Close But No Cigar, Part VI: Dug’s Tragedy

08.19.2007 | 8:29 pm

A Note from Fatty: OK, you’ve heard from me (a lot) about this year’s Leadville. You’ve heard from Susan. You’ve heard from Bob. Now it’s Dug’s turn. After this post, we’ll stop retrospecting and will come back to the present. Unless Brad, Rick Sunderlage, or Kenny has something they’d like to contribute, that is.

I wish I had a funny, clever recap to share, but I don’t. I mean, I hate solemn, whiny reports. Hate em. But this is all I’ve got for Leadville ‘07.

I’ve been riding the WaltWorks for a few weeks, and it felt dialed. No issues whatsoever. I started the race hoping for 10 hours, thinking 11 was realistic, and I would settle for 12.

I started toward the back, knowing that I’d be going slow on the 5 miles of paved neutral downhill before the actual start and the dirt, but really, I should have started farther up, since at the beginning of the race, the people at the back and the people at the front are going essentially the same speed (faster than me), but once we hit the dirt, what with me being on the single, well, I was going faster up the opening St. Kevins climb. Or rather, I wanted to go faster, but as soon as we hit the dirt, the road was so crowded that the train literally stopped. As in, no movement.

We got moving again in fits and starts, like stop and go on a freeway, but once we hit the actual climb, of course, all it takes is one unlucky person to slip on a rock to stop the train again. Frustrating. But really, I guess in retrospect, it only lasted 15 minutes or so before it cleared out. It probably felt worse than it was.


I rode the first 40 miles feeling very strong, on pace for about 10.5, I even felt good on the flats, which is weird on a single. Both St. Kevins and Sugarloaf felt great, like I had the perfect gearing. (Maybe I did have the perfect gearing, the golden mean. Is 32/20 the golden mean? I think it is.)

I ran into friends here and there. The weather was great. Everything was great, in fact. So great. So wonderfully, terribly great. Which makes the rest of the race so much more sucky.

At about mile 40, maybe just shy of that, I was heading down a very sketchy rutted hill (that the race people call “Clavicle Hill” – not a good omen), and I tried to pass a woman who had both brakes locked up and was fishtailing. I called out “on your right” which, apparently, where she’s from, means, “Veer suddenly to your right immediately!” Which she did, sending me into a ditch, over my bar, and into the sagebrush.

I landed hard on my right elbow and shoulder, aggravating a slight shoulder injury I’d gotten a few weeks before when my front brake (different bike) failed midride. I jumped up, thinking I was fine.

I spun the wheels, straightened the bars, and everything seemed in order. But after a couple miles, my pedal stroke suddenly felt like I’d broken either my leg, or a pedal spindle. I looked down, and the left crank arm came off, cleat still in pedal. Which is just weird.

Luckily I had recently added a Park multi tool to my bag that had an allen key big enough for my crank bolt. So I put the crank back on, tightened it as best I could, and went on my way. I went through Twin Lakes aid station feeling really good, ringing my bell, feeling like I had dodged disaster.

But of course, I hadn’t. As I started up Columbine, chatting with Lisa, who was riding very well, the crank arm came loose again, so I pulled over and tightened it again. And then, when the hill got steep (the first mile or so of Columbine is one of the steepest) I realized I couldn’t pull up with any force with my right arm, and in singlespeed riding, pulling up on the bars is everything on steep climbs.

I didn’t want to bail, so I slowed down, watched Lisa disappear up the trail, and tried to soft pedal my way up the first five miles of Columbine in the trees, hoping my shoulder would loosen up. But it got worse instead; the pain got sharper, and I got slower and slower, with people on geared bikes in granny gear going by me.

I also had to stop every mile or two to tighten the crank bolt, I guess because my little Park tool didn’t give me the leverage I needed. Oh, plus the threads were stripped and the bolt crooked. That didn’t help.

