I just returned from a week-long trip to California for the Sea Otter Classic, a big cycling festival. I was there with the Hayes gang, representing the company in the outdoor expo. From a work standpoint, it was a good show. We introduced six new products and made good contact with all the key media guys. The weather was somewhat crummy – cold and windy – but it was dry, which apparently is atypical.

While we were there, I took the opportunity to open my racing season by signing up for the Pro/1/2 road race. I thought it would be fun to test myself against a strong pro field on a hilly course. Not only that, it was a beautiful area, and I looked forward to seeing more of it from the bike.

The race began on the Laguna Seca racetrack, then rolled out onto the surrounding roads. Moments after we passed through the gates, I flatted. Nuts! Fortunately, there was neutral support, so I was able to get a wheel change. Still, I wasn’t confident of my ability to chase back up to a pro field after a 30-or-so second delay. I managed to do it, though, and caught on just as the field hit the bottom of the first big climb. Thankfully no one attacked, because it was all I could to hang on, having already spent a good handful of minutes in the red zone. When we finally crested the top, I thought I was in the clear. Boy, was I wrong.

On the ensuing gradual descent, the road suddenly erupted in potholes. Not just inconvenient, bumpy potholes. Not even the kind that will dent a rim and cause a flat. These were the kind of potholes that can damage cars. Panic went through the field, and two guys in front of me went down. I had nowhere to go, and rode right into them, somersaulting over the bars. A fourth guy did the same, landing on me. I got up as quickly as possible to survey the damage. My right arm was sore, and my right knee was bleeding. I hurt bad enough that I knew my day was over. Thankfully, no broken bones. One of the other guys appeared pretty badly beaten up. He was conscious, but not moving much. Some of the race officials stopped to help and called for paramedics.

As we waited, I picked up my bike and checked it over. The wheels were still true, but the front tire was flat. My shifters were scratched up, but functional. The saddle was slightly scuffed, but not torn. I thought I was in the clear. Then I stepped around to the left side of the bike, and my heart sank. There, on my brand-new bike’s downtube, was a two-inch-long hole, just in front of the bottom bracket. My bike was dead. Thankfully, I wasn’t.

I and the other victims got a ride back to the festival grounds where we received excellent medical care. The woman cleaning me up asked me to fill out a form with my name, address, etc. She then began asking me the standard head-injury questions. When I expressed my surprise, she told me to take off my helmet. I did so and discovered a line of eight punctures, obviously put there by the chainring of the bike upon which I had landed head-first. Whoa. Add one new helmet to the day’s body count. I endured a thorough and painful scrubbing of my knee, elbow, and shoulder, then wheeled the remains of my bike back to the Hayes truck.

In all, about an hour and a half elapsed between the crash and my return to the truck. I began to worry that the race organizers might have already called Kelley to notify her of the crash. Fortunately, I got to her first and assured her that I was okay. Having done that, I was finally free to clean up, get dressed, and regale my coworkers with my tragic story.

My next mission was to see about replacing the bike. I wasn’t expecting anything more than the good deal I’d already gotten through Crank Daddy’s. Of course, I was hoping for something even less expensive.

Naturally, Specialized had their own huge area in the expo grounds. Having obtained the name of a potentially sympathetic marketing comrade, I marched over, carrying the remains of my bike. I found him talking with two other Specialized employees. I introduced myself, showed them the bike, and explained what happened. One of the other Specialized guys took the bike, saying, “let me put some duct tape over that so you don’t get a splinter.” So I don’t get a splinter. Okay. And maybe so no one sees a brand new Specialized with a big hole in it. He came back with the bike and instructed me to call customer service to get a crash-replacement frame. Sigh. Well, it was worth a try. Duct Tape Man then excused himself, and Marketing Guy and I continued to talk – about the bike, the crash, and then just the show itself. Finally, he said something along the lines of, “don’t worry, Mike’s got his way of doing things, but I think I can help you out.” Sweet. Then a spark of recognition. “Mike… Sinyard?” I asked. Affirmative. I had just gotten my dead Specialized duct taped by the owner of the company, whom I had failed to recognize.

I walked back to the Hayes truck feeling relieved and encouraged.

As I write this, I’m back in the office. My wounds are healing, although a cracked rib appears to be among them. I’ve also got bruises developing all over my body like a bunch of dark, blurry Polaroids. However, I’m very thankful to have gotten off relatively easy. My guardian angel has probably earned a promotion to guardian archangel. Hopefully he doesn’t celebrate with a week-long vacation while I’m riding in North Carolina!

Pictures of the helmet and bike to follow.