On 23 August, during Stage Four of the USA Pro Challenge, Sam Johnson exited the race after the first climb over Independence Pass. We spoke with with Sam and with Sarah Stewart, the race’s Broom Wagon operator, about DNFing .
The worst situation is when you’re stuck at the back with a bunch of guys who’ve already given up on the race, it’s like a reverse breakaway. They’re totally resigned to pulling out, and you say, “Well, we can work together and chase and maybe make it,” and all they have in reply is, “Nope.” Last year in Colorado I missed the time cut a couple days in by just a few seconds. I was at the back, and I’m sure the caravan would’ve loved to make it to the finish without waiting the 10 extra minutes I took.
I’m not exactly built for these races, and on a day like today I know it’s probably time to pull out of the race, but if there’s a chance in hell at making it, I want to make it.
I randomly volunteered for the Tour of Georgia a number of years ago when that was still running, doing course marshaling. That’s been great but I enjoy driving, so I’ve been looking for an opportunity to drive a caravan vehicle, and this happened to be it. I follow the back of the race, driving the Broom Wagon—I never pass a rider. If a rider falls so far back that they need to abandon the race, and their team car is way up the road, I’m the car that they abandon to and ride to the finish. That’s a difficult situation. Every rider’s emotions are different; sometimes they want to chat about their reasons for abandoning, sometimes they’re silent. They’re athletes, they’re competitors, so leaving the race can be emotional. Sometimes they feel good about their effort, that they rode as best they could, but that really depends on the situation and the personality. The main thing is that you give them the space they need.“It's a very difficult sport, and to see them go out there and ride so hard for so many miles—anyone that is able to simply reach this level and compete should be proud of their achievements. The average cyclist can't even fathom going through a stage race like this.”Sarah Stewart