If you follow our Twitter feed, you'll be aware that I was once again attacked by Route 2. Where last year I got just one flat on the "queen stage" of the Green Mountain Stage Race, this year I got three. Three. Double pinch flat from hitting a crater-sized pothole at about 28 mph, and a puncture flat on the rear that I got from the truck, about 20' after I started rolling with it. After all that, even doing a two hour time trial was no match for a charging peloton and I lost massive amounts of time before the huge climb started. By the time I was on the climb, I was so cooked I'm sort of amazed I even finished.
Since I was so catatonic after Sunday's debacle and didn't have enough long-stemmed tubes to cover my catastrophic needs, I decided just to use my spare wheels (a set of first generation FSW23s) for Monday's crit. The Rails are nice for some free speed, that's for sure, but FSWs are great crit wheels themselves. They inspired the handling that became the cornerstone of the Rail, and we build them with enough spokes. Quite simply, an alloy rim like that needs more spokes to be as stiff as a deep carbon rim, all else being equal. My FSWs are 24/28 laced, even though my weight (low 160s) might indicate that I can "get away with" fewer spokes. When I commit to a line, I want my wheels to be as committed to that line as I am, FSWs are definitely that.
Unfortunately, a metal something (no idea what it was, saw it about 1/4 of a second before I plowed into it) rolled or was thrown onto the course. It took one guy right straight out and then headed for me. In such cases, your job as the bike racer is to not swerve. Swerving kills. I rammed right into whatever it was, was amazed that I didn't die in a ball of fury or flat, and rolled on. When I hit the brakes, I knew something big was wrong and headed for the pit.
Something was clearly wrong...
So the final tally for the weekend was three flats and one rim. I finished the crit in the main field which was more than about half the people who started could say, so there's that, and it was a fun weekend that I throroughly enjoyed, cruel whimsy be damned. Still, that nagging thought of what could have been had I not had such absolute crap luck.
A few thoughts on what all this taught me:
1. My replacement rear wheel on Sunday was one of those 32 spoke XXX rims on XXX hubs that no one can ever go wrong with. Let me politely say that I didn't prefer it. Granted, it had a Gatorskin on it which could turn any good wheel bad, but swaying back and forth generally isn't what I look for in a wheel. If this is "can't go wrong," I don't want to know what wrong is.
2. Race other disciplines, or at least ride them. I'm pretty sure that between an incident in Saturday's sprint, Sunday's pothole fiasco, and Monday's whatever it was I hit and that wrecked my wheel, I would have had at least one major broken bone had it not been for my spending time off road. If nothing else it teaches you to relax, which is almost always the right answer.
3. Monday's deal is exactly what "should" have happened to that rim. You whack into something that hard, that sharp, at that speed, and your rim is probably toast. Pull points to the thing for lasting the lap and a half or whatever it was before I decided I needed to pit it. Had this been a Rail, would it have lived? Can't say.
4. Race what you can afford to replace. Breaking stuff sucks for many reasons, the cost of replacement being among those reasons, but if the cost of replacing what you're using is going to give you a financial aneurism...
Thus ended my 2013 road season. Hopefully also thus ended this ridiculous string of luck.