For a cyclist, there is no worse feeling than dropping your chain in the heat of battle. This is worse than getting shot off the back of a paceline, and worse than realizing that you’ve blown through your aerobic threshold, that your lungs are about to explode and that your legs are flooding with lactic acid. There is nothing worse. Ask Andy Schleck in the 2010 Tour de France as he watched his lead evaporate because of a dropped chain. Because dropping your chain means having to stop, and in cycling, stopping is tantamount to… death.
These were the thoughts in my head, as disbelief, denial, frustration, anguish and then rage flashed through my brain in a millisecond. I had dropped my chain, straight through the gap between my chainring and the bottom bracket. I was pedaling air, the chain — no longer a mechanism for forward propulsion — hanging limp and devoid of life. Saying a prayer, I pressed the electronic button to shift the chain back up to the outer chainring — a desperate move that succeeds only one out of 10 times.
And this time, the result was to send the chain up and over the outer chainring to become tangled in my crankset. Everything jammed. My back wheel began to lift as I started over the handlebars and hit the ground. That’s what it feels like to fall off your bike: one minute you’re upright, the next you’re not.
As I rolled to the ground, I saw my five teammates in the 2012 Tortour Laureus 2 Team — six-time Ironman champion Ronnie Schildknecht, European Duathalon champion Andy Sutz, 2012 Olympic mountain-bike silver-medalist Nino Schurter, champion mountain biker Marcel Bartholet, and my friend and CEO of race sponsor IWC, the incomparable Georges Kern — pound up the 20-percent incline, out of their saddles, bikes rocking from side to side, legs straining to overcome gravity fueled by their rage, their pride, their conviction as they shot straight up the incline to the finish line of the prologue.