Generally, I have very good luck with my bike equipment. If I have a spectacular blow-out or break a spoke, it’s usually 200 meters from my front door. Not so this weekend.
The Poolesville (Maryland) Road Race is a 10-mile circuit with a 1-mile gravel section. The course is flat-to-rolling through lush green farmland and dewy woods. The women CAT 1/2’s were run with the men CAT 3’s for a planned 60-mile race.
On the first lap, I was 7th into the gravel, so I could see the potholes, and a drainage ditch cut perpendicularly into the trail, way before I hit them. I was in my element – I love gravel and I’m growing fond of potholes. Lap 1 ticked away on my cyclocomputer, 10 miles completed.
We made the right turn onto lap 2. I went over some uneven asphalt and “Crack!” My saddle had shifted and was pointing up like a plane taking off. The leaders pushed the pace for the next lap and I forgot about my saddle as I dangled on the back, fighting to hang on. 20 miles done.
Lap 3 the pace was snappy, and the field got strung out at the onset. After the gravel section, I was the only woman left with the men. But that was no time to celebrate. At mile 27, I went over another uneven patch of asphalt. “Crack!” My saddle fell off completely. We encountered some rollers so I climbed out of my saddle and finished 30 miles with the pack.
As we turned the corner onto lap 4 I was still with the group, but I was causing a bit of a disturbance. I kept yelling out to the course marshals, “Please, get me a bike with Speedplay pedals! My saddle fell off!” Luckily, the pack decided to sit up this time around the circuit. I nestled myself into the back row of riders, sat with one leg on my top tube, and coasted behind them.
As we entered the gravel section for the fourth time, I got caught behind a crash and was decisively dropped about 35 miles into the race. I knew the second woman had been dropped at the same spot 10 miles earlier, so, I pedaled as hard as I could on the flats and hills. When there was a downhill, I sat with my leg on my top tube and tucked my knees into my frame.
All the while, I kept yelling out to the course marshals for a replacement bike. After 10 miles with no seat, a man called out, “They have a bike for you, about 8 turns up the road.” I was going to get a bike! This turned out to be a miscommunication. There was no bike, and the marshals grew weary of my pleas. “Well, you asked last time and we STILL don’t have a bike for you!”
My heart sank. How long could I last doing this, riding without a saddle? About 45 miles into the race, and after about 20 miles with no saddle, the moto-ref pulled up to me and said that I was in first place and there was no one behind in sight. He said that he had decided the cut the race to 50 miles considering the circumstances. I was overjoyed! Could I stay away for the next 5 miles?
Soon after that, a course marshal pedaled up to me and said, “I have a Speedplay bike for you!” I asked the moto-ref if it was okay to switch and he said yes. There was still a chance I could get caught, so I took the other bike. 400 meters down the road I realized that something felt funny. When I stood up, my cleats popped out off the pedals. But when I sat down, I couldn’t put any power on the pedals either. It turns out this bike had an incompatible version of Speedplays and was a size 48, a bit cramped coming from my 56cm frame.
After all, though, a bike still is a bike. I balanced my cleats on the pedals and rode the child-sized bike to the line. I had won Poolesville on a day I would never forget.