Saturday was Clammy Cross #3. Josh, the promoter, indicated that there would be prizes for hopping the barriers. I am not typically a barrier hopping kind of guy, so I figured I'd skip that competition. Until I got to the venue, that is.
Josh had set up five barriers--two short barriers in sequence with a brief gap before two more short barriers, and then a slightly longer gap before a 40 cm, UCI regulation height barrier. The gap between the first two sets wasn't enough to be worth remounting. Remounting between the fourth and the fifth made sense, but hopping the first four and dismounting for the fifth seemed like it would be the fastest way to go. In practice I attempted the shorter barriers with enough success that I decided I'd give them a go during the race if I was feeling good.
I got my typical fast start on the first lap, second into the hole shot, then got around the leader on the first technical move only to have Rick and one other racer pass me on the climb. I held their wheels on the climb and descent and into the grassy turns, then came around before heading into more technical goodness in the woods.
I had a decent gap on the field without digging too deep. This was uncharted territory for me. Usually if I'm on the front after a lap, it's because I've been pinning it and am well into oxygen debt and ripe for an implosion. The barriers were situated at the end of the lap near the start/finish, and I decided to try hopping. I cleared the first four cleanly and with little effort. I made the mistake of thinking about the glory of hopping the fifth.
In the brief seconds I had to dismount before the 40cm, repurposed steel scaffolding barrier, I thought of nothing other than the glory of hopping the big one as well. I stayed on my bike.
Momentarily, at least. I got my front wheel up and over only to be catapulted into the air when my rear wheel struck the barrier. I saw my bike fly over the top of me before I landed squarely on my head and heard a crunching sound in my neck.
I was surprised at how long it took for the field to catch and pass me while I picked myself up, put my chain back on, and remounted. In hindsight I could have put that gap to good use on the ensuing laps. Instead, I was playing catch up and dug a pretty deep hole in that process.
Nominally, I had my best result ever in a cross race - 5th place (likely would have been one place lower had Rick not ripped a sidewall). I was hoping for a top five going in, so I should be pleased with that. I cleared all four short barriers on each of the subsequent eight laps. 36 barriers is 36 more barriers than I've ever hopped in a cross race. I should be pleased with that. Instead, all I can think of is how good I felt on lap one and what might have been. I'm also left with a nasty case of whiplash, bruised hands, scabs on my forehead, and a broken helmet. At least the X-rays were negative.