The last three miles of Columbine are harsh under good circumstances, and 90% of the racers walk the whole section, and for me this was excruciating. As I dragged my butt to the top, I saw racer after racer, friend after friend bombing downhill, and my spirits got lower and lower as I got higher and higher.

I reached the top at last, and dropped my bike and went over into the weeds by myself to cry. I knew I was done. Some nice people tried to cheer me up, but I was probably like a cornered badger, and I apologize to whomever I snapped at up there. I knew I had injured my shoulder, but I didn’t know the extent. Soft tissue, rotor cuff, separation, hey, I’m no doctor. I’m fine with pain, it’s injury I avoid.

I waited for Bob, and when he showed up, totally blown, we hung out for a minute, commiserating, and then we headed down together. I guess the advantage we had was there were very few riders coming up for us to dodge. I had to stop to replace the crank arm twice on the descent. Once we got to the Twin Lakes aid station, Bob decided to keep plowing on (he would later finish in about 12.5 hours, remarkable tenacity for how he was feeling – inspirational, really), but I called Rick’s wife, Rachelle, to come pick me up and give me a ride to town.

In retrospect, I hate myself for not at least riding to the Fish Hatchery. I’ve gone over it in my mind a thousand times. I think about it, literally, a dozen times a day. But I couldn’t stomach the thought of stopping to tighten my crank every mile or two, and the idea of pushing my bike over the two mountain passes of Sugarloaf and St Kevins to get to the finish was not something I thought I could handle. But I should have tried. At the time I guess I was sure I couldn’t, but I still feel like a pansy for bailing.

Anyway. There you go. As you can tell, I’m still bitter and depressed. I wish it were a better story. I’ll get over it. I wish I could go back and try again this Saturday. Waiting a year, maintaining fitness for a year, that’s too much to take. I need redemption now.

On the other hand, I have an appointment with the Orthopedic doctor this week, and if I get the green light, me n Elden n Rick S. are going to do the E100 in Park City on August 25th. 100 miles, all singletrack, something like 18,000 feet of vertical. And that will give me, as Rachel (or was it Ross?) said, “Closure.”

PS from Fatty: According to the terms of our bet, if Dug failed to complete the race, he is required to give me both his Surly and his Gemini. Since, however, the Surly has been parted out and I would not want the Gemini under any circumstances, I hereby claim an equivalent prize: Dug’s Waltworks single speed. Unfortunately, this bike is too large for me, so I will allow Dug to continue to ride it, indefinitely, with the understanding that it is actually my bike and I am just letting him use it because I’m a really great guy.


  1. Comment by dawn | 08.19.2007 | 8:44 pm

    Seems like a very fair settling of your bet.

  2. Comment by mark | 08.19.2007 | 8:52 pm

    Fatty the merciful–that’s a very generous settling of the bet. Can I borrow some money?

    Tough break, dug. There’s always next year. Are you a cubs fan?

  3. Comment by Yukirin Boy | 08.20.2007 | 12:03 am

    I think everyone who has ever crashed in a race knows something, if even a small part, of your pain, feelings of guilt for bailing and need for closure. What makes it worse is the crash was not even your fault. – If you crash on your own you can somehow rationlize it. You did great! Respect.

    How is the shoulder now?

  4. Comment by Tripp | 08.20.2007 | 1:22 am

    I’ve been riding for 14 years, so this isn’t a comment coming from a complete newb:

    I’ve never understood calling out “on your left” or “on your right” when overtaking a rider going a lot slower than you are. Now, I suppose it is different when mountain biking, but on the road, I’ve found it safer to pass in silence. Sometimes I say “hold your line.” But it seems to me that “on your left” is greeted with a swerve to the left around seventy five percent of the time.

    I prefer to pass several feet to the side and so quickly that I’m past before the person even fully understands that I’m there.

