That is the noise I heard, and that everyone around me heard as I hit the edge of a pavement joint on a ride yesterday morning. That sick sound that tells you that things are not ok. The sound that makes cyclists wince. The sound that makes you swear and at the same time pray that you can keep the rubber side down on the road.
Several years ago I spent a spring season riding with a group of roadies who were Cat 3-5 racers. I was one of a handful of women who went out on the rides with these men and over the period of a few months, I was able to hold my own pretty darn good and hang with the group and not get dropped. I gained strength, speed, handling skills, and confidence. That spring I was able to average 21 mph on an Olympic distance triathlon course.
Fast forward to 2010 and I knew that if I wanted to get my bike power and speed back in top form, I was going to have to ride with the roadies again. My road bike was at the shop for a tune up before it gets packed up for a trip (YAHOO!!!) so I was on my Kuota running my Zipp 404's. My Mavic Kysrium wheel set was on the road bike. The group that I would be riding with was mainly men and mainly roadies. There were at least 4 other women in the group of 35-40 riders and 3 other people riding tri bikes. Being a newbie to the group I decided to hang to the back and get used to rolling 12 inches away from some one's back tire rather than 7 meters away.
We left the ride start and flew through downtown Houston and out through the inner-loop neighborhoods until we got to Hwy 255 that would run southeast through Pasadena, TX and towards the Fred Hartman bridge, loop around Baytown, TX and back to town. The route was 66 miles in all. I was doing a good job of hanging on the back of the huge peloton and averaging speeds of 22-25 mph and up to 27.8 mph at one point. There were points on the route where the roads were rough; but, because I had hung back I was able to snake my way though some of the bumps and pot holes.
When we hit the feeder road of Hwy 255 and about 18 miles into the ride, we were rolling along at a good clip when two cyclists right in front of me yelled out "HOLE" and they both swerved, one right and one left. Because I was rolling about 15 inches off of their back wheels, I had no time to react and swerve without taking someone out. I saw the "hole" which was actually a rut where the corner of a pavement joint had crumbled away with the straight edge of the next pavement joint running perpendicular to my wheel. I had no choice but to roll over it and hope my crotch would not suffer too badly or that I would not bite my tongue.
As soon as I hit the raised edge of the pavement joint I felt like I was kicked in the groin. I threw out an expletive and almost instantaneously I hit the lip with my back wheel and heard "CRACK!!!" Out of my mouth flew another expletive and I started to slow knowing that I had probably punctured a tire. As soon as I tried to feather the breaks, the bike started swerving and I quickly let go of the breaks and coasted and unclipped to bet ready to stop. I had a few other cyclists ask if I was ok but first and foremost in my mind was to get out of the road if traffic was behind me and to start changing my flat front tire.
I had so much adrenalin running through my body that I got to work fast even though two cycle boys were waving at me to come down the sidewalk to where there was some shade. Greyhound was thankfully on the same ride and he had pulled over and was giving me the "'Atta Girl" as I was dripping sweat all over the place and having a rough go of getting the tire off the rim. Since I run Continental R4000's, I almost never get a flat. That being said, the bead of the tire never gets stretched out. I changed that tire and got it back on the front fork and noticed that my handle bars had bent down quite a bit when I hit. I forcefully pulled them back up and tried to use a multi-tool to tighten the bolts but those suckers were on tight already. As soon as I tried to pedal away and get back on the road, I knew something was very wrong.
My back tire was flat as well! Now I was in the shade and I got to work again as one of the roadie guys held my bike for me. As soon as I was working the tire off the rim I noticed that one of my Zipp decals was peeled up off the deep dish rim..."NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" The rim was cracked all the way on both sides. My ride was over. The rest of the ride group was about a mile and a half up the road at a gas station waiting for us and I just had to pray that my wheel would hold up to get me to the gas station to let everyone know we were ok and that they could go on. I changed the tire and we limped to the gas station.
I felt like a huge tool rolling up with everyone looking at the stupid tri nerd who kept them all waiting. The cycle boys told the ride leader what happened and that I was ok, but that I was headed home and possibly by cab. I further humiliated myself by whacking my head on a sign at the gas station trying to put my bike up against a wall so I could take in some fuel. Greyhound joked that my hefty 117 lbs. was more than the wheels could handle. I wanted to pull a Norman Stadler and throw my bike across the parking lot of the gas station. I knew I was not allowed to shed a tear in front of these guys so anger was the only emotion that I could draw on. At that, I just clammed up and shoved a Clif Mojo bar in my mouth and took a deep breath.
Greyhound said he was going to get me home. We were either going to ride it super slow or if things were worse than we thought, we would get a cab and pay the driver when we got back to our cars. We took a gentle 17-18 mph pace back home as the heat and humidity only increased. At least we made it back before the rest of the ride group did. We were lucky to have made it back. When I loaded the bike in the car I noticed a puncture in the back tire and part of the tube peeking out of the hole. After loading the bikes in the cars Greyhound said I needed a treat from the Starbucks that was in the strip center where we parked. Thank you Greyhound for hanging with me when I know you wanted to keep going on the ride. I owe you one.
I called ahead to my bike shop and let them know that I was on the way and what happened. Once I got there, I got a chance to look at my bike. Here are the photos:
This crack is as bad as plumber's crack. Maybe worse!
This is on the left side of the rear wheel.
Here is the crack on the right side of the rear wheel.
There is that nice bulging tube trying to get out of the punctured tire.
Here you can see that the rim has a dent in it. That is why the bike felt loopy when I tried to break.
Another angle of the dent and the crack on the right side of the rear wheel.
AND to add insult to injury, my front wheel is cracked as well.
I was very lucky to have had such a great run on these Zipp 404 wheels for over 4 years. They have been through three Ironman races and a whole bunch of 70.3 races all around the globe. I had really only used these wheels for races up until last year when I got lazy and did not put my Mavic wheels back on the Kuota after I got back from Colorado last year. Someone asked me a week ago if I was going to get a new wheel set for Ironman Texas. I joked and told them I had to ride my 404's until I cracked them. Little did I know that there would be some truth to that statement. Ok, so they did some longer miles on the last ten weeks of training leading up to Ironman Cozumel. I had only picked the bike back up again in my training in the last few weeks once I finished my TNT coaching and running the marathon. So about 12-13 weeks of training plus 3 Ironman races, 6 half IM or 70.3 races, and 1-2 Olympic races. I loved these wheels. The Zipp reps convinced me at a USAT Coach's symposium back in 2006 how awesome their wheels were so I ordered me a pair to use for my first Ironman race. The Zipp reps did not lie. Those wheels were awesome. I found out how awesome they were last fall at Ironman Cozumel in the howling wind on the east side of the island as I was passing a whole lot of strong looking men and women on the second and third loops of the bike course.
Now I have to get me a new pair. I have to do some investigation into whether or not there is a warenty on these wheels or if there is a crash replacement program where I might be able to get some credit towards a new set of wheels. I'm thinking Zipp 808's or possibly a 1080 on the rear and and 808 up front. That may be a reach. I don't know if I am a good enough cyclist to justify having a killer wheel set like that. Well, for now my Ironman Texas training will be done on my wheels off my 2001 Cannondale. They were $45 rims each. I guess I need to be humbled and spend some time saving my money for a new set of Zipps.
I found $5 that fell out of someone's pocket in the laundry today. I guess I have some money to start my Zipp fund!
Later Gators with more wheel updates,