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A Crash: It's Not If, But When
You don't want to be a daredevil all the time, you want to be smart. But at the same time there’s an exhilarating feeling that only comes when you are out there in the middle of a fast group ride kicking butt, heart pounding out of your chest and you’re going for it hanging on for dear life. (Do you know what I’m talking about?)
Crashes, falls, scrapes, bruises and broken bones are bound to happen. It's part of the game. The more riders out there, the more variables there are. And I know plenty of cyclists that have gotten into scrapes biking alone minding their own business when pesky things cross their paths--animals (squirrels, anyone?) or inanimate objects (trees, potholes, curbs...). So there’s risk whichever way you look at it. Heck, I bet there are some athletes out there who have fallen off their trainer! When you bike, there’s risk, period!
I understand the dangers of cycling and do not take it lightly. It is a risky sport. You should take it seriously every time you hop on your bike. Don’t take your safety for granted. When you ride in a group, ride with experienced cyclists. Be cautious and aware that other cyclists may not know (or obey) the rules of the road. Be prepared! Be alert!
Why put yourself out there in a group ride? Well, for the International Triathlon Union (ITU) style of racing (the kind done in the Olympic Games) the bike portion is draft legal. You ride in packs at fast speeds around sharp turns and need to be able to handle your bike well. Group riding can help athletes become more comfortable riding in a pack and more proficient at bike handling skills. In addition, riding with others requires you to anticipate their moves and react accordingly. A large focus of the USAT Collegiate Recruitment Program is to help athletes develop strong cycling skills to compete in draft-legal races.
I landed hard on my right side and tucked thinking I was going to get plowed into by the other riders. Thankfully they had enough time to react to avoid a pile up. I landed on my joints (ankle, knee, hip and elbow), but must have evenly spread out the weight of the impact because nothing shattered or broke (hooray! My last crash put me in the ER with a broken rib). I have some nice road rash to show for it, some scrapes and lovely colored bruises (so attractive I know!).
The bike took more damage than I did. The force of impact crushed my pedal, bent my cleat, rubbed a hole in my shoe, bent the derailer, bent my front shifters (and not to mention, injured my pride). Needless to say, the bike wasn't road worthy. I think every athlete wants to fall, shake it off and hop back on and keep on riding, but I couldn't do that this time. I had to swallow my pride and take a kind rider up on his offer to drive me home.
As Mark Twain so eloquently said: “It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.” When an accident happens it can be hard to get back out there. Small and big fears can creep in and set up house in our minds replaying over and over the fall, the crash, the accident. I find that the best thing there is to counteract this is to visualize the accident, but then re-visualize it going the way you wanted it to go (staying up instead of falling, reacting sooner, anticipating the other cyclist’s move...). And then physically get back out there and start riding. The longer we sit on our fears and let them “keep house” in our minds, the harder it is for us to face them.
Mistakes happen out there and accidents come with the territory of cycling and training. It's a miracle we don't get hurt more often considering the amount of miles we put in. When you do take a fall, it’s a good time to give your body some extra TLC (as I’m learning!). If you treat your body well, it will treat