Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Touching the Floor, yet coming home

April 2011 was the cruelest month of cycling I've endured. Not because of hard training or heaps of mental abuse, but from hitting the tarmac; touching the floor. I had gone the last two years without a spill, but in the past two and half weeks I found myself on the pavement three times. The last incident was the most ugly. I was leading the pace line on our Wednesday night group ride when a dog dashed straight into my front wheel. No time to touch the brakes or for anyone to call it out, I flew over the bars to be run over by the guy on my wheel. Fortunately the only thing broken was my bike. In fact I've came out of these incidents with lots of scrapes, bruised ribs, and sprained wrists, but nothing worse. I am fortunate that my injuries were fairly minor.

Chad Young chasing his dreams
Today I was reminded again of how costly one incident on the bike can be. Most New England cyclists I know are indescribably sad about Chad Young's fall in the Tour of Gila. Was it one missed pedal stroke that flung him to the ground? Perhaps a backward glance, the wrong veer at high speed, and he launched out of control? All of us who have pushed the pace know how easy it could be to loose control. Whether we are cascading down a mountain pass, or pounding a sprint elbow to elbow, or merely flowing through blind corners in the bunch we are racing on the razor edge of control. Only a paper thin barrier keeps us cyclists in this world and from careening into the next one.

Bike racers are like Icarus, flying high and fast on wings manufactured for us. We want to reach our glory with these machines. We need to see the limits so we can test our selves. Fortunately few of us push too far. But once in a while someone does get too close to the edge, and plummets like Icarus. We are blessed that so few fatal accidents occur in bike races. Yet that makes each fatal incident seem more tragic.

I do not race to cheat death. I am not interested in thrill seeking per se. I train hard, knowing that I do not have pro talent, yet want to feel the thrill of reaching my capacity as an athlete. I hope to emulate the dignity the peloton displayed after Wouter Weylandt perished in the 2011 Giro.
I race to squeeze all the passion, energy, and joy that my tender grip on this life can wring out.
I ride to live as fully as I can.

I will put these thoughts aside so that I may race again, but I will not forget.
Rest in peace Chad; you race with the angels now.