Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Just Say NO to Crashing:

Once again, I had a "top 10 ways to..." post in the works. This one was going to be about climbing (hills, on a bicycle), since it's something I'm not bad at but a lot of people seem to fear.

Instead, it needs to be an little guide on NOT CRASHING.

First, the reasons for it:

Thankfully, I have not crashed since last Wednesday, and I don't intend to do it any more than I can help.

The first crash is on the MUT. I'm riding with a partner who hasn't logged very many miles on the roadbike, and it shows a bit. A part of our ride goes through the Interurban Trail from Auburn to Kent, Washington. Along the way, there's a number of wooden posts in the road, to deter motor vehicles from entering the paved trail. Today is cold, rainy, and a little windy, so there are few pedestrians or casual cyclists, so we're moving along at about 30 kilometers per hour. I'm riding easy, often with my hands off the bars, and the aforementioned posts are widely-spaced enough that I don't really pay attention to them; I just keep looking ahead, and that's that. But Matt isn't so confident; he brakes a bit before each one to navigate them, and also brakes before entering these little chutes in which the trail passes under the road. I don't say anything, but this seems like a caution sign about his bike-handling skills.

You're probably thinking, maybe he ran into one.

He didn't.

Instead, he ran down a septuagenerian.

A lot of the blame goes to her stupid little dog, I'll admit.

As we approach the end of the section of trail we're riding on, there are a couple of people walking their dogs: a middle-aged man with a terrier, and a hunched, slightly overweight old lady with a shuffling gait and one of those little, yippy toy dogs.

We say "Coming up on your left," slow to about 20 kph, and they move to the right. Unfortunately, Grandma hasn't reined in Puddles very tightly, and at the last moment, the twenty-ounce fur-ball jumps out into our path. He's still attached to least, so

I swerve off the path, roll along the gravel and grass for a moment, and am about to continue.

Matt, hasn't quite sorted this out. He zigs instead of zags, tries to brake, slides his rear wheel a bit, and ends up square in the middle of Grandma's back. Oops.

Thankfully, she's basically fine. After an embarrassing few moments, she walks away after the middle-aged man, evidently her son, who has in turn walked off after the little dog. Most reasonable dogs would probably get defensive of their master in this situation, but Puddles is making a getaway. Mister Balding is pretty creepy, himself, but I'll get to that later..

Then there's the race. This one's a little uglier.

This week, I went to the Mason Lake road race, my first race of my season. It started a little late, since I've had a couple of crashes and a nasty illness keeping me out of the peloton for a bit. You can find the full race report here, if you're interested. The short of it is that I had good legs, though it was pretty hard to navigate the sketchy, inexperienced pack on the narrow, windy road. In the fifty-mile race, I got off the front in a breakaway with two other guys, dropped them, and was on my own for about twenty miles. One guy can't hold of sixty for very long, and I wasn't really going full gas, so in the end I sat up and waited for the group.

The final two hundred meters of the race, riders in the lead group are allowed the full road for their sprint. We were about two-fifty from the finish, and I was just about to make my jump, when things got a little hairy. Inevitably in a race of inexperienced riders, a few people try to sprint FAR too early, run out of gas, and the people who waited blow past them. The speed difference is impressive.

The rider two guys in front of me tries to jump across the road, but doesn't make it. He catches his front wheel on the back wheel of one these slower riders. The wheel spins, and the rider on HIS back wheel runs right into him. I hear loud cursing, see bikes and bodies flying, and swerve to the left, braking hard to avoid the mess.

I barely make it.

Bike racers crashing normally makes an unmistakable scritching, screeching sound as aluminum, carbon, and steel slide across asphalt. This time, though, it was accompanied by a loud CRACK! POP!

The crack was the first rider's carbon-fiber fork snapping clean off of his bike. It's the end of a $4,000 Orbea, but that's the last of his worries.

The pop is his helmet hitting the ground as he face-plants into the pavement.

I've stopped my bike, laid*** it by the side of the road, and rushed back over the scene.

This is not good.

The second crasher looks mostly okay, just scraped and battered.

The first is lying in a quickly forming pool of blood, unconscious but awake, twiching.

His teeth aren't all right at all. Some protrude through his lip, others have cut a hole in his cheek, and there's a small stick lanced through the other side of his mouth. His left eye is bloodied, shut, and it appears his eye socket is fractured or something. We try talking to him, but he ain't responding. I think his leg is broken, too, but that's not really the concern.

I hope this guy gets out of it with stitches and some capped teeth. He's definitely not dead, and not paralyzed, but for all I know he's broken his back. The ambulance showed up and hauled him away; I don't know any more.

Bloody fucking hell.

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