Elation, implications, drama, heroism, explosions (small), tenacity, foolhardiness, lucidity, flaccidity (not so much, on second thought), turbulence, and so many more adjectives involved in the 2012 Ilheus Continental Cup!
The following report is based on a true story. All actions, hyperbolic or otherwise, represent a hypothetical situation which could possibly explain my oddly slow bike split at the Ilheus Continental Cup.
So much rode on the line here in the backwaters of Brazil. My Olympic trials spot was under pressure and this was my last chance for a good result to guarantee my entry. Or did I need to travel to this at all? (I did. I needed a top 3, but I wouldn’t find that out for a week) To those of us who hadn’t raced in 2011, the qualification process was an enigma at best.
By the time I dove into the ocean water which had about an 8 mph current, I knew just one things (well, actually many things – not many people know just one thing), but was entirely unaware of the luck I would need to finish this race.
The swim ended without incident. I had navigated the harsh current and violent spectators at least better than average and was in the front bike pack ready to rock and roll. After about halfway through the first lap, it seemed the pack had decided to partake in a group recovery ride. Corners were still taken at speed and a sprint was necessitated in order to maintain a position (upright or otherwise) in the pack.
But coming out of the (not closet) a tight corner, I was sprinting out of the saddle when my chain snapped. Broken! Kaput! Done! I don’t carry an extra chain in my saddle bag! I don’t even carry a saddle bag when I race. It is literally impossible to propel a bike with your pedals if you don’t have a chain (and I know the definition of literally!). Dejectedly pushing my bike, I knew that it was impossible to even make the trials cut. With Brazilians laughing at my stumbling walk and a useless bike, my soul was crushed.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, came slowly biking a man dressed in green. Something Irish! A magical leprechaun about three feet too tall to be a leprechaun! The Irishman, Conor Murphy!
He was biking so slowly. What could this mean? Was he lazy? Injured? Would he… GIVE ME HIS BIKE?
“Conor!! Conor!!” “Give me your bike!!!” I ran him down yelling, hoping that he would charitably donate a few carbon fiber tubes and a very functional chain to a fellow triathlete in need. He did! But.. my shoes didn’t fit his pedals. ‘Conor! I need your shoes!’ Kindly he removed his shoes.
With a bike too big and shoes too small, I started a feverish pursuit of the peloton. Lap after lap the huge gap between me and the leaders diminished until I ended the ride with the front bunch of shaven, spandex clad men at least in sight!
I threw pacing to the wind and tried to pass as many people as I could, very quickly. I moved past the guy with dreadlocks first (he wasn’t moving too fast), but then had a variety of good guys in front of me that needed beating if I were to make it to trials in San Diego. And they all just kept coming back to me! I finally moved into 3rd and with the end in sight and the front two, too far ahead, I had to settle for podium.
I was so lucky. I made it back to the room I was sharing with Ethan Brown by clinging to his seat post as he pedaled. There was an Easter party that night, which we attended and luckily escaped without being mugged.
Both of us had performed well, and we sat in our rooms gloating about our trials qualification. We had both moved into the top 70 in the world and with only 70 possible entrants to the trials, we were guaranteed a start! Or so we thought. Tweeting our qualifications to the world, we went to bed happy, but still slightly nervous that somehow, something would go wrong.
It did. A week later the start list was posted and neither of us were on it. Amongst all the mumbo jumbo, apparently something had been lost in translation so that a top 70 world ranking wouldn’t guarantee a start to trials.
It was only after a month of waiting that and 7 days till I toed the start line that I heard I had been accepted into Olympic trials. That was definitely a miserable month.
I need to find someway to close this. Oh yeah! Conor Murphy – heroism. Super cool dude. Follow him on twitter @tri_murphy.