Two minutes later I was bleeding and wondering what the hell I was doing
Photo courtesy: Jonathan Devich
So with the thoughts of going two for two as a media winner I rolled out of the Venetian Hotel to the Mandalay Bay, the location for the USA Criterium championships. I knew that tonight’s race was going to produce stiffer competition. VeloNews had brought several riders with them and their editor Ben Delaney and I had actually been on the same racing team many, many years ago. I knew that he was strong. I just hoped that fatherhood had slowed him down. Specialized also had a few ringers in their company. So the goal of the crit was the same as the cross race: talk a lot of shit then blow up spectacularly. Also not vomit.
I rolled around the infield of the crit as the women battled it out. At one point Johny Sundt came over to me with some prophet advice. “The asphalt is slick, so don’t get out of the saddle when you in the turn.” Good to know. Earlier that day we had a photo shoot with Freddy Rodriguez and I asked him if he was doing the race. “Hell no!” I pressed him for some advice. “Stay at the front and then camp out.” Brilliant!
I knew that I was going to get called up to the line. As a fame whore I loved it. The crowd, the recognition, my fragile ego was being stroked to perfection. The downside to this was that I was at the front and had to at least make a good show of it for a few laps. This was the plan: work the front and then hide in the middle of the pack till I spewed. It was do-able plan.
The whistle blew and I was sprinting off the line like a wolf chased by an airborne Sarah Palin. I leaned my bike into the first turn no more than 75 feet into the race and suddenly my front wheel washed out and I hit the deck, sliding to the fence. In that one second of sliding all I could think about was that the next day was going to suck! I get up and who is standing at the fence is a bunch of my buddies from home. “Way to go Neil!”
“You putting this on the blog?”
My shorts are torn and I’m bleeding from my hip and elbow. My shoulder feels like I was hit by a pole and I have already formed a friction blister on my thumb as it slid on the ground. Other than that I’m good to go.
For a second I thought, “Fuck this, I’m calling it a night and crawling into a bottle of wine.” As I remounted and rolled around the course people called my name or yelled “Go ROAD!” What the hell, I’ll grab my free lap and reenter the fray.
I roll into the pit and I don’t need to explain my situation to the referee. My ass is hanging out and I’m bleeding, you do the math as to what happened. As the peloton comes screaming around the corner I’m pushed into the field. We scream through the finish line and I start to set up for turn number one once again. However the three guys in front of me have other plans. Two of them go down in the exact same spot and the third sympathy crashes into them as well. With no where to go I head into the fence. With tires sliding I come to a halt, jammed up into the orange fencing. And like the gambler Kenny Rogers once said, “You gotta know when to fold them and when to hold them.” I was done with this bloodbath. Untangling myself from the fence, I found the nearest pedestrian exit and got off the course.
“Heard you crashed. So who’s the douche bag now?” It was my BFF gloating as I limped around the Interbike floor the next day. So I have to take back the douche bag of the month award as it is painfully obvious that I’m the douche. Also Vegas is good for two things only: drinking and gambling. I’m sticking to those next year.