Two weeks ago Laurie Wigell had the bottom drop out on a turn in one of the National Capital Velo Club's weekly club bicycle races in Rockville.
"I'm not naming any names, but it wasn't my fault," she said. "Somebody went down in front of me and there wasn't anywhere to go."
The result: one hard crash and a busted collarbone on a very pretty 18-year-old frame.
At the hospital they told me no way - no more racing for now. They practically said to stay in bed for six weeks. So I went to a bone specialist. My aunt paid for it.he said, 'Go.'
Last Thursday, a week after the crash, was the day Wigell got back on her bike.
That was Thursday. By Sunday she was planning to be well enough to enter the Maryland Road Classic, a national-class race in Baltimore, and by the following week she figured to be back on her 300-mile-per-week training and racing regimen.
Could she win Baltimore? "I don't know," she winced, and touched the brace that held her shattered shoulder together.
Wigell is one of the hotshots of NCVC's burgeoning racing program. The club is up to 200 members now, and every one is a racer. What do these folks do? On Thursday nights they race and on Sunday mornings they race. The rest of the week they train. And whenever there's an out-of-town challenge they take it.
"I go wherever I can," said Wigell. "North Carolina, New Jersey, Delaware, Florida. Any place there's a race that's got enough prize money to pay the way."
Wigell's counterpart among the men is Rick Barnett, a 31-year-old Capitol Hill economist who took up biking four years ago for recreation. On most days he's the fastest of the NCVC speedsters. They call him "the machine."
Barnett's bike was hand-built by a lawyer friend. It's a combination of moly steel and cold-rolled steel and weighs 21 pounds, which sounds heavier than it feels. It could blow away in an April gust.
Barnett and Wigell are national riders. They can compete anywhere, and both have aspirations to world status.
But to most of NCVC's members, national and world competition are not in the picture. Their thrill is the Thursday blast around the rolling hills near Walter Johnson High School and, for the rest of May, Sunday-morning jaunts in Rock Creek Park.
The competition is nothing to sneer at. There are four classes ranging from novice to senior men's. Men, women or children compete in whatever class they feel fits them. Wigell runs with the "A" men.
It costs $1 to race, a charge none of the hundred or so that show up complains about. For that they get to use a mile-long roped-off stretch of country road the NCVC has arm-twisted Montgomery County into setting aside.
For all its sweet and gristle, this is cerebral sport. There are endless tactical decisions to make in the grueling 20-lap feature.
Barnett found that out, again, last week when he hauled newcomer Jim Montgomery around the course for the final 10 laps, then watched as his well-rested foe ripped by him in the final sprint to win the race.
"I sucked him around the course," said Barnett, who did the lion's share of work breaking the wind while Montgomery rested in his slipstream. "he really shouldn't have made that sprint. He apologized to me afterwards, But still . . . "
As the sun sank over the old barn that is Rockville's last vestige of days never to be regained, the racers whizzed and whirred, banking throughturns at unlikely angles and impossible speeds. A beautiful scene, and it has happens every week. WHErE THE PEDALERS ARE
NCVC races are Thursday evenings at 7 at Rock Spring Road just off Old Georgetown road (Walter Johnson High School). Helmets mandatory, $1 entry fee, novices and nonmembers welcome.Registration opens about Rock Creek park races, also open to novices, are at 8 Sunday monrnings in May; meet at the corner of Beach and Joyce Drives. Registration at 7.30.