Time Trial Hero

We rode together up to Morgan Monroe on this beautiful Spring day. We met at SOMA at 10 AM on Sunday and meandered through bits of campus on an unseasonably warm but welcomed morning. I counted seventeen riders ready to get to the start line of the first local time trial of the season. Some of the Tortugans included Tim Heffner, Mike Brauner, Myron Lewis, Adam Fryska and Adam Rodkey, Isaiah Newkirk, Patrick Garner, Geraint Parry, Taylor Gaines and me. The mere acceptance of participation in a time trial is a major philosophical and psychological event. No other cycling activity is so final, so desperate, so utterly poignant as is the time trial. It’s you and the clock. The poets of cycling call it the race of truth. If that’s so, then the lot of us would be placing our front wheel squarely on the line that separates who we are as cyclists and how deep our well of pain and suffering truly is. I knew that we would end up riding about 55 miles that day, out to the Forest, do the TT then ride back. The TT was only 10 miles. Only 10 miles along the newly paved Forest road. In general terms a good cyclist, trained, fit and race ready can dig deep enough to manage an average speed of 25 mph for this distance. Some more, some less. But it’s early in the year for an effort this demanding and many were just testing their fitness, seeing where they were, establishing a baseline. But it’s hard to be ambivalent about an event that has you puking at the turn around and your lungs filled with acid with 3 miles to go. Most of us would go as hard as we could for as long as we could then just try to hang on until the end. Yeah, we suffered. We all rode well. Some faster than others. You can read the results in the IRS posting soon enough. The time stamp is just another data point for our training journals. But I have another story to tell. A story about one of our Juniors, Taylor Gaines who had the misfortune of getting sideways on a patch of bad road on Cascades. He went down hard on his right shoulder taking Tim Heffner with him. Tim escaped injury save for some road rash, but Taylor wasn’t as lucky. Now we’ve all crashed at some point and many of us have broken bits along the way. Some more than others. I remember separating my shoulder in a race in Long Island in 1988, the tears of pain rolling down my cheeks as that paramedics cut away my jersey. Our boy Taylor would have none of this. Of course, we all stopped to see if he was OK. We helped him pick up his bike and sort out his gear, straighten his handlebars. “Is any thing broken?” “Can you raise your arm above your head?” I recall asking. He rode on. He rode on up through the climbs of the Forest to the start of the time trial. I know that he would have ridden the TT if allowed, but his parents were there at the start to intervene. The power of adrenalin is incredible. But the power to overcome pain like this is a gift. Say what you want about him, but when Tyler Hamilton fractured his collarbone in the Tour a few years ago in Bayonne, France his coach Bjarne Riis was asked if any rider was capable of enduring more suffering. He said, “If there are, I haven’t seen any.” Yeah, we suffered out there on the smooth paved roads of the Forest. But we went home and raked our yards and picked up our kids and drove to the store, while Taylor was in the ER with an ice pack on his shoulder, planning on how he was going to get back on the bike. We all know he’ll be back. Crashing is part of bike racing. It’s part of the price that this high performance sport sometimes requires. In the old days, they would say, “Get back on that horse.” Taylor is already on it and my money’s on him.

Tom Saccone

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