I raced the Charlotte Mountain Bike Series last night. I crashed 4 times. Well, 5 if you include when I fell over before the race by losing my balance while standing still. I couldn’t get my stupid shoe unclipped. I guess technically, I laid the bike out twice, crashed twice, and fell over like a dumbass once.
We haven’t had significant rain in Charlotte in several weeks and the course was showing it. The corners were mostly loose sand so navigating some of the sharper ones was a little tough. I laid out the bike twice in 2 such corners. Maybe those aren’t really regarded as crashes, but both me and my bike were on the ground, so call it what you want. Also, I was warned before the race of a new bridge that had been built that wasn’t quite right yet. I was told to beware of the tree on the inside corner because as you approach it, it looks like you’ll clear it, but at the last moment you realize because of that tree, you can’t lean your bike into the turn. Insert my first crash. On the first lap. I didn’t pre-ride the course, so I wasn’t familiar with this obstacle. I hopped onto the bridge, saw the tree and the off camber slope of the wood planks and thought, “What’s the big deal?” Then my handlebar hit the tree and I endo-ed off the bridge. As I pulled myself back onto the bike, I laughed at myself for not heeding the warning better.
At the time of that crash, there was one girl, Suna, with me in the lead of the race. By the time I got myself situated back on my bike, she had drawn to within 10 seconds of me. And she stayed there the whole race keeping me in a constant state of panic. I don’t think I ever got more than a 30 second gap on her, so on the second lap I had to play it smart. I had to go fast enough to keep the gap, but not push myself so hard that I crashed again. If I crashed, there was a good chance Suna would close the gap and I’d lose the race. So I spent the whole second lap telling myself, “Don’t crash, Winterton, don’t crash.” Side note, when I say my own last name in my head, it comes out as “winnerdin” which is how my brothers football coach used to get his attention back when we were kids, “Hey, Winnerdin! What are you doin’?” Weird that it has stuck with me all this time.
The last and worst crash came just before the finish. I was about 4 minutes away from winning my second mountain bike race of the season when my left wrist, handlebar, and brake/gear lever slammed full on into a rather hefty tree a full speed. There I was, flying over the handlebar…again. Once I finally hit the ground and came to a complete stop, I picked up the bike, keeping an eye behind me. I could hear Suna, but not see her. I jumped on the bike and took off like I stole something. I just had to get into the last singletrack section first. She wouldn’t be able to pass me in there. I sprinted on the short road section. I felt like she was right on my wheel, but a glance back and I didn’t see her as I entered the final section. As I finished the race, I could still hear her bike behind me rattling over the rooty course.
I’m pleased with the race. I had to work for the win. Suna put up a great chase. I could do without the crashing, though. The damage - a nice zinger on my left calf and right shin and small scrapes up and down my arms. More importantly, my bike ended the day with a bent brake lever and busted gear indicator. Oh, well, that’s bike racin’, right?