Steamboat Stung

12 months ago, we road tripped to steamboat with a Toyota full of enthusiasm and beer to Steamboat for the first running of the 50 mile Stinger. After finishing 6th, I was determined to be back and get on the podium.

With perfect preparation, Saturday showed me that sometimes you’re not supposed to ride your bike.

It wasn’t a fitness issue, or a motivational one, but mechanical. Although I am renowned for the beating I hand out to the equipment I use, I have never previously dropped out of a race due an unfixable bike problem. My bikes normally exist in a state somewhere between ‘well used’ and ‘battered’, but from a personal standpoint, I always know that what I start the race on will get me to the end. This time was rather different.

The heavy mountain thunderstorm that we awoke to at 5am didn’t cease for two hours, and as we left he comfort of the condo, I was giddy with the chance of riding in the rain and mud on excellent high mountain trails. The moisture abated before the start though, and we were left to line up in perfect conditions.

The nervous stomach I experience before many competitions miraculously disappeared as soon as I started pedalling, and I felt good. Really good. Like the one or two times a season where you know exactly what’s going to happen for the next 50 miles. After cruising the first climb, and putting some major hurt on the rest of the field, I was devastated to look down and realise that my mistimed shift hadn’t simply knocked my chain off, but snapped it completely. Receiving a tool from Peter Kalmes of Honey Stinger within 30 seconds of breaking it meant I lost less than 3 minutes in getting back on my bike, and 10 minutes of racing later I had gained back the 7 or 8 places I had lost. I was content and comfortable as the rain started again – everything was going fine – I could still make my goal of a top 5 finish.

Waffle in one hand and scattering gravel under tyres, I started the second downhill with haste. I was on a roll, I felt amazing and the views from the top of emerald mountain across the Yampa valley would have been breathe taking had I any left to take. I knew the descent well after a number of previous rides and races, and cruised past a photographer doing my best ‘rad’ pose for the camera. As I continued to twist down the hill, something suddenly stopped. Oh, yes, that would be my bike suddenly stopping underneath me as I continue to travel at Mach speed into a awaiting cluster of aspen trees. I was confused. Most confused as to why nothing on my body appeared broken, or even hurt. The second confusion was my my bike rebelled against its momentum and bucked me off. As any mountain biker know, the instant after a crash, with hands shaking, one automatically jumps aboard their bike to continue down. As I attempted to do the same, I noticed first the lack of air in my front tyre, and second the abstract arrangement of spokes which seemed intent on affixing my front wheel to my fork. This dilemma had me stumped, and my first reaction was to solve the most easy solution. So I fixed the flat. And rode 15 metres. Then I wrapped the severed tentacles of spokes around each other, and vainly kicked my front wheel until it turned again. then I flatted. Then I sat down.

As I hiked back through the undergrowth, the friendly photographer directed me through a maze of short cuts back to the road, and I quickly hailed a ride to the base in time to see my competitors finishing their first lap.

I couldn’t summon the courage to watch the finish, or indeed the podiums. I will turn my bitterness into productivity and use the form I have to go win something.