Dylan Zakrajsek started working with Coach Caleb in late 2019, with a focus on Cyclocross and Road. Dylan has had many top finishes at national level events in both disciplines and came to Caleb looking for guidance in making the transition from junior racing to u23 and beyond. We'll follow Dylan throughout the 2020 season and beyond. He has an interesting story and a bright future.
My name is Dylan Zakrajsek, and I am an athlete of Caleb Swartz. As we started to look into road season there were a few things very clear overall. Cyclocross is taking most of my focus, but I still want to race on the road. I was going into the road season with a clear mindset of what I wanted to accomplish and how I could accomplish it. The main thing was just to race my bike and keep it fun. I think that I have in the past forgotten at times that riding my bike is supposed to be fun, and I get caught in the hustle. So going into the road season I took a very needed break and worked on my mindset and my goals and just getting recovered from a big cx season. As the break came to an end I was in constant contact with Caleb, and we were always talking about how I was feeling, was I ready to get back to it, and how I was mentaly. I was trying to be very careful about taking the needed time off and not rushing into the season.
Once I got back onto the bike I knew the instant I started riding I was fresh and I had the perfect mentality to start off the season and get onto training. So as the training started back up I could feel that I was getting a lot stronger, and at the end of January I made my way down to Florida for Team camp with my new Team DDP Cycling Team ending with 3 races. There was a road race, TT, and Crit in each one. I felt great, and was very happy with how everything was going. After the camp I stayed in Florida a couple more days to get some more training in the sun.
Once I got home I was able to tell I was in good form, and ready to get a couple of days of recovery and then ramp it up for the Tour of the Southern Highlands (TOSH). About a week out of ToSH I set a new hour PR without really even trying to. I remember immediately texting Caleb and just telling him that I set a new all time PR and just telling him that I have never felt this good riding. So going into ToSH I had a very strong mentality, and the legs felt great. 1st stage is up (the TT) and I smash my all time 20 minute power and once again I text Caleb and am telling him about it, and that I haven't felt that good on my tt bike and in a tt race ever! Stage 2 was the crit, held later in the day . I was feeling good going into it, but sadly I was toward the back when they staged the riders When the whistle went off I was trying to pass as many people as I could, but it wasn’t enough. The riders at the front row had attacked from the start and immediately put me in panic mode. I started chasing as hard as I could, but never caught on. I was bummed about it, but I was more happy I didn’t crash and stayed upright during the very hectic and fast crit.
Now my attention was on stage 3, the circuit. I was a bit fatigued when I got to the course, but spun around for a bit and started to get loose and the legs started to feel better. The race started and as expected it was hard from the start and very hard to move up till the back half of the course. Each lap I was able to move up bit by bit, and the main group was shedding riders by the minute. So going into lap 3 I remember it was a sprint lap, and the pace was starting to get pretty high and people were getting anxious and the peloton was shifting extremely fast. Next thing I know we are going through the start/finish straight and a rider bumped my elbow and my human reaction was to react and move over an inch or two. Well in doing this it caused me to go full force straight into a metal barrier. It happened so fast, I didn’t know what happened. I got the wind absolutely smashed out of me and I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds. My body went into panic mode and I didn’t know what to do. My chest had a huge scrape on it, and people were all around me trying to calm me down and get me to lay flat. My team was around me and I was able to get up and go sit down on a chair. As one of my team members Lily started to try and clean me she took off my jersey and found that I had a puncture wound in my left abdominal area. At this point I started to ball my eyes out and just watched as my whole world and everything that I worked for shatter in front of me.
So they called an ambulance and I had to get taken to the hospital's trauma care area. Once I got to the hospital and the nurse and different trauma care doctors were able to assess my condition they were able to say that I had a minor compression fracture in my right index finger, massive scrape across my chest and a puncture in my abdominal wall. With the way the puncture was and how it needed to heal they said I would not be getting stitches, but the “hole” would need to heal from the inside out and take about 4 weeks to heal. The finger would take about 5 weeks to heal fully. They also wanted me to stay overnight in the hospital because of a few things they needed to monitor to make sure that I was in good enough condition to leave. One of the main things was I couldn't eat till the next morning, and they wanted to make sure that I could get through the night without any major pain, and then eat and see how my body would digest the food. Later the next day I was in no pain, and was able to eat just fine. So they discharged me.
Throughout this experience there was 1 thing that went through my mind. And that was I would come out of this faster and with more motivation to get back at it. So fast forward to today. I am doing much better, and my body is healing extremely well and there is one thing for sure. And that is I will have one gnarly scar! I have started to ride more and more, but just taking it cautiously so I don’t move forward too fast and in the long run set myself back. Also with COVID-19 all around the world for me it is good and bad. It is obviously bad there is a virus going around, but good because now I have time to get fully healed, get back to training, and not worry too much about when my next race is. As I said at the beginning of all of this though my eyes are still mainly focused on getting to 100% for the cx season and going full force into that. I am extremely motivated and ready for what will be a very interesting and fun cx season. To everyone that has helped me recover, motivate me, and all of the messages during my chaotic time back when I was in the hospital, thank you so much! I truly mean that and you all helped me get to where I am today!