  5. Comment by Willie Nelson | 08.20.2007 | 5:01 am

    Dug, I hear testosterone helps with faster healing…. I know this guy in a lab in the Bay Area who helped out this ball player… Ok, no I don’t. But get better soon.

  6. Comment by Orbea Girl | 08.20.2007 | 5:03 am


    I am a newbie road cyclist and would find it very disconcerting if anyone were to shout something at me from behind. The convention on the roads in France is to do as you suggested, pass slower riders as quickly as possible giving them plenty of space. There’s no calling out other than the odd “Bonjour” or a few words of encouragement if someone’s labouring. On the odd occasion I have managed to overtake someone ( 1point for a mountain bike, 3 points for a road bike, 5 points for road bike and club jersey, 500 points for a pro-cyclist – plenty of them out training on the Cote d’Azur), I too have followed this convention.


    Sorry to hear about your fall, all the more galling when it wasn’t your fault. Hope the shoulder is now ok and better luck next time.

  7. Pingback by » Links Of The Day: 20 August 2007 | 08.20.2007 | 5:22 am

    [...] Close But No Cigar, Part VI: Dug’s Tragedy [...]

  8. Comment by cheapie | 08.20.2007 | 5:25 am

    naw. there’s no shame in not riding to the Fish Hatchery. you were injured and your bike was broken. if the end was in sight then yeah, gut it out. but if you’ve still got a zillion miles to ride, why tempt fate with an injured wing and busted ride?

    on your left/right is standard protocal here. obviously on the road you try to avoid passing people on the right but on the mtb you pick whichever line is more convenient.

    and if they’re doing leadville, i’d think they’d have enough biking savvy to know the routine.

  9. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 08.20.2007 | 5:29 am

    Dug let us know how the visit to the Specialist goes. Good but Sad story – its the downs that make the ups so much better.
    Orbea Girl great name. Orbea Rule.
    FC or guys at Twin6 – how many pink tops are out there across the world so far I’ve asked this before but got no answer if there is a reason to keep it quiet tell me and I will stop asking. While I am at it how many in Oz.

  10. Comment by axel | 08.20.2007 | 7:19 am

    for us readers, race or trip reports that include drama and failure are a much better read. Looking forward to the next report from the E100, but leave the drama part to someone else…
    so heal quickly – gotta turn that fitness into some medal or t-shirt, right?

    the era of the iPod has made the whole ‘on your left’ thing obsolete – no one is listening anyway…

  11. Comment by axel | 08.20.2007 | 7:19 am

    for us readers, race or trip reports that include drama and failure are a much better read. Looking forward to the next report from the E100, but leave the drama part to someone else…
    so heal quickly – gotta turn that fitness into some medal or t-shirt, right?

    the era of the iPod has made the whole ‘on your left’ thing obsolete – no one is listening anyway…

  12. Comment by MAJ Mike | 08.20.2007 | 7:52 am


  13. Comment by Den | 08.20.2007 | 8:05 am

    If we succeeded at everything, life would get boring. Failure isn’t always a bad thing, at times, it’s what defines our character.

    I hope your shoulder is well enough to ride. To me, the fact that you want to keep riding, and ride Leadville again, this weekend, shows that you’re no pansy…

  14. Comment by Rob | 08.20.2007 | 8:21 am

    Hey Eldon, Can I borrow YOUR Waltworks bike for next weekend? I want to try some stuff.



  15. Comment by iDon, uNot | 08.20.2007 | 9:16 am

    I am a newb (OK, so I used to ride BMX and some road when road bikes were simply called 10, 12, 21 etc speed… I am more of a restart). Anyway, I have ALWAYS been of the belief that “On the left/right” means I coming up, and fast, and if you don’t move you’re gonna get creamed! Seriously. The bad side of that is it also meant IM going to get creamed, more likely then not, and that there will be a beating with a hand pump or stick, rock, or pieces of debris of the similar size when all was said and done. (Just my two cents).
    Orbea Girl… but were not in france, sorry I have a sarcasm problem. The reason I say that is that I think most riders are not of the Prima Donna variety. I started off never saying hello or waving at a pass to riders (not sure of the etiquette) and (where I live anyway) got waves and hello’s all of the time. It’s almost like “a jeep thing” where I am. Everyone understands we have our zones, but we are courteous.

