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Boulder Roubaix Race Report
Boulder Roubaix was my first major road race of the 2012 season and I was rested and ready for it. For the past couple of week’s since being back from the team training camp I had been testing my legs out at the Tuesday & Thursday night Meridian grou rides. I use Tuesday’s especially for sprint and paceline work. In the weeks coming up to Boulder Roubaix I was on form and recovering enough to ready myself for the race. Boulder Roubaix reminds me of Tour of the Battenkill which takes place in upstate NY. I had raced Battenkill every year since I started racing four season ago. Ironically enough, every year at Battenkill I had something go wrong.
My first ever road race was Battenkill in the CAT 4′s. I had no clue what I was doing and brought one bottle and no food for the 56 miles of suffering. I can’t recall much about the race now but I do remember cramping up several times due to an uncommon heat wave which struck the northeast in early April. It was about 80 degrees during the race.
The next year at Battenkill as a CAT 3 I was in a serious crash when most of the peleton smashed on top of me and dragged my body and my bike down a loose gravel descent. I spent the next 24 hours in the hospital as the nurses scrubbed rocks out of my legs and arms. Comically, I was on serious amount of morphine and got to watch a star wars marathon in my own hospital room. It was an intergalactic experience.
The following year in the CAT 2′s I was on form and feeling good until the first hill came and my chain snapped into pieces. We had neutral support and the mechanic gave me a new chain but by the time he was done, I was 5 minutes down on the field with no way of catching back up. Not the best luck in past years!
Coming back to the present; I was excited to try out a dirt / paved road race here on the front range of Colorado. Boulder Roubiax is a series of paved and dirt roads on a 15+ mile loop. Based on your category depends upon how many loops you complete. I enjoy mixing things up and a Roubaix style course does just that. Many riders tend not to know how they will be able to handle their bikes on matted down dirt roads. For some reason, this notion of uncertainty excites me!
I showed up on race day a bit earlier than usual so I could do a bit of recon on the course, and watch some friends race. My race was set to go off mid-day around 11:30. It was a chilly morning in the 50′s but the sun was out so it didn’t feel too bare. I rode down to registration and watched as groups of racers went by. I started to get excited but was calm and confident in my recent training weeks. The legs felt good warming up although I didn’t spin for too long before the start.
It must have been only 30-45 minutes of warming up before I found myself in the second row on the start line. I looked around and saw a lot of domestic pro jerseys. “This was going to be a fast race.” I thought to myself. We were held up on the start line (which was dirt) for a bit longer than I would have liked. The 60+ riders were set to go off in front of us and we needed to give them enough time to make it around the course. I think it would have made more sense to start them directly after us but within 10-20 minutes we were off. The race started fast almost at the same intensity of a Criterium. I wasn’t quite ready for this quick start but I found myself in the upper portion of the group holding my position well. I could see the lead riders in my field of vision and I was content with where I rode and satisfied at the current moment. 3/4 of the way through the first lap (4 lap race = 76 miles) a few riders created a break. MY plan wasn’t to make a break today as I thought they would be caught from various motivated riders willing to give chase. The first lap went by and I was totally focused on the task at hand. I was in a great position (top 20) and was beginning to feel my legs warm up to race pace. I felt this based on the several attacks from riders and how my legs responded. As the second lap progressed I looked back a few times and saw the group was still large but smaller than before. If you were to get separated from the group at Boulder Roubaix it would be quite difficult to chase back on. There were many turns and wind changes during the course which could frustrate a solo rider, or even a group of 5-10. 3/4 finished with the second lap and I was feeling better than before. Riders would accelerate and my legs would sing positive notes of reciprocation.
The group was about 1/2 mile away from the finish when the crash happened. This finishing half mile included a sharp right turn and then proceeded into a short punchy climb (where the feed zone is located) before dropping down flat and to the finish line. We were flying at speed upwards of 25-30mph when all of a sudden the group starts moving around like a bunch of rabbits scattering away from a dog chasing. I was drafting close to the rider in front of me and when he moved at the last second I had no line of sight and rammed right into a rider who was unclipped and standing in the middle of the road! This is not something you see everyday during a race. I keep asking myself why was he in the middle of the road and not off to the side. I hit the rider so hard it sent me flying through the air and landing somewhere in a ditch. Interestingly enough, other riders went flying into the air as well and landed on top of me. I stood up, looked down at my legs and only noticed a few scrapes on my legs. “Well, I may as well get back on my bike.” I said to myself. A spectator came over, picked my bike back up, put my chain on, and gave me a push down the road. After a few pedal strokes I heard a horrible cracking sound. I looked down at my toptube and saw had a massive fracture.
I kept riding down the finishing straight and as I passed the announcer he said “Well it looks like Adam Zimmerman is done for the day.” I was a little annoyed by the comment since he thought I threw in the towel so I got off my bike, lifted it up in the air while pointing at the massive crack in my toptube. “Ah! That’s a good reason to stop racing.” He responded. I smiled and rode my broken frame back to the car. I was a bit bummed out about the whole situation. Mainly because how my legs were feeling during the race and the fact I had a broken frame in the back of my car.
At the end of the day, I’m happy I wasn’t too badly injured from the crash and only walked away with minor road rash. I’m back to riding now with a new bike but my body is still beat up and stiff. My form is not what it was a couple of weeks ago but with some hard training days ahead I should be back on schedule to race in a few weeks.
I’ve learned sometimes you can be doing everything right in a race but everything can go wrong in the blink of an eye. One minute I’m riding along feeling good, the next minute I’m laying in a ditch with a broken frame. I ask myself questions; Could I have been paying more attention? Was I still too far back in the group? These rhetorical uncertainties will never truly be answered as we can’t jump in a time machine and change the past. I’ve also come to realize the reasons stated above is what makes bicycle racing so epic. Crashes, flats, mechanical issues, cramping, and so forth are what elevate cycling to a proportional level and generate those bittersweet wins.