Wednesday, August 7, 2002 - Athlete Perspective
Phil's XC Journal: The Road Rash Files

By: Phil Villeneuve

(Caution: Contents may discourage rollerskiers from ever rollerskiing again!)

Hi Gang,

Well...it’s about time!  I know, I know, for someone who says he’ll provide regular updates I sure haven’t lived up to my words. Training and team business have kept me from bugging you with my regular dose of monthly mass emails!  So here it is, in 10,000 words (or more), another month’s rant on some of the weird and wacky thoughts that has crept in my mind and hovered long enough for me to grasp it and turn it into this:

Everyone loves the crash and burn stories so I’ve dug deep inside the “road rash files” to entertain you this month with one of my many crashes.  But first...I’ve got a little beef to take care of.

I was flipping through the local paper (Rocky Mountain Outlook) last week and came upon an editorial that complained about the way certain irresponsible rollerskiers (as well as cyclists, skateboarders and in-line skaters), wheeled their way across town (in other words, they’re hogging the streets!).  Now, I consider myself very ‘road worthy’ and ‘responsible’ when I’m out there chipping away at the kilometers on my rollerskis.  We are very fortunate in Canmore to have good roads, wide shoulders and VERY understanding motorists.  However, there are instances where I have to move inside the white line because of rock infested shoulders or none at all for that matter, but when doing so, I always check behind me to make sure that I’m not slowing down vehicles.  But no matter how alert I am or what precautions I’ve taken, I’ve still pissed off my share of impatient drivers.  I’ve been honked at, cursed at, thrown beer bottles, pop cans, cherries, you name it, if it’s ‘flingable’ from a car window, chance are it’s come wizzing by my head at some point!  Some have even gone far enough to force me off the road by charging me or seeing how close they can get without hitting me!  It all sounds pretty funny until you’re the one on the skinny rollerskis trying to avoid them.  There are some ‘irresponsible’ rollerskiers out there, I know, I train on these roads everyday, but no matter how careful we are, we will always irritate motorists for whatever reason, even if it’s just because we look funny!  Consider this: a couple of short bursts of your horn will get our attention and out of your way. Compare this to the amount of time you’ll spend being stuck behind slow moving RV packed with gawking tourists and you’ll suddenly wish that those irresponsible rollerskiers could take its place!

Enough with the serious stuff...on with the carnage!

Rollerskiing is our main training tool for the dryland season. It is our way to simulate skiing in the summer.  Rollerskis have no brakes!  At first though you might think this is a bit crazy but if you choose your routes well, then having no brakes is not a big deal.  We rely on our skills and agility to maneuver on the roads without crashing and after years and years of rollerskiing you get pretty confident in your ability to stop whenever you want on any kind of terrain.

There are of course those wonderful ‘learning years’ where coming home without any bloody scrapes on your body meant that it was a good day at the office.  In the past 5 years I’ve had only a handful of scrapes to brag about and for the most part they are due to little pebbles jamming the wheel as I roll over it, bringing the skis to an instant stop.  The sudden forward momentum results is what we call ‘doing a little break dancing’ on skis.

The worst crash I’ve ever had was in the Gatineau Park in Hull, Quebec.  I was 18 years old, and although I had gone over 70km/hr on pair of old SwedSkis Ultra 2000 (not the sturdiest model in the bunch, and nothing like today’s models), I felt I was pretty confident on these summer skis.

I was rollerskiing on a bike path that follows the main parkway and came upon this hill, which I knew had 3 hard 90 degree turns in it.  I also knew that the turns would be very difficult to negotiate at high speed because of the narrow path but I figured I could run a ski along the grass and reduce my speed.  So off I went.  It wasn’t long before I hit a rock hidden in the grass, lost my balance, which resulted in both skis landing on the asphalt. My speed suddenly jumped from cruising to Mach 2!  No time to bail, so I ‘pavement plowed’ (snow plowing on pavement) as hard as I could but it was useless, my speed was already too high.  I approached the first turn and made it without too much difficulty but realized that my speed was way too fast for the next turn. I barely sqweeked by, arms flailing, the look of fear in my eyes.  Approaching the final turn I knew I was dead.  There was no way to make it so I gave myself two choices, go for the pavement or the short grass strip that lined the path.  Grass it was.  My plan was to go for the good’ol rookie ‘butt drop’, which works great on snow, but not so good on dry ground!  With that look of “this is going to hurt” etched in my face, I sat down and prepared for pain.  I jumped the gun a bit on the fall and hit the bit of gravel that lined the path...ouch!  I slid over 5 metres, most of it on grass with some gravel, some dirt and I finally stopped in the forest with my head banging against a tree (good thing I was wearing a helmet).

I really have no idea why I was smiling because this really was quite painful.

As for the damage...let’s just say that for the next 2 weeks, I got used to taking showers every morning to get the bed sheets unglued from my butt cheek!

That’s it for today,
Phil

Phil thanks his sponsors:
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