Pre-race: Arrived at Walnut Hll Park in New Britain, CT for the Nutmeg Classic Criterium at about 8:15 a.m. rested but not quite ready after an extremely busy week of work, including a couple of all-nighters. As I wandered about looking for where to park, I saw fellow MRC'ers, Bill T and Rob F warming up and they told me where to go. Got parked, registered and on my bike by about 8:30 and started doing loops on the neighborhood roads adjacent to the course.
Newbie racer lesson learned: use 8 safety pins, not 4 to attach your number to your jersey: with 4 pins, the flapping of my number was sure to drive me batty during the race. My Minuteman Road Club teammate, Stefan, also showed me a better way to pin the number on as well.
After lowering my coefficient of drag, I resumed my warmup. Every lap around, I got a view of Stefan jamming to who-knows-what on his iPod as he warmed up on his trainer. Couldn't tell if he was singing out loud...
As we rolled up to the start of the 4/5 Masters 30+, the 4's race was just finishing and about 10 riders from the front, mid-pack, two guys crashed HARD 10 yards from the finish line. Hate to see that right before you start your own race.
Stefan got a good slot at the front and I was right behind him. I was feeling pretty confident despite the lack of training this week. We started off pretty briskly and I set to the task of looking for some good wheels to hang onto. I had this big truck of a guy in front of me for a while but then found myself inside and in the wind (which Stefan came up behind me to alert me to, thx!). Got in the draft of some heavily tattooed guy who looked pretty strong and hung with him for laps 2-3.
Lap 4, I'm finally feeling pretty settled in, maybe just ahead of mid-pack. There were already a couple of half-hearted "breaks" and I noticed this one African-American guy who I remembered from the Thompson Raceway bike race last year and thought, "HE's who I should stick with".
After we came around the long, sweeping left that leads to the start/finish straight, I was on the outside and accelerating when I heard that sickening sound of bicycles tangling/crashing. Looking ahead and a little to the left of me, I saw the blur of cyclists going down and thought I would be able to squeeze through between them and the curb, about 18" to my right.
Sadly, their momentum took one of the bikes directly in front of me and I hit it, went over the bars (letting out a stream of expletives as I "flew") then down pretty hard. In that instant, I prepared for the next guy behind me to run me over - luckily, this never happened. I grabbed the top tube of my bike and dragged it and myself off the course and sat down in the grass to triage myself.
A little road rash here and there but my left shoulder was hurting pretty bad. One of the other two guys who didn't resume racing was still on the course with little birdies flying around his head (it turns out, he did split his helmet nearly in half). The third guy was on the side holding his RIGHT shoulder. I think two others crashed but tried to rejoin the race.
The on-site doctor thought I might have a slight dislocation but recommended I get an x-ray at the conveniently located Central Connecticut New Britain General Hospital: 3/4 of mile away on the other side of the race course, visible from where I crashed.
I hung out with an ice bag on my shoulder as Stefan, Bill and Rob finished and then Stefan drove me over to the ER. Outcome of ER visit: AC Joint Sprain, Motrin and Vicodin (whee!). I'm definitely going to visit my primary doc asap to get his opinion as I think something is definitely going on worse than a mere "sprain".
Bike triage: as far as I can tell, my bike survived unscathed. I fully expected a twisted up front wheel but everything seems fine. No head contact and my kit has no tears. The surprise happened when I walked back to my car after the crash and went to take off my bike shoes: the little release lever on the ratchety strap on my right shoe had been completely torn off. No matter how I tried to get it to release by prying at it with a screwdriver, I could not get it to release - so I reluctantly cut it off with my pocket knife.
At a clinic I participated in this spring, the lead teacher told us, "There are two kinds of bicycle racers: those that have crashed and those that will." I am now a member of the former group.
4:47 PM UPDATE: A little online research and comparison to my x-ray makes me think I've got a Type II AC Separation, but hey, I'm no expert. I'm waiting for a call from a sports doctor my primary physician recommended.