Walt's was able to obtain a replacement Ui2 derailleur after it snapped last weekend. I basically wrote off the incident as a fluke and due to my trust in Shimano and the knowledge that numerous professionals were racing the Di2 at the highest level, that I'd be good to go.
Most of last week was spent working. Most of my bicycle related activities consisted of talking with Maggie and thinking about the next month of our lives, with the question-Is it worth it for a regionally strong amateur racer to continue training through the holidays in order to make a run at the Master's 30-34 national championship in Madison Wisconsin on Jan 7th. Given a number of pluses and minuses, we've ultimately decided that the sacrifices are worth it and that I'm going to work my butt-off over the next month getting ready.
My friend's at Columbia Strength and Conditioning must really believe in me and appreciate the significance of a guy with lungs full of tumors and bone metastases being able to compete at a high level. They've offered too sponsor me and train me in the weight room over the next month! These guys are hands-down the best weight trainers I've ever encountered. They're continually attending national and international seminars and back-up their methods with scientifically proven research. Many of their views are extreme in some ways, but essentially their biggest influence is Charles Poliquin, who is probably one of the most successful strength coaches on the planet. I'm a big believer in the benefits of weight lifting for cycling and CSC is the best I've ever encountered, so I'm incredibly excited to have my first individual sponsor!
So, I got psyched for nationals. Really psyched. The state race this past weekend had been a goal for 2 years. I felt like I was riding well enough to win in almost any conditions on almost any course. I've significantly improved in the mud the last few weeks and basically did everything I could to prepare...I started wearing my contacts lenses again so that I could see without glasses and last wednesday, arranged to have my friends from Walt's (Josh Carrol in particular, HUGE THANK YOU) work the pits so that I was doing bike changes at regular intervals.
The rest of the week was spent recovering from Jingle cross. I did some easy endurance-paced riding, but that was it. Saturday during my opener ride, I knew my legs were good.
Sunday was very thick, heavy mud. Very similar to jingle cross day 3. The course however had considerably more pedaling sections and most of the hard mud sections were not at turns, but were seated-power or even slight downhills. I was stoked with the course. At the start, I had an uncharacteristic bad start, while a Travis Donn and another KC-area rider had fantastic starts. A few others were in front of me including my teamate Devin, Josh Johnson, and maybe one other. But at a big technical 180, I took an inside line while everyone else went wide and next thing I knew, I was chasing down Travis with Devin in tow. By the end of the lap, I Travis had a 5 sec gap and I was alone chasing. It stayed that way for a few laps and I was pretty happy with where everyone was on the race course and how I felt. The pace was solid, but I hadn't gone into the red yet. I eventually caught and passed him on a slight uphill, only to have him reclaim the lead at some point during the following lap.
During those laps, I was doing bike changes at the pits to ensure problems didn't happen. Basically the plan was 2 laps per bike. At some point I gapped Travis and started settling into a solid pace knowing I needed to save a bunch for the last 4. This must have been lap 5 or 6 in the race because I was on my Ui2 bike. It was functioning flawlessly. Really precise, incredible shifting. It was like the mud wasn't there and there was always the option no matter what kind of wattage I was putting out to shift in front.
After the start/finish and before the barriers, I looked back to see Josh had is disel engine firing full gas and even appeared to have a little more kick. He was bridging up to me. Stay calm I thought, no problem. Just ride clean and take deep breaths. My legs weren't burning and I was breathing out of my nose, so I knew this was where the race was beginning. This is the moment I had been waiting for. I started thinking about Wash U, my friend Jason, and my own cancer...I started getting myself psyched and ready to hurt.
Then my bike broke. Catastrophically.
And that was the end of my race.
I ran a very long way, including the long pool of thick-mud with my bike on my shoulder. The rear derailleur had snapped in the exact same fashion as last sunday. I probably should have quit, but honestly that didn't occur to me. Immediately I started thinking about nationals. Johnson passed, Donn passed, and Schottler passed. That was it. And it was a long run. I grabbed my pit bike and kept going...full of rage. Managed to finish 4th. Not the result I was hoping for.
The caveat to intrepretting the following pictures is that n=1 and the conditions were indeed muddy. However, I was definitely doing bike changes, unlike the prior week. The derailleur did not shift into the spokes and the break did not happen during a shift. It was simply under-load and forced the derailleur to fly between the seatstay and spokes. As you can see, the metal surrounding the mounting bolt is extremely thin. In neither this break or last week's did the derailleur hanger break. And in both cases it was actually the metal of the derailleur:
Unfortunately this time, when the derailleur flew into my frame, it must have hit the right chainstay, as it is cracked all the way through:
Right now I hope to race next weekend. Then train for a few weeks and finish off the month by lining up at the UCI race in Chicago over New Years weekend. Maggie is going to come for that one and then I'll head to Notre Dame to do some experiment's in my old bosses lab. From there, I'll drive straight to Madison at the end of the week and hopefully my luck will start to change.