I raced a local Cat4 bike race today. While it was plenty of fun, the title of this post pretty much describes how my race went. I heard from the UW cycling team that they wanted to try to make something happen right out of neutral. It seemed like a good idea, since nobody in a Cat4 race really wants to hurt for a 40 mile race, so if a few people are up for it the pack will likely let them go away. Apparently UW was all talk, because only one of them went with me on the first hill, and we dropped right back in. The second lap I did the same thing on the first hill and managed to stay away for about 7 miles all by myself. I kept thinking someone would bridge up, but Phil Spencer (this is the second time I’ve linked to that website, but since my laptop speakers are broken, I can’t actually hear the video that plays. From the looks of it Phil and some woman are trying to convince me that decapitation would really improve the spacing between the vertebrae in my neck.) and a few other guys decided to simply tow the entire pack up to me. If the group was thinned out by my efforts, I couldn’t tell.
At this point (half way through the race) I figured that my chances for glory through breakaway were shot. I also refuse to contest a sprint, because it’s just not worth the risk of crashing before a race that matters, so I started going to the front and playing around with some tempo pace riding. It was all fun and games from there until about 2 miles to go in the race. The pace had picked up significantly, and there was a long line of guys out in front. A guy riding for Starbucks started accelerating to the left, and I saw a gap and went right. As we came up the pack was yelling something to the effect of, “jumping on the left, and another on the right”. All was well until I was passing the leader, a rider from Cucina Fresca (a team I managed to enrage last year after calling them “Cucina ‘no pull’ Fresca” for their irritating, though successful, tactics on this same course).
Now here’s the tricky part. Did he look at the Starbucks rider and come right into me, or did I bump into him? All I know is that if I had not been passing him at that moment, The Cucina guy would not have clipped my bars and about 15 guys would not have hit the pavement. I would like to believe I was holding my line and that my fault was simply in not communicating my presence as I was passing, but either way I feel really bad about the whole thing.
So after looking back and seeing melee behind me (and that awful sound of beautiful bikes being broken) I followed the lead of the other men around me and started accelerating. We rounded the last corner and started up the first of two short climbs to the finish line (about 1500m away), I thought maybe I should just hammer from bottom, but by the time I saw the 200m sign I was fried and I fell back to about 10th-ish.
Heading back into the parking lot I heard some guys talking about this guy, “Ben Collins, he’s a triathlete, and he took down that Cucina guy, they’re talking about disqualifying him for aggressive riding.” I interjected, and asked if any of them had seen what happened – they hadn’t, but the guy that went down was apparently sure of himself that I had made the mistake. Oh yeah, blame the triathlete. To cyclists, being a triathlete is like being below Cat5 (not Cat6, but something like Cat100 or Catgoogleplex, which would indicate no chance of improvement – ever). It means you have no handling skills, will crash yourself out of a race with nobody else around, and are likely to show up to group rides with aerobars and a disc wheel. Nobody seems to care that I race mainly in Olympic style, draft legal triathlon, against cyclists that are each strong enough to race Cat 1/2. Even the local official in charge of upgrades, when I asked to be moved to the 4’s, went to her friends that race Ironman for their opinion on pack experience through triathlon (they said that in a race people are all strung out a few bike lengths apart, and aren’t really “drafting” – check out the videos on the ITU website and tell me if that’s what you see.) I digress – I already felt bad, but this news that I was being called “reckless” really made me feel bad. (To be fair, the guys with road rash and broken bikes probably felt worse – so poor Ben, right?). It’s easy to justify in your head how you were not at fault, so in this type of situation I try to figure out what I could have done differently, ask other people if they saw what happened, and accept some responsibility regardless of what happened. I found a few other guys carrying their bikes, one guy said he was right behind the crash and didn’t think I had done anything wrong, “looked like you were holding your line to me”. Eventually, after plenty of apologies to bloody legged cyclists, I found the Cucina guy that crashed. His bike was in bad shape, he was a little bloody, but not broken. So I apologized, which I guess is all I really can do. The RD told me not to worry about a DQ. “It’s not a big deal,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, sometimes crashes just happen.” I still feel badly.