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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

About one of my more forgettable mountain biking races

"He'd fly through the air with the greatest of ease,

That daring young man on the flying trapeze."

(George Leybourne 1867, referring to Jules Léotard).

Jules Léotard
Jules Léotard

These are the words I sang over and over in my head for the rest of the day, after what was a rather spectacular crash during a 104 kilometer mountain bike race over the weekend.

I was lucky not to be seriously hurt, there were no safety nets, only a good helmet and modest tumbling skills to save me.

The race was the Lake Hawea Contact Epic. Wet weather forced the race to be changed, to be an out and back, rather than the circumnavigation of the lake. This alternative course was over the muddiest, rockiest and hilliest section of the original course with riders going out and back, doubling the usual mushing of the 4wd trail. This suited me, since mud and technical courses with lots of climbing are what I train for.

I got off to a good start in the field of several hundred and would have been in the first 20, easily, after 20 km. I was especially enjoying the boulder-strewn downhills until my rear wheel hit one hard enough to cause a slow leak. The tyre eventually deflated. By the third stop to pump the tyre up it was obvious the tubeless tyre sealant was not holding, so I removed the wheel and converted it with an inner tube. This, you might gather, is time consuming, and I had already lost many places with the earlier stops and the more cautious riding in between. My goal was to be the first over-60 years old, but this was now seriously in doubt.

Rear wheel fixed and refitted, I was on the mission to regain as many of those positions lost. I still had more than half the 104 km to go, so I was still on for a good placing, but I pushed the downhills too hard. I was heading down a hill at about 40 km/hr when the track deteriorated into a muddy rut and I was in the middle of it! My front wheel first touched the left side then the right, and I was flying, bike and body! I knew this was going to be a serious one. I hit the ground hard and my bike did a couple of noisy somersaults. I saw stars. To make things worse, there was an audience.

Someone called, "Are you okay?"

"Yes", was my immediate reply. It was far too soon to conclude I was okay, but that's what adrenalin and shock do to one's rationality!

I was more concerned about my beloved bike than myself (funny that!). I was both relieved and astonished: my bike was fine, not even bent handlebars. So I brushed myself off and continued, albeit with great care. I felt okay, although with slightly blurred vision. I had suffered what we might best describe as a "bell-ringer". There was no stopping; we were in the middle of nowhere.

Don't get me wrong: this could easily have been a serious accident and I don't want to downplay what happened. I made a basic mountain biking mistake and paid for it. I was lucky. I am probably better than most at assessing injuries, first aid and so on, and my quick assessment was I could continue. The option of staying put was only good for a serious and disabling injury (calling a helicopter).

My vision restored to normal after about half an hour, but my race was more or less over. It was more a matter of finishing The plan was to keep moving, keep warm, no more mishaps, have time to settle down and ongoing assessment any damage, some which may not initially be obvious. The final assessment as the kilometers ticked by was that all systems had reset and I was once again good to go. So the pace quickened.

I finished strongly, in 2nd place, which was both pleasing and disappointing. But that is racing for you. These events are about pushing way outside of one's comfort zones. From this comes personal growth. This was certainly the case that day.

Growth and Resilience comes via stress:

It is only by inducing measured discomfort that we grow and flourish, both mentally and physically. This is something I resolve to practice till the day I die. I'll not hesiate to go out into the freezing and wet weather, I'll exercise hard, I'll compete. I'll also reward my body with nutritious food.

Without regular, measured stress, we wither. We weaken. We die.

My helmet:

I had hit something hard with the side of my helmet, which explains the stars. It did its job well. It was a write-off, but it is better to have a broken helmet than a mushed brain any day!