In eight days, from Tuesday March 23rd to Tuesday, March 30th, Old Town team members had raced in four separate races and suffered 3 crashes. One, depicted below, was particularly stressful. (I am the racer in the white and blue upon whom the Old Town member with his wheels in the air is landing).
There is nothing funny about crashes. It takes a lot out of the sport. Good athletes are injured. Most are stiff and sore from a crash for a few weeks but are racing again in a week or so. Others are more seriously injured. A small minority of racers who crash are injured badly enough that they are not able or are unwilling to return to the sport.
I have suffered four crashes during races. One was silly and I barely remember it. The second crash took me to a hospital in an ambulance and the third knocked me unconscious for a few minutes.
The fourth crash, the one shown, happened at Independence Valley Road Race and was the most dramatic. I am lucky that I only suffered bruising and minor scrapes. The dude next to me screamed "Oh My God! Oh My God! My neck!" He went on like that for awhile and then jumped up and walked away.
Another victim of the crash is reported as having a broken collar bone and a shredded ear.
Crashes are caused by a lot of things. Most typically, they are caused by human error. Fatigue simply makes one lose concentration. Muscles become wobbly. Speed requires quick reactions and oxygen deprivation slows reaction times. Wheels cross. Then comes the sound. It starts as a swirling sound. In just an instant, the wheels start to go in the wrong direction. No longer rotating, rubber begins to turn sideways and rub against the pavement. This has its own sound. Not a terribly unpleasing sound. A gentle swirl. It is only unsettling because it is always the precursor to much more terrible sounds, the sound of an eminent crash, the sounds every racer has heard. At that sound, adrenaline is released. After the crash, you can taste it in your mouth, the bitter taste of adrenaline.
The next sound is guttural. In desperation, the racer tries to correct. I have seen these efforts work occasionally but mostly the efforts to avoid the crash are futile. Bodies twist and torque, men groan and begin to curse, then the sound of crashing metal, bones, plastic and pavement. In bad crashes, it comes in waves as subsequent racers pile into the carnage.
Then comes a almost comforting moment of silence. The physical violence has ended and the emotional violence has yet to begin. It begins with swearing. Angry words that can not be repeated here. For some reasons, there is a gut reaction to blame. Always, it is the sketchy rider who is to blame - he swerved when he should not have. He stopped after the finish line when he should have kept sprinting. He kept going when he should have stopped. Even the pros try to blame the Joe Sketchy. He is always from a different team.
Apparently, it never occurs to the battle wounded that even the best racers in the world, the "pros", crash all the time. The best riders in the world who are paid to ride and train constantly crash in every race. They break collar bones, necks, backs and arms. Sometimes they get up and sometimes they do not. I recall Lance Armstrong almost causing a crash in the Tour of California in 2009. He just jerked unexpectedly and almost took out a team mate. No one would dare say he was a sketchy rider.
Yes, there is a certain callousness that comes in bike racing. We definitely race because there is a risk of danger. Let's face it, if we didn't like the risk, we would golf. Yet, do we sometimes go too far? I myself have felt annoyed that a sprint finish was disrupted because there was an ambulance in the section of the sprint finish that is supposed to be closed to traffic in both lanes. In the crash above we suffered at IVRR, I listened politely to a racer from the women's field complaining that the ambulance that attended to the injured clogged their sprint lane. I recall hearing racers curse when the pack had to go neutral to let an ambulance go by to attend a fallen racer injured in a crash in a different field.
Clearly, we have issues. Are we unique in that regard? How many hunters would continue hunting if there was a 1% chance the deer shot back? Granted, they are pretty bad shots but who knows, they might get lucky. And what about fishing? Suppose that one out of every 5,000 salmon that spawned was actually a great white shark? Probably won't kill you, but it might warrant an ER visit. Candidly, I think there might be far less "outdoorsmen" out there.