Thursday, May 15, 2008

Giro 2008: breaking free and breaking a chain

Cycle racing is a game of looking for opportunities, taking them, and hoping things work out. OK, maybe it's not just hope, since we prepare and do absolutely everything to ensure that nothing goes wrong; but we don't do that to the extent where things can't go wrong. We can't cover everything, but we can do our level best to give ourselves the best chance possible.

And then Millar breaks his chain: Brutt hit the line ahead of four chasers: Johannes Fröhlinger (Gerolsteiner), Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare) and Francisco Pérez (Caisse d'Epargne) were next home, while David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle H30) suffered a broken chain at the precise moment the Russian kicked clear. He was disgusted at the ill luck and threw his bike over a barrier, eventually going on to finish 119th.

Now that's embarrassing. I have never broken a chain - touch wood - but I have broken lots of other things (like seat bolts, stem bolts, saddle rails, wheels, rear derailleurs, a hub ratchet and even a seat post). A friend and training partner broke his chain during a race and I have seen other people do it as well. It can be a gentle or catastrophic loss of power, depending upon what you are doing at the time. Pulling your foot in a sprint is somewhat similar - and I've certainly done that, twice on a track bike. You'd think at a professional level things like this - a broken chain! - would never happen. Surely these are the best chains, microscopically analysed and x-rayed for flaws, meticulously fitted and double-checked. Perhaps triple-checked.

But maybe not.