The most mangled chain anyone had ever seen almost kept me from racing at the ITU Age Group Sprint World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico, in September. Fortunately, the great Team USA staff resolved my crisis and allowed me to enjoy myself tremendously in this challenging event. I’ll never complain again about the registration fees you are required to pay to be part of Team USA at a World Championships.
I set myself up for some tense moments by not being very careful in my travel planning. I decided to fly into Cozumel on Wednesday, the day before the race, because my wife, who was also racing the next day, could not get away from work any sooner and we preferred to travel together. In retrospect, I should have either traveled on my own a day or two earlier to set things up for both of us — or we should have spent the extra money to ship our bikes with Raceday Transport so that they would be ready before we arrived.
Instead, we flew with our bikes, arriving at the Cozumel airport at 3 p.m. and needing to get our bikes racked in transition by 5:30 p.m. That meant that we had only 2.5 hours to: gather our bikes and luggage, get through customs, obtain our rental car, find parking and do packet pick-up at one location 3 miles from the airport, find parking and unpack and assemble our bikes at the transition area (which was another 3 miles away), and then finally rack our bikes. We were lucky and had no major delays until we took my bike out of the bike box. While my wife assembled her bike like a real pro in a matter of minutes, I became flustered in all the rushing and somehow twisted my chain when pulling it out of the box and put four extra loops in the chain that I couldn’t remove.
With the 5:30 p.m. deadline looming, I decided to see if the ITU mechanics at the transition area could de-mangle my chain. However, they had never seen such a mess — and it didn’t help that we couldn’t speak Spanish to converse with them. Finally, the ITU officials said that I could bring my bike back in the morning in time for my 7:05 a.m. start, assuming I could get it fixed. So I quickly contacted the Team USA managers, Lauren Rios and Tim Yount, to see if the team bike mechanics could come to my rescue the next morning. And sure enough they did! The sleepless night I spent worrying about this — as well as a few additional attempts to de-mangle the chain after watching YouTube videos — were all for naught.
Lauren, Tim, Mechanic Chad Smith and Coach Karen Allen-Turner all showed up at the transition area at 5 a.m. to rescue me. Chad was at first stumped by my mess and it took removal of the cranks and rear derailleur, plus the suggestion of a special twist of the chain by Karen, to get me ready to roll by 5:45 a.m. I had a solid race with no additional disasters and truly enjoyed being part of such an exciting series of races. Kudos to the Team USA staff!
Paul N. Bloom is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and has been a member of Team USA more than a dozen times. He is the co-author, with David Williams, of “Triathlon Disasters & How to Avoid Them,” available from amazon.com.
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