Race Report: San Bruno Hill Climb 2017
That was a painful fall. I need to take a minute to get myself together. I’d already had an unlucky fall in this mountain bike race 5 miles earlier. Racing on a descent my front wheel went from under me on a slight off camber region on what must have been a dusty top layer, common to the trail during the California Summer. That had been a bad crash, so much so that I had cracked my helmet. This second fall, although much slower, was in a rock garden and I landed flush on one of the mineral protrusions jutting up from of the ground like a tooth. I got out of the way of the other racers, painfully dragged myself and bike out of the race course, took a drink and had a gel. After letting the pain subside for a few minutes, it was time to get back on the horse. I tried to swing my leg over the top tube and was met be a searing pain. This was a real problem.
Getting the half mile down to the nearest race support was a slow and painful process. Getting driven down an un-drivable rocky trail by a park ranger was uncomfortable. Getting back to the Peninsula below San Francisco (the race was in Santa Rosa) was a real challenge. At the hospital it was confirmed that the top of my femur was fractured at the major trochanter. It was August 13th 2016.
The 2017 San Hill Climb on January 1st felt tough from the start. The event demanded an average 350 w from my 152 lb frame at a pretty constant output all the way up the climb. The race was met by a headwind for the first 6 minutes so although the race was hard the race times were not the fastest in recent memory. That seems somewhat unfair to me- not only are you pedalling harder but one is obliged to do it for longer. Headwinds should be banned from amateur bike racing in my opinion.
I was with the small lead group until about a half mile to go, when a gap opened up ahead of me. I didn't immediately match the pace to avoid going into the red. After about 30 seconds I put in one big effort to get up to the few lead riders who were tantalisingly 20 seconds ahead. This was a pretty successful manoeuvre but as I was working towards the junction and about to make it the lead riders, who had closed to only a hundred and fifty yards to the finish, began their last ditch efforts for the line. This was enough to open a little more daylight between us. I checked behind and had a healthy gap to the next rider in my field, holding that position to the line- good enough for 3rd in the Category 1/2 field.
My placing in this race wasn't the objective, although a podium place was nice (also you win good schwag at this event, which is a bonus). I was satisfied with the numbers for January 1st. Moreover, being only 4 months since I fractured my leg it was great to be back amongst it. Coming back from the break was a process, perhaps the most pro thing I have achieved racing bikes. The numbers were better than last year, irrespective of the leg fracture. Having lived in New York and suffered the anti-cyclist Winters thereof, the final bonus from this event, year after year, will always be the ability to race on the first day of January- marvelous.