Luck, Can it Get Any Worse?

I would like to share a story that happened to me last week; a story that is stuff from the movies, well almost. It was a chain of events that occurred on Sunday while I was on a trip to Wuyishan for a road race representing my team Champion System. Things that weekend were going very well, with me collecting a fifth place at a mountain bike race in Nanjing on Saturday, and then taking a fast 325km/h train to Shanghai to catch a plane to Wuyishan which is one of the top five beautiful scenic mountains in China. Everything went smoothly and although I got to bed after midnight (we got in after 10pm), I was feeling good and confident about producing another great result and hopefully a good share of the decent prize money that was on offer ($1,500US for the winner). It was an early start and after eating a good hearty breakfast with coffee in the five-star Wuyishan Hotel, we rode to the race start/finish area which was about 5kms away from the hotel. From this point onwards is when things started going bad; my rear wheel hit a gap in the bridge joining, about 1km from the start/finish and pinch flatted (or snake bite puncture!). I was annoyed for sure, but I had plenty of time with well over an hour till the start of the official road race. My friend lent me his bike and I went in search of a tube (I did not bring any with me since during a race you usually get a wheel change and get straight back in, unlike a training ride where you have to be totally self-sufficient). The tire sponsor, Cheng Sin, came to the rescue and helped with the tube change. I was back in action and still feeling very confident about my chances. I had assumed, like many races, water would be supplied at the venue. I was wrong and spent too much time looking for water, I finally got it sorted when one of the organizers generously gave me a bottle.

At this point, according to the official race schedule the race was not due to start for another 25 minutes, at 9:00am and I had confirmed this with a race official right by the start/finish line where all the riders were starting to gather. When I got the confirmation, I made my way to the bathroom to take care of last minute nature call. Upon emerging, one of the mountain bikers who had rolled up told me that the road race had already left. What!? Left without me! wtf. I was dumbfounded. It was not even 8.45am and they had already gone.

I went into overdrive, and sprinted to the start/finish area, jumping steps and curbs, weaving through people and upon reaching the start area I saw the mountain bikers starting to line up for their event. I realized that the race had indeed gone without me, and they were no where in sight. About five minutes head start. At first the officials did not want me to leave and were stopping me from getting through the plastic tape that spanned the width of the road, but after explaining in Chinese, they let me go.  I took off in pursuit like a crazed bull with glazed over eyes and snorting with anger at how this could happen.  It was not very professional of the race officials to start the race early like they did; races in the US and New Zealand always start on time if not slightly delayed. It is never early. I think a couple of other riders were caught out too but they just joined in the mountain bike race instead which was starting as I took off on my own.

I still held hope of closing the five minute gap to the peloton as long as they were going to play games at some point and slow down to wait to see who attacks next. I was counting on some indecisive riding, at least till I made it there. I kept asking people along the road about the time-gap and I heard four minutes and then three minutes, I was closing the gap. But then it stayed at three minutes.  During my chase I did have the presence of mind not to go so hard as to cause me to blow up. It was essentially time-trialing and it was tough due to the long false flat from the beginning and then rolling nature of the course punctuated with several 1km-1.5km steep climbs. During my desperate chase, I picked up people who had dropped out of the peloton and blew past them. Such was the ferocity of my pace, no one attempted to jump onto my wheel. I was sitting on an even 170bpm mostly, recovering on the downs and generally feeling good about the power I was putting out. However, disaster struck again at the 57th minute, after 38kms: I flatted again!

I coasted up to a halt on the side of the road, on the outskirts of a small Chinese village, and put the bike down. I took off my helmet, and the next thing I knew I was under wasp attack. Yes, a large wasp that refused to fly away! I panicked, I have a little phobia of wasps or bees having been attacked by them as a child, and started shaking both my hands vigorously at the wasp that was intent on doing damage. It somehow landed on my right index finger smack onto my open wound (from the crash I had the previous week) that was in part covered by a band-aid. It stung the hell out of my wound and it was so painful that you would have heard me in the next valley. I must have sound like a mad-man that’s for sure – the vicious assailant finally flew away after a few seconds which seemed like an eternity to me. Actually. I think this wasp was inside my helmet for at least 10kms as I felt movement inside it when tackling one of the climbs.

I can still count the number of DNFs I have had in my cycling career on one hand, and I never give up easily without a good fight. I had waited on the side of the road hopeful of getting either a wheel change or a tube so I can at least finish the race. But, as the minutes ticked by and the entire mountain bike race (yes they raced on the road!) went by, I was resigned to the fact that I was getting another DNF in consecutive weeks (a last lap crash in Shanghai and a mangled bike prevented me from finishing in the previous week). I flagged down a van, and was given a ride back to the start/finish area.

The run of bad luck does not end here… after arriving back at the race venue I discovered that my wedding ring was missing! My heart skipped a beat and I searched the immediate area for it but to no avail. It suddenly dawned upon me, I had lost the ring while under wasp attack. Through the wild shaking of my hands the wedding ring must have slid of my sweaty finger. I went back and found the location where I lost it, but it was never found. Either I needed a good metal detector or some lucky Chinese person found it and is proudly showing it off to his friends.

Wuyishan is definitely a place to check out for some great road riding in China. It is stunningly beautiful and I would recommend it as a destination for a cycling touring holiday. There are mountain biking opportunities as well.

  • Simon

    The scenery may have been beautiful but the organizers sound like they need a crash course in race organization!

  • Newton

    dang dude…at least Shanghai’s Kea event went smoothly…and the passport issue!

  • Jen and Tony Clark

    And so… what about the ring??? Did Jen get you a replacement?! What a ridiculous day! But a great story!