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Cerro San Cristóbal – the final descent

Wednesday, January 20th 2016

In November I'd set the 5th fastest time overall on Strava for the descent from Antilén to Pedro de Valdivia. I badly wanted the fastest time but in December I'd crashed heavily while on course to set it. After that, I had a few rides where I was way slower around the corners before recovering my confidence, and eventually I managed to set some times within a second or two of my best.

On January 20th, I was emigrating from Chile, and in the runup to that I was desperately trying to at least break my personal best. On January 18th things had been going well until a car pulled out in front of me and forced me to slow down. January 19th felt like a good one but at Mapulemu I'd been slowed down when I collided with a bird which didn't get out of my way in time. And I thought that was the last chance gone, as the removal company was supposed to come that day to take my stuff. Luckily, they screwed up and had the wrong date. They couldn't come until 20th, which caused all sorts of chaos and stress, but at least it meant I had one final chance at the record. I was on a mission, determined to give it everything, and to have no possible regret about not trying hard enough.

I set off at 7.30am, wanting the roads to be quiet. I had a great warmup ride up Bicentenario to La Piramide, and I was feeling fantastic as I climbed up to Antilén. I pushed hard for the last bit of the climb and carried a lot of speed over the brow of the hill. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for riding. I kept my speed high down towards Mapulemu, not dropping below 30mph. I took Mapulemu better than ever before and avoiding crashing this time. At the lower hairpins, there was no traffic and no other cyclists so I took wide lines and carried tonnes of speed through. I was sure I was on for the record.

Right at the exit, they were watering the grass and there was a slick of water across the road. I was too into what I was doing to take much notice and powered across it. The tarmac stops at that point and there are cobbles for a few metres before the gate. I shot across the water and onto the cobbles at well over 30mph, and as I braked and turned for the exit, I lost it.

My first crash came as quite a surprise for me but this one didn't. I was very calm as I fell towards the tarmac, and spent the milliseconds just wishing I could turn the clock back just a few seconds and avoid what I knew was coming. Then I hit my head hard on the ground and scraped horribly along the cobbles, coming to a stop about 10m from where I'd come off. My ears were ringing, I was covered in blood and it took me a few seconds to start getting up.

It was worse than my first crash but after a few minutes I was OK to ride home. I set off, blood dripping from my hand. I couldn't bring myself to look at it until I got home but it turned out I'd sliced a chunk of skin off the top of my finger. I'd scraped myself all up my right arm, and my right ankle was also bleeding quite badly.

But the worst damage was to my phone. It had been in my pocket but it was deeply scratched all over, and to my horror it wouldn't turn on. I tried and tried but it was dead. I'd killed it. My strava data was in it and would never come out. I will never know if I actually set a record.

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