Paracycling National Championships, Augusta Georgia – Road RaceBrett Richards
The National Championships in Augusta Georgia began with a roller coaster like road race course that took place on Fort Gordon army base. Fort Gordon was established in 1941 and now specializes in cyber security and warfare. In the Vietnam era Fort Gordon was used for Army airborne infantry. I couldn’t help but think my Dad could have been there at one point throughout his time in the Army. My Dad spent a good portion of his four years deployed to Vietnam. He survived and made it home unlike many but I don’t think he ever left it behind him. It seemed to haunt him for the rest of his years on earth. I believe the time he spent at war was one of the main reasons he later took his own life. This is a horrible thing to think of when you are showing up to race at the national Championships but I try to remind myself how strong he was mentally and physically to survive as long as he did in the Army and out of the army and remind myself the pain I am going through is nothing like what he had to endure. The suffering we go through on the bike is nothing like what our soldiers go through. They are the true heroes.
It was a early morning leading up to the road race. On our way to Fort Gordon we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed to the guard shack to get into the base. A quick ID check and the question of “why are you here” and we were on base. We learned quickly the day prior that navigation is dodgy at best on base. Many roads that were once in place look to have been closed for years while Google or Apple have no clue. Guard shack entrances were permanently closed with no notice from navigation. This left me searching for an updated map of the base but I never found one.
Eventually getting to the race we began to warm up as we already knew the course from our recon ride the day prior. The warm up isn’t typically important for road races but in paracycling it’s a different story. For us there is a group of racers that all start together but in multiple classifications based on our individual injuries and/or physical abilities. Because of this you want to do everything you can to stay with the higher classified guys above you and try and get away from as many competitors in your classification as possible and therefore, you are above your functional threshold very quickly and need to have had a good warmup to sustain that. This is one of the many important points to doing a race of this caliber. You must have all of your i’s dotted and t’s crossed.
Just as I thought we were all at full gas from the start and quickly reaching our cracking point. A lead group of close to twenty guys formed and I was right in the middle of it descending at close to fourth miles per hour. The whole group is peddling away still trying to continue to gain more speed. As we hit close to fifty miles per hour we are all forced to coast as our twenty two gears don’t go any higher. At the bottom of the descent a steep but short climb came and the group of twenty became fifteen leading into yet another fast descent. The road leveled out and we’re pedaling around twenty five miles per hour. At this point we’re e close to ten miles in and I know from our recon ride that a sharp hairpin turn is coming up quickly. I make my way forward in the group to get through the hairpin safely which we do but it was tense. Not a mile later the group is nervous going into a long flat section. The guys in the front are putting in strong pulls and guys are tailing off the back. I was one of those guys. The pace was up and I was barely hanging on when all of the sudden I was on two wheels and veering hard left. Almost crashing into one competitor to my left I realized what happened. The racer on my right was pulling off the road with a flat rear tire. His rear draft bar that is made for us to draft each other closely and safely stuck out too far from the outside of his tire and got caught in the spokes of my rear wheel which popped me up and to my left. The impact was so fast and fierce that his aluminum tubed draft bar was shoved into his tire so hard that it popped his tire and his race was done. By the time I got my bike back on three wheels and missed a few pushes of the pedals the lead group had a gap on me. My heart rate spiked through the roof and once I was in the wind and didn’t have that draft from the pack I knew I couldn’t catch back up. My race was essentially over at this point.
Later on in the race while I was in what we call no mans land a couple racers were dropped from the main group that I was in at the time of the accident. Luckily my heart rate came down and I was able to overtake them. I never saw that main group again as I suspected. Later on I learned that my teammate Alfonso was in that main group and finished fourth. I am so proud of him. It was a very tough race for me essentially being by myself with no draft for most of the race. At the finish line a long time friend of mine Justin who lives in Georgia was at the finish line with a smile on his face. I could see no matter where I finished he was proud of me just as my dad would have been if he could see me now. This is what was important to me on this day, the friends and family that support me. Throughout the day there was lows and highs just like life. I finished and I was healthy. I couldn’t be happier. It was time for Team PossAbilities to hit the showers and get ready for the time trial on the following day.