  16. Comment by Eric | 08.20.2007 | 9:42 am

    I stopped saying “on your left” on trails (paved ones, I don’t suffer from the disorder known as mountain biking (though I do have friends who cyclecross, and that looks somewhat interesting…)) because of exactly the same issue.

    Though I never paid for it with injury.

    If I feel the need to say something, I say “passing”…

  17. Comment by sans auto | 08.20.2007 | 9:48 am

    I’M GLAD YOU FOUND THE SHIFT KEY. Better luck next time.

  18. Comment by Aaron | 08.20.2007 | 9:49 am

    You aren’t planning on doing the E100 on a single, are you? If so, you are truly suicidal. Shoot, I’m hesitant to do the 50 mile version on my geared bike (although much of my hesitation stems from the $125 registration).

  19. Comment by Rocky | 08.20.2007 | 10:14 am

    I feel your pain. Yes, it sucks to be the only one of the core unit not to finish. Though I have never been one of the core unit. I have just been the one not to finish. Three times. 1) Ambulance, 2)handlebar (you threw out the karma that broke it), 3) weeny boy. It sucks. You feel de-man-i-fide. Yes, it festers. Yes it hurts. Yes a whole year is a long time. Two years is even more agonizing. Yes…well, you get the idea. I need therapy.

    Good luck in the E100. Dummy.

  20. Comment by Errorista | 08.20.2007 | 10:35 am


    Lemme get this straight…..

    You have streamers, a basket, but NO bell? C’mon!!

    Nothing says “get outta my way” like the chime of a child’s bike bell. I’ll get you one for next year.

    You’re welcome.

  21. Comment by bikemike | 08.20.2007 | 10:52 am

    as norm, from cheers, would say,
    life sucks, pass the beer nuts.
    actually, he didn’t really say that exactly.
    i think the sentiment is close.

    fatty, you’re a good man, friend. wait, man-friend.
    that’s o.k., isn’t it?

  22. Comment by dug | 08.20.2007 | 11:33 am

    errorista, i have a bell. a nice bell. however, when you’re heading down something called “clavicle hill” you tend to have both hands, and all fingers wrapped around the bar. no time or digits to spare for the bell dinger.

    but thanks. what i needed was a cow catcher.

    aaron, yes, i would have done the e100 on the single (but with a 22 on back, not the 20 i had for leadville), but all the doctor friends i’ve talked to tell me not to go. plus, on the rides i’ve been on since leadville, the shoulder starts to seize up after a couple hours. i think i’m just done for the year with anything over 3 hours. mri next week. i know what they’ll say–stay off it and take lots of ibuprofen. so i guess lotoja is out too.

    i’ll be giving my jersey back to fatty, along with the bike. who needs em?

  23. Comment by Phil Liggett | 08.20.2007 | 12:13 pm

    Sounds like you forgot to pack your suitcase of courage.

  24. Comment by formertdffan | 08.20.2007 | 12:16 pm

    hey, I am amazed that you hung in so long!!!

    good luck with the MRI — hope no rotator cuff tear or labral issue
    BTW did they get a shoulder radiographic series first? most radiologists i know aren’t that great at diagnosing AC seperation on MRI unless they know to look for it and sometimes AC seperation can be obvious on plain films

  25. Comment by Mocougfan | 08.20.2007 | 1:27 pm


    Life sucks sometimes. Sorry. Life goes on. If you do go to Lotoja say hi. I’ll be the fat redhead in the FatCyclist jersey who can’t breathe going up hills.


