Small Time Crash, Big Time Chasing: Louisville Day 2 – A Column by Ben Popper
When you ride like I do, you’re going to crash eventually. All season I’ve dreaded the day I go down. I’m recklessly fast through the barriers, and I’ve seen that video of Nys going down, and I knew my time would come. I’m fortunate that it didn’t turn out as bad as it could have and thankful that nobody else went down, but it certainly did make the second day of the USGP in Louisville interesting for me.
At the start, I didn’t jump as well as Saturday. I got a little squeezed into the fence and was forced to coast for a second or two to avoid clipping the fence. And that couple seconds was all it took for much of the field to leave me behind like an ugly date. Not the end of the world, as I was probably still in the top half.I was not being aggressive enough through the first half of a lap and it cost me. By the time we were passing the pit for the first time, I was riding at about 32nd. A couple of bad moves later and I was even further behind. It was time to put some of those guys behind me, so I set up to make a pass through the barriers. We all rode into them hot, and where the guys in front of me slowed a little stepping through, I didn’t let up, hoping for a hole and an opportunity to slip through. That hole never appeared and I ran into the back of another rider. I tripped and hit the ground hard. Next thing I saw was the blue sky, and I had that panic… was I hurt? My bike? The other rider? I stayed down for a second and then everyone started yelling at me. “Get up! Go get them!” By their call everything was ok, so I got myself together the best I could and pressed on.
As I hit the ground one of the cantilevers released, spun on its’ axis and was rubbing the rim. The design of Paul Components brakes is brilliant. Where other brakes probably would have broken completely and more than likely damaged the brake mounts in the fork, Paul designs the springs in his brakes to release when they are forced the wrong way. I babied myself and the bike the short distance to the pit. Switched with Sam again and rode out of the pit with Adam McGrath. I was pretty convinced my race was over at this point, but Adam was wearing the U23 leaders jersey. I turned around and told him that I wasn’t sure how long I could go, but that I’d help him out and to tuck in behind me. It turned out he was having an even worse day than me and was not able to hold on for long.
So, I am sitting in no mans land in 36th place. But the more I rode, the more I loosened up and felt good on the bike. The course was still a super fun time to ride and there were so many sections that were meant to be railed. With five to go I started catching guys. I stayed on the pedals and kept pushing. The laps kept coming down and I was still slowly getting around riders. I finished strong and rode the remainder of the race after the crash pretty smoothly. So again, I finished on the lead lap and in 26th place. Not as good as I had hoped, but I am pretty confident had I not crashed like an idiot, I could have been more in the range of 22nd.
Regardless, it was a fantastic weekend, and I felt that I had ridden very well. That brings us through the midpoint of the season and so far I have to say it has been fantastic and now I have my crash out of the way. I am looking forward to the races coming up and the people I get to visit with.
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