Written by Ryan Hentz Friday, 23 February 2018 00:00
Road to recovery
The 2nd half of 2017 was hectic in my life and I was unable to bike much. I ended up losing most of my fitness and packing on the pounds. Just when I had started to begin racking up miles again in August, disaster struck. On a fast descent, deep in the back country of the San Juan National Forest, I had a pedal clip the ground and send me flying over the handlebars. I was unable to tuck and roll fast enough to prevent the worst scenario... head first crash. My head, neck, and spine took the majority of the impact. The pain was severe instantly, my right arm was tingling, I was laying on the ground unable to breath, unable to move due to pain. The first thing I did was attempt to move all extremities and luckily, I was still able to move them, although it was severely painful. It took about five minutes before I realized I could still stand and I was able to catch very short breaths, but barely able to talk. My back hurt whenever I stood up straight or bent over. To my fortune, I was able to sit in the bike position, although painful, it was tolerable enough that I could coast on the bike. However, if I had to go over a log or any technical feature, I had to get off and walk. My back was in such bad shape that I could not even lift my bike over 3" logs. A couple hours later I made it to the hospital and to my surprise the x-rays came back with NOTHING BROKEN!!!!! For the next few days I was unable to reach or activate my lats and had to have someone else prepare my food and help with things like lifting the toilet seat. The human body is a wonderful thing and after those first few days my recovery started going well. In January I was finally starting to feel 100% again with some casual back pain that I still have to this day. Luckily, it has little affect on biking.
A great part of living in the Southwest is the ability to ski and ride the same day. This year the weather in SW Colorado has been very dry and warm giving me the opportunity to put both road and mountain bike miles into my legs. The combination of outside riding and Zwift races has helped boost my fitness back to where I was at this point last year, maybe even with a slight advantage although I still have a few less miles in my legs due to my hectic work schedule.
I have been attending the VoS race for the past 4 years. It is a great early season race and since it's hosted in Phoenix, AZ, the weather tends to be perfect for racing without a bunch of warm weather gear. This year the temperatures were perfect, arm warmers optional and no need for knee warmers. One disadvantage to this race is that you are racing against many people who have already been racing throughout the winter, in the warm AZ temperatures. There is a local criterium series which allows the local racers to build some great 5 minute power. Given that, in the road race the only climb is 5 minutes long, this puts those of us who haven't been racing at a disadvantage, but also motivates us to push hard and get a good training stress score in with hopes to come off this race with a big fitness gain.
The time trail went mostly as expected. I was a little disappointed to be approximately one minute behind my previous best time. However, this year there was a slight headwind on the first half of the race which is slightly uphill. Last year, there was a tail wind here, which helps bigger guys like myself get up the hills fast. This year the tailwind was on the downhill, which is beneficial for me, but nearly as much as having it on the uphill. The time trial put me into 18th out of 31, again disappointing. I also quickly realized that I needed to put a lot more time in on the time trial bike in order to adapt my legs and body to the positioning to become more efficient and keep an aerodynamic position throughout the race.
The 2nd day of the race is the road race, my favorite. The road race consists of 3 laps, with one 5 minute climb at the end of each lap. I felt great throughout the race and knew that I had to go hard up the hill each time or end up riding alone for the rest of the race. The first time up the hill went really well and I was able to keep up with the front group. The second time up the hill a small group or riders put a small gap on the field, including the GC leader who was right with me. Given, that my good friend was in the small break I decided it was best for me to sit in the chase group and see what happens. The GC leader along with his teammate and another person put out some pretty big efforts and within 12 minutes we had caught back on to the lead group. The pull to catch that group did a number on my legs and was by far the most 10 minute power output I have done year to date. This created some pretty tired legs for the 3rd time up the hill, pushing me about 30 seconds off the winners time and into 17th place. Although, I did gain enough time on another rider to overtake him in the GC.
The final stage is a fun criterium near the Arizona Capitol Museum. The criterium course is mostly flat with no steep hills, but it does have 7 turns, which always makes for an interesting Cat 4 race. Two years ago there were at least 4 crashes, so I always go into this race very nervous. Luckily, this year we had a great group and there was only one close call, no crashes. The field was very strong and I continued to give it my all hoping for a great fitness boost. On the last lap I attempted to pull my buddy who was doing better in the GC up to the front while pedaling down the back straight away. I was able to put him into decent position, but this meant my legs were spent for the front straight sprint. I ended up getting scored 0 seconds back from the leaders since it was a group finish, but was unable to gain any GC places.
All in all the race was fun as always and being so early in the season, it's not meant to be more than a fun fitness boost in some warm weather. After my August crash I'm thankful I can still walk let alone continue to ride and race my bikes I love so much.
Thanks to Bikeman.com, SRAM, Carver Bikes, and Stages cycling for continuing to provide reliable equipment to myself and all of the biking community. Being able to race without mechanical issues and gear you can trust helps keep me focused on the enjoyment of riding and racing.
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