Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Dark Side of a Seemingly Beautiful Endeavor

"Aaahhh, why, why, why," he exclaimed.

While rocketing through the quiet, backcountry roads of Santa Maria, California, three Under-23 cyclists competing with Team Rokform hit the deck... hard.

The crash, in a simulated team time trial, should not have occurred. What was meant to be an outstanding Sunday afternoon, which involved pushing the limits of body, mind, spirit, and equipment, rapidly turned sour. 

At an estimated 30-35 miles per hour, crashing on asphalt is brutal, to say the least. In a sport that provides a sense of freedom, fulfillment, and pleasant suffering, cycling has no issues questioning a rider's rational. 

For the non-cyclists, consider jumping out of a car, which is traveling between 30-35 miles per hour, in your underwear. A crash, in cycling, is eerily similar, where minimal protection includes lycra bib shorts and an overly complex, scientifically designed, minimal jersey.

After skidding to a stop, moaning on the ground, being embraced by teammates, mentors, and compassionate bystanders, a reflection was necessary. 

Prior to the incident, I was placed third in a line of six cyclists. The six man team time trial group included five Under-23 Team Rokform members and one mentor, who is a representative of GU Energy Labs, a sponsor. 

The eclectic and experienced group possessed foreign riders, riders with international racing experience, aspiring professional cyclists, one professional cyclist, and six youthful men stoked on life that embraced a blind trust in one another. 

Through sharing pulls and rotating in and out of the wind, a team of cyclists can assist in maintaining a rapid speed.

The first rider in line was Robert, a stud. Robert and I competed in Belgium together, during the summer of 2014. Robert is an interesting character, with a bold personality. He is an Eagle Scout and one that can be trusted. 

The second rider in line was Aubrey, a second-year Under-23 racer. Aubrey and I do not know each other extremely well, aside from the occasional conversation and race appearance. 

The third rider in line was me, Sean Bird. 

The fourth rider in line was Duban, a solid engine. He is down to earth, humble, and very much a team player. 

The fifth and sixth riders in line were Wesley and Yuri, but I am unsure of the specific order. Wesley is a South African, who is in the United States to race his bicycle. Yuri is a representative of GU Energy Labs and he was our acting mentor for the team time trial. 

Every team member understood his place, specific strengths, and had the ability to draw on past team time trial experiences, while providing tips and tricks. Yuri was eager to join in on the fun, as all six men were hollering, motivating one another, and maintaining a constant line of communication.

Before long, the action got real and everyone snapped back to reality.

With Aubrey slamming Robert's rear wheel and toppling, I had no time to react. 

In a matter of seconds, I had collided with Aubrey's bicycle and been launched off of my machine. I performed a decent flip and landed on my left side, with abrasions to my elbow, hip, and back. 

Behind me, Duban also went down. 

Wesley and Yuri performed erratic maneuvers, as the stories go, to remain upright and only inflict minimal damage to their bicycles. 

Before long, Yuri was standing over me. I rested on my back, moaning, and attempting to remain calm. Aubrey had taken my hand, in an attempt to console me. 

The next wave of events occurred extremely rapidly. A combination of wound cleaning, equipment checks, and transportation to the local emergency room occurred. 

An outstanding bystander, Patricia, saved the day for me, as she kept my sprits high and bravely transported me to the hospital. I owe her a massive thank you. A team father followed and guided me through the hospital experience, while we shared stories and reflections. 

Did the accident hurt? Yes. Did the wound cleaning burn? Yes. Did I moan, groan, and whine in agony? Yes. Was my reaction potentially dramatic? Yes. 

Do I have amazing teammates, mentors, family, and friends? Yes. Am I thankful for the human response to flock to those in need? Yes. Will I return the favor, should the need arise? Yes. Will I be back on a bicycle soon, which is supported with outlandish engineering and 23 millimeter tires? Yes. 

In continuously discovering the dark side of a seemingly beautiful endeavor, the positive memories are made that much sweeter. 

However, questions, comments, and concerns will most definitely come from all angles. Why continue with cycling? What is the appeal? Why are men and women interested in a potentially destructive sport? 

To be completely honest, I do not know the answer. I have pondered the same questions. 

I do know that cycling provides me with an outlet, a sense of freedom, the ability to travel, meet outstanding people, and give back to the community. 

From an 18 year old innocent man, who is currently wrapped in bandages and listening to Bob Marley music, live life to the fullest and never stop moving forward. 

See you on the road and trails soon. Oh, do not forget to keep the rubber side down, as that tends to increase the stoke factor! Keep it real and enjoy the ride.