My first bicycle race was a Men’s Category 4 Criterium in South Florida in 1981. As usual for a beginner I got dropped and pulled in my first race. I persisted and raced as regularly as I could. I learned bicycle racing the “old school” way (ride, race, crash, learn). The following is a chronology of my crashes and lessons learned. With proper racing skills training you may be able to learn these lessons without crashing.
- My first race crash was on last lap of Category 4 criterium (circa 1983 – dates are a bit fuzzy here).
- I tried to move up on the inside on the last lap and rider in front pulled right into my front wheel.
- I went down and a rider behind me T-boned me helmet first in the center of the back. To this date that was my most painful crash.
- Spend as little time as possible with your front wheel overlapping anyone’s back wheel. Overlapping wheels is the number one cause of crashes.
- When riding next to another rider keep your handlebars even with theirs – the rider with bars in front has the controlling position.
- This is lesson number one in the USA Cycling Beginning Racer Program (BRP).
- I was racing my German Shepherd (back from the mail) box on my Specialized MTB with only one hand on the bars. I hit a bump and went down hard on my right shoulder.
- I broke my right collarbone.
- Keep both hands on the handle bars when you are racing or riding fast.
- Went over the handlebars and landed on the curb on my right hip during the 2000 Category 4 State Criterium Championship in Port Orange, FL.
- A group or riders crashed in front of me on turn 3 and I couldn’t avoid hitting them.
- I got up and went to the pit and got my free lap and got back in the race.
- I did the last lap lead out for ORC team sprinter Chris Curtis who won the Category 4 State Criterium Championship.
- If your bike is Ok and you are not seriously injured get back in the race – you can’t win if you don’t finish.
- As long as you are racing you have a chance to win or help a team mate win.
- Master’s 50+ Road Race in ~2003 in Williston, FL.On the last lap of the race while maintaining position near the front about 300 yards before the last turn two inexperienced riders touched elbows and the one next to me fell on my front wheel taking me down instantly on my left side and elbow.
- The crash bent the left seat stay on my custom Waterford 2200.
- After being treated with cortisone by my (witch) doctor for a “badly contused” elbow I went to an orthopedist and learned I need surgery for a broken left ulna.
- Note while riding with the broken elbow I won the Lake Mary Criterium on 2/23/03. Yes it did hurt a bit.
- See first lesson again – if my bars had been even with the guy who crashed he would have bounced off me and I would not have crashed.
- Additional lesson – do your best to stay away from Cat 5 riders. Racing in fields with riders of mixed levels of experience is more dangerous.
- If you crash hard and have a significant amount of pain go see a real doctor and if the treatment isn’t working get a second opinion.
- You can race with a broken bone if you are tough but, it hurts.
- Crashed hard in turn 4 of the Lakeland Criterium course in 2011 while attempting to bridge up to Chuck Jerabek.
- I carried maximum speed from the downhill on the back side of the course into the super fast sweeping turn 3-4 (actually just one turn at speed).
- I followed Chuck’s line even though I was going a good deal faster.
- When I laid it at the exit of turn 4 I had to either low side and ruin my wheels when the bike hit the curb or ditch it in the grass with a high side and roll.
- I saved the bike while I took the fall on the back below the left shoulder. It hurt quite a bit but, the bike was OK so I picked it up and ran to the pits to get my free lap.
- They pushed me back in and tried to resume racing but, on hitting the hill I experienced a sharp pain in my back and could not take a full breath.
- I pulled out and the EMT’s sent me to the hospital in the ambulance (first time for me).
- They did x-ray’s at the hospital and told me nothing was broken.
- I was still hurting quite a bit the next day so I went to my doctor who sent me for an MRI since the hospital said I had not broken any bones.
- The MRI found damage to both shoulders (old stuff from a long history of competitive swimming) and a cleanly broken left collarbone.
- Adjust your line when entering a turn at maximum speed. I could have made that turn and caught Chuck if I had taken the right line.
- Again with medical – if things don’t seem right get a second opinion.
- Don’t pay the hospital when they misdiagnose you. I didn’t because their failure to x-ray the collarbone resulted in me having to pay for a more expensive MRI.
- There were two big crashes in the spring of ~2004 in Category 3 races I was in. Fortunately, I wasn’t in either of them because I was intelligent enough to abstain.
- Both were in circuit races with a long flat finish. Both races were controlled by a team that had a very fast sprinter.
- The crashes were caused by riders that did not hold their line in the sprint resulting in wheels being crossed and about half of the front group going down.
- I had my best two Category 3 finishes in those races and I was at the back of the pack of about 50 riders when the pack exploded in front of me
- Hold your line in sprints. This is fully covered in session # 4 in the USA Cycling Beginning Racer Program (BRP).
- Don’t contest a large bunch sprint unless you can maintain position at the front – trying to win from the back is a recipe for a crash.
- If you are not in position to race for the money it is not worth crashing for 22nd place.
- If you are in a stage race don’t allow a 1 second gap in front of you or you may lose time.