What a weekend...
Well, the weekend was filled with plenty of emotions. As I had mentioned, Karel was ready for this weekend. With the San Antonio 85 mile road race on Sat and the 80 min + 5 lap Criterium on Sun in Dade City, Karel was anxious to see if his hard training is paying off. Obviously it is too soon to peak but he was ready to pull out at least a top 10 finish in Pro 1,2 in order to get points to help him upgrade to Category (Pro) 1 as soon as possible. I had a hard 48 mile ride in the wind and I was pretty spent when Karel and I headed to San Antonio. However, once I was in the car with Karel I was ready to support him for his race. And when it comes to Karel's races, there isn't much talking prior to the race. Karel is in his zone just like I get into my zone. I can get pretty touchy prior to a big race but I am usually willing to give plenty of smiles and thumbs up. Karel stays calm but you can sense nervousness. I don't know if any of my blog readers have been to a cycling race but it is tense. You really have to watch a race and know someone in the race to feel the nerves, excitement and energy that comes from cycling. It is a totally different environment from triathlons and I love being a spectator. The only difference with cycling races is that they never start on time. 5, 7, 10 minutes late. You never know how behind they are, especially when it comes to the Pro 1,2 race which is usually the main event (and the longest). Karel's race was at 12:30 and we arrived around 11:50am. Just enough time for a short warm-up and time for Karel to talk strategy with his team. Apparently, someone told Karel that they were 40 minutes behind on the start for the Pro 1,2 race so at 12:40 Karel warm-up a little longer. And with no warning, at 12:50 the riders were off...without Karel! Oh my..I didn't know what to do. Where was he? Well, you could understand the heartache that Karel felt and I really don't know how he had the strength to hold back his tears..and anger, sadness. Never has Karel missed a race and to happen right now so close at home, I guess it was ok to happen close and not far away but still..this was his race! I was upset, he was upset...I think a lot of people were upset. If it were me...I would be crying my eyes out. Again, this is a situation where it is hard for me to say the right thing because if it were me in his situation, you think I would really want to hear Karel's encouraging words to cheer me up? I'd probably cry my eyes out and tell him to just stop talking. Well, Karel handled it like a man and true cyclist and told the director what happened. Rather than just getting back into the 17-mile, 5-loop race (getting in on lap 2) and risking his license being suspended because that would be illegal, the race director told Karel that he could jump in but couldn't contribute to the race. Therefore, no break aways, no attacks and pretty much, he had to just sit in a use that race as a training race. As a positive note, I don't know that many cyclists (aside from the Pro's) who can just "sit in" on a Pro 1,2 race and consider it a training day. I think most people wouldn't even last a lap at that fast and intense pace. So after handing Karel bottles as he fed his teammates with the drinks, I really didn't know what to say to Karel. I figured he had 3 1/2 hrs to think about what happened and I'm sure he will never miss the start again. I feel so horribly bad but at least there was another day. I told Karel that he was ready for the weekend races so he still had another chance to show his stuff.
On sunday morning I again had a nice ride but the 30-mile ride was over a done early in the morning due to a few hours prior to the start of karel's race. My parents were heading to the race to watch Karel so I decided to study for an hour longer and get a ride with them. I gave Karel a good luck kiss and told him to be confident. Yesterday's incident had nothing to do with his fitness, heart or dedication as a cyclist and therefore he needed to forget about it and move on. Oh, and you better believe Karel was at the starting line well before the race was to begin. After the riders were off there was a break away with the top 3 guys in crit racing (NRC crit champion was there..sorry, don't know names). There were a lot of top guys and good teams there but the crit is one of Karel's strengths (road racing being the other). After the first couple of loops (Crit is a downtown loop, less than 1 mile, usually sharp turns and lots of corners) with 6 corners in each loop, Karel was working hard and keeping a top 8 position. At one point he was 6th! The race was fast and because of the number of prems ($ given away to the leader of the loop, $10-$20 usually) the pace kept increasing during the race. Karel was thinking..please no more prems! Karel was working really hard and this was a long race. 80 minutes over your lactate threshold, pretty much all-out, you feel like dying and there is nothing you can do. So after around 20 minutes of me cheering I noticed that Karel didn't come around for a loop. I am usually pretty good at spotting him, especially since he was at the front for most of the first part of the race. Well, I see Karel in the middle of the course on the street with one of the Gearlink guys giving him a water bottle. I thought perhaps he had a flat and in that case, his rhythm is thrown off but you can still jump in with one lap free. I asked Dallas what happened and he said Karel crashed. What!!!??? oh jeez. Apparently, it wasn't Karel's fault and the guy infront of Karel fumbled on his handlebars and served to touch Karel's wheel. Karel has very good bike skills and in most cases, Karel can dodge crashes. Right before Karel crashed, there was a crash a few loops prior which karel barely missed. yes, crit racing is dangerous..exciting but pretty scary to watch. At least Karel knows how to fall but when I heard what happend I couldn't believe that he was able to jump back in. He flipped over his bike with his feet still attached and landed on his back with lots of bruises and road rash. But seeing that this is Karel, the most dedicated and hard-working person I know, he was back in the race in a matter of seconds. Karel had a really hard time getting his rhythm but near the end of the race he was slowly moving up to the middle pack of the chase group. At least 20 guys had dropped out which left around 30-40 still in the race. The pace was picking up and just around 80 min. I see karel stopping at the wheel pit. Oh no... a flat?? Well, luckily the racers had 3 loops to go and therefore, Karel was still able to get one lap for free. If he had stopped to check out his bike (not a flat) after one more loop he wouldn't be able to hop back in. So karel jumps in with 3 to go and after that loop I see Karel riding over to me on the grass. So, here's the story. When Karel stopped prior to the end, the handlebars were lose for almost an hour and Karel didn't even realize it until that point. At the end when he rode over to me with 3 laps to go, he stopped because his deraileur was messed up from the crash and he was stuck in the small chain ring at a 39 gear. For the sprint of 40+ mph, he needed to be in the big ring for power. So Karel knew there was no way he could finish the race in a small gear. Well, it was a good thing that he couldn't change gears because when he crashed, he broke his fork. If Karel would have tried to sprint without a broken deraileur, there would have been a good chance his handlebars would have broken and the fork would have been shattered. Well, there's the weekend for you. Karel is in good spirits for the most part and he knows there are many more races to come. As for this weekend, I am very inspired with his hard work and good attitude. Yes he was upset, bummed and dissappointed but that is assumed and perfectly fine. The fact is that he got over it. Last night he took apart his Cervelo to find the crack in the fork and decided to put together his Colnago for the next week or so (until the Cervelo is fixed). The Pinarello is still hanging on the wall to avoid scratches, wrecks or rain :) I really learned a lot about karel this weekend and I took a lot away from this weekend. Aside from the many emotions that we both felt this weekend I remember one point in the weekend which really touched me. Aside from my dad taking phenomenol pics of Karel (I'll post those later this week) and my mom still thinking that the races are scary and Karel goes too fast, there was a young girl (around 9 or 10) who came up to Karel after the race and asked for a hug. I almost teared up that regardless of how he finished (or if he finished or if he started on time), this young girl and many other people who knew karel came up to him and told him that he had a great race. This young girl wanted a hug from Karel because she just though he was a great cyclist and I learned that even when you feel down and upset at your own performance, there are so many other people who either look up to you or see your performance as something they could never even dream of doing. In this case, congrats Karel...there are many more races to come and I know he will keep training hard and burning the fire he has for cycling.