Huatulco was not the cherry on my season that I was hoping for. I arrived in Mexico fit, and confident. I knew that I was the strongest cyclist in the field, and swimming with the leaders came as no surprise after all the work I’ve put into the pool this season. I felt like everyone around me were struggling much more than me. For certain I was nervous about how I would fair on the run after my injury prevented me from doing much run training, so I was hoping I could get into a breakaway. I even won the first bike prime at the end of the second lap, but before I could really test myself lady luck shoved me into the well.
I hit a pothole on a descent, my STI lever slid forward, pulling the brake cable tight and locking my front wheel. My bike had decided to stop, and I had no control over it. People were flying by me and all I could do was wait for them to pass while I tried my best not to endo over the bars. The brake was too tight to release by hand. The bigger picture of the Olympics entered my mind and my imagination exaggerated the situation to the point where I believed that this one mechanical might be the difference between being Olympian or watching on NBC. I furiously yanked on the cable, I tried my best to get the brake to release, but the wheel wouldn’t budge. I yelled, I threw my bike, I was ready to cry, and just as my frustration was overcoming my ability to think three people ran over and helped me pry the wheel loose, release the brake cable and get the bike rolling again.
I now had no front brake on a course that features the fastest descent of any World Cup triathlon and several technical turns. I was pretty hesitant to continue in those conditions, but since I was no longer riding with a group I figured at least I wouldn’t have to worry about other people. that lasted only a couple minutes before the sweeper group (the very last pack that is made up of stragglers and gradually gets bigger as they work together to avoid being lapped out) came by and picked me up. I tried to explain to everyone that I was handicapt and only had one brake. I told them to let me lead the descents and the turns, but they didn’t listen. After a couple scary situations I just took charge and made sure that I was leading whenever we went through technical parts of the course. There really wasn’t a need for much braking, but when you’re with the back-of-the-bunch it’s hard to predict what other riders will do. It’s not a place I like to be because it always means something went wrong.
I started the run a full six minutes behind the lead pack, which is already past the 5% cutoff for those precious Olympic points. Those Olympic points were the whole reason I was in Huatulco Mexico. I was pissed at the situation, but since I was still upright I couldn’t bring myself to quit. I had to finish or I would be even more mad at myself. I jogged it in. I may have finished the season on a strike, but at least I went out swinging.
Now, back up a bit.
I don’t want to finish on a low note. Huatulco wasn’t the result I went there for, but I had a great season this year. I won two big races, including 5150 New Orleans, after the swim was cancelled. I proved that I don’t need the swim to win races. And even though I was injured at Hy-Vee, I managed to find my own way to feel like a winner, and prove what I was capable of on the bike at the same time. This year was disappointing for me on the ITU circuit, but even there I posted a 2nd place finish in Monroe. And through the 5150 series I rediscovered my love for non-drafting races. I can’t wait to defend my title in New York next year.
It’s been a good year. It was my first season working with Coach Mike Doane, and I can see why Andy Potts has been with him for so long (he’s brilliant). Next year will bring new challenges, but with Mike guiding me I feel more prepared for them than I was a year ago. Bring it on 2012! Let’s have some fun!