“There was a bad crash in the Cat 5 race,” is one of those things that’s kind of redundant. Cat 5 crashes always seem to be bad.
Perhaps the riders haven’t learned to fall yet, so they get hurt worse.
Or perhaps the riders not immediately involved haven’t learned to stay upright yet, so they domino into a meatpile whereas better riders in higher categories avoid the wreckage.
It’s also possible that the really terrible riders all die, get maimed, or are banned from further race participation by their wives, leaving the pool in the upper categories better and safer.
Maybe the longer you do it, the more cautious you become. (Naaaahhh.)
But when “There was a bad crash in the Cat 5 race” is followed by “and the dude got a hundred stitches,” you’ve entered a new realm of bad crashes.
The coup de grace? You ask, “Where did he get the stitches?”
The bearer of bad tidings blanches a little and says “In his face.”
This leaves you scratching your head trying to imagine what kind of face even has enough real estate to accommodate that many sutures. Somebody with a face like a horse? The only person like that is Mark Cavendish, and he’s no Cat 5.
Welcome to the 2013 Mothballs Criterium in Goleta
Held the day after the PCKRR road race (alternately pronounced “pucker” or “pecker”), my Cat 5 buddy Dave Holland was going great guns on the last lap of the crit. As he came into the final turn, some dude (it’s always “some dude”) came over on him.
In any other race, this is where you would expect the unexpected, in other words, you’d expect the recap to go something like this: “So the dude comes over on me and takes me into the curb and crashes me out.”
Or: “So the dude comes over on me and clips my front wheel and crashes me out.”
Or: “So the dude comes over on me and slides out and crashes me out.”
Or: “So the dude chops my wheel and I veer to avoid him and that takes me out.”
Right. We’ve all been there. It’s one of those scenarios, or at least it would be in a regular race.
But not a Cat 5 race. In a Cat 5 race, you expect the unexpected, then wake up to a parallel universe connected to ours only through the most tenuous and twisting and labyrinthine of wormholes.
Because here’s what happened: “So the dude comes over on me and his rear wheel comes out of his bike and crashes me out.”
Just the sound of those words reorients your brain as your logic motor begins screaming silently at you. “His rear wheel came out? How is that even possible? Did he break a chain while riding a fixie that wasn’t bolted into the track dropouts? Did his rear triangle shatter? Was he riding one of those bikes that only has half a rear triangle?”
But then you remember. “Oh, yeah, it’s Cat 5 racing. Not only can anything happen, shit can happen that can’t even happen, like having your rear wheel come out in the middle of the turn.”
Not “rear wheel flatted” or “rear tire blew out” or “rear wheel collapsed” or “rear wheel locked up,” because all of that fits somewhere, somehow. No, in a Cat 4 race it makes perfect nonsense that the rear wheel came out. Happens all the time. That’s why I carry my Rear Wheel Putter-Inner Tool in my saddle bag when I race Cat 5.
Then it all makes sense. Dave could have added “And these little green men hopped out of the dude’s back jersey pocket and started hacking my face with harvest scythes while singing Russian folk songs” and it wouldn’t have been out of place at all. You would have just nodded and asked if the pictures were up yet on Facebook.
You can’t keep a good face down
When Dave kissed the pavement face-first at speed, his skin and everything attached to it came ripping apart.
“Yeah, man,” said one eyewitness a couple of days later as we chatted before the start of the NPR. “When they peeled his fucking face off the asphalt it didn’t even look like Dave. It was just this pulpy goo with a tongue, some teeth, and pair of eyes sticking out. It was fucking gnarly.”
And another: “He was majorly fucked up. But Peyton got second in the sprint, which was awesome.”
Then another witness added the comment that made it the trifecta of Cat 4 crash reports: “His bike was okay, thank Dog. That was a new frame.” Because every Cat 5 would rather get a hundred stitches in his face and have his face lifted from the pavement with a spatula than have to pay retail for a new frame.
As you inquire, cringing, about whether he’ll ever be the same, the third eyewitness looks at you like you’re crazy. “Aw, hell yeah. He’ll be fine.”
“How can you say that? One hundred stitches in his face? Is he still in the hospital?”
“Naw, man, that was two days ago. They stitched him up good as new. He just looks like a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle and kind of puffy like a rotten tomato.”
“But how can you say he’ll be okay?”
“Dude, he’s a fucking Cat 5. I talked to him yesterday. He’s already back on the trainer. Case closed.”
Yeah. It sure is.