Bryce Phinney had already crashed twice on the bike by the time he arrived at the infamous Blood Rock section of the red trail at Oak Mountain State Park. Despite those miscues the 36-year-old propulsion engineer from Tucson, Arizona was still the lead rider in the age group men's race.
He came roaring into the tricky rock garden section ready to "go for it" and the descent started well but in the middle, at a spot where countless others have crashed before, his front tire stuck and his momentum sent him flying head over handlebars into the unforgiving terrain.
"I missed the line slightly and my rear wheel rolled up over the "large" rock rather than going between the rock and the tree. As the front tire dropped down between two rocks I wasn't carrying enough speed for it to pop up over the rock and caused me to endo."
As he landed his left pointer finger found its way into a crack between two rocks and got stuck while the rest of his body kept going. The result was a deep cut, dislocated finger, and gruesome site for the traditional local crowd that gathers at the signature section of the course.
"Are you okay, are you alright," the crowd asked. There was way more groaning from the crowd than from Phinney who got up quick, gathered his bike, walked the three rocks down to the bottom and said, "Yeah I'm okay."
"It was like slow motion. I saw my finger go in that crack and braced for the landing but it didn't really hurt," explained Phinney. "When I got up I saw my finger sideways and couldn't feel the pain but I just figured that was because of the adrenaline. So, I got back on and kept going."
Phinney started using his middle finger to brake and made it safely through the next five miles into the bike-to-run transition where medical was waiting to check on his condition. A quick appraisal followed by a polite refusal of treatment and Phinney hit the run still in the lead, but the exchange took a full-minute and Phinney ended up getting passed by Fred Smith who took the tape by just 16 seconds.
"It probably cost me the win but that's racing, it happens. I was going for it, giving it everything. In hindsight, had I carried a little more momentum and speed through that section I would have rolled through and been fine. Lesson learned, ride faster on the technical stuff!" said Phinney from his office on Monday morning. "And it never did really hurt while I was racing. Didn't hurt until the Pelham Fire Department guys made it straight and taped it together with my middle finger."
The good news is there was no ligament damage, just a cut and dislocated finger.
"They cleaned it out and put the joint back in place and the finger is stable. I should be back to racing in 4-5 weeks," said Phinney. "See you at the XTERRA Mountain Champs."