  26. Comment by LanterneRouge | 08.20.2007 | 1:31 pm

    I have a bike bell that give makes the old style brrring brrring sound that you expect from a ten year old girl on a pink Huffy with training wheels. It is much more fun than the single ding sound that most new bells put out. The thing is that I only mount it when I ride with my son because it embarrasses the heck out of him if I ring it when there are teenage girls around.

  27. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.20.2007 | 1:38 pm

    Shoot, dug,

    You showed up, gave it a try, and never even pulled out the I’m a fat middle-aged guy card. You had real ones.

    It IS supposed to be fun, and even if you decided to be tougher and go farther with your injury (oh, wait, it’s not smart to do that if you do not want to make things worse) what kind of sucky thing is it to keep stopping try to put a bent bolt in a stripped hole. It was not fun. Time to call it a day. No honor lost.

    Did you try just sticking your Park multitool in the hole and holding it there with bailin’ wire & duct tape?


    Honor Susan & support me in the LIVESTRONG Challenge:

  28. Comment by MTB W | 08.20.2007 | 2:17 pm

    Dug, bummer about Leadville 100 and now the e100 and any long rides for a while. But now you can do a lot of shorter rides! Besides, now you have a good story to go with the shoulder injury and a burning desire to train for next year’s leadville.

    Gotta say, love the basket, streamers and bell! Now that’s a true sense of fashion. Get any comments about them in Leadville?

    On a side note, I would like to hear Kenny’s story (but please everyone, no more helmet jokes or put downs – I would think Kenny has heard enough of them) or stories from other friends of fatty.

  29. Comment by Bob | 08.20.2007 | 3:05 pm

    Instead of saying, “on yer right,” you should say, “I am passing you on the right side, so kindly hold your line.” You’ll complete more races that way, and you won’t have to ride a bike owned by someone else.

  30. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 08.20.2007 | 3:21 pm

    In Oz we tend to call on your left/right in group rides to warn riders behind of upcoming obstacles. Passing occurs mostly in silence.

    Unless it’s the last couple of laps of a race on the velodrome, then you’ll hear a lot of “stay down” from the fast guys coming around the outside. It’s good advice… I’ve been on the messy end of a transaction where a slow rider pulled up in front of a 4 man train with a speed difference of about 20 mph. I’m pretty sure there was only 3 chainwheel bolts and a back hub useable from the wreckage of the 3 bikes that went down.

  31. Comment by formertdffan | 08.20.2007 | 3:24 pm

    oops can’t spell

  32. Comment by KeepYerBag | 08.20.2007 | 4:21 pm

    Hey, some dude named ‘FCbetwinner’ is selling a nice Waltworks on eBay. $3.00 minimum, and BuyItNow of $45.00!

  33. Comment by Yukirin Boy | 08.20.2007 | 5:44 pm

    Phil Liggett ? – “suitcase of courage” – superb!
    I can hear Phil and Paul’s commentary now.

  34. Comment by lmouse | 08.21.2007 | 11:46 am

    What’s that old saw about “Grant me the (something) to change the things I can, the (something, something) to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference”? You simply displayed the kind of wisdom one would expect from a reasonable, mature man. Leave it at that. No regrets.

    As for the “on your left/right” issue…Being as old and slow as I am, I am often passed on the road by nice young people who say things like “Good morning!” and “Nice Bianchi! Love the color!” (my bike really is a sweetie) which is much more pleasant to hear than “On yer left!” The drivers are rude enough; we should be mellow with each other. Just my opinion, of course. The manuals all tell us to use the “On yer whatever” thing.

  35. Comment by iDon, uNot | 08.21.2007 | 5:22 pm

    [...] Close But No Cigar, Part VI: Dug’s Tragedy [...]
    I wrote a few thoughts on the passing subject at my blog.

  36. Comment by tigermouth | 08.22.2007 | 3:28 am

    32/20 = 1.6.

    The golden ratio [aka the golden mean] is approximately 1.6180339887 (


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