.
At 41, I’m on the line and I start. So does the driving rain. Through my glasses, I see nothing, but I ride hard into the head wind, my heart rate and cadence exactly where they are supposed to be.
I come around the bend to the first turnaround point at 3.5km and analyse the corner. Its a tight turn and I start shaving off as much speed as I can, as the roads are very wet and I need to be very careful and conservative. Not just that – but I’m really not confident in the corners even on a good day. This was not a good day.
I was ultimately in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Coming through on your inside!” I hear from behind as 2 girls on a tandem come screaming past me, and into the corner, on my inside, at the same time.
The tandem is 2 bike lengths… They are roaring through. To avoid them, I have to alter my line. Too wide. I can’t pull it back in and I wind up in the ditch, beside the road, my leg twisted in the handle bars.
The worst physical injury to me is the right thigh, and the split hand I acquired just 8 minutes earlier. My bike? Not good. The handle bars are twisted and bent and I have even more trouble with the DI2 not shifting gears normally.
My confidence is shattered. The emotional and psychological injury of not being able to finish my race, of not achieving the very task I came here for, ito;s horrible. Not finishing what I start is completely foreign to me and I’m disgusted with myself. Once I’m on the trainer cooling down, telling Mick about how disappointed I’m feeling, I break down.
After what was definitely not a positive experience, I am left facing the daunting task of my first road race the very next day. Injured, on terrain I’m unfamiliar and uncomfortable with and riding a bike that simply can’t be trusted. The DI2 is still shifting of its own accord, as I write this. We’ll be seeing the mechanic at 6:45am. Why? Because I have to try.
I came here for the experience and I need to get my wheel on that start line. There are so many unknowns that need to become known to me. I need to ride my race and see what I can see. Do what I can do. Even if I finish dead last, it’s still a silver medal. After everything I’ve been through, it would be nice not to walk away empty handed. I need good sleep, good weather, a working bike and a healthy dose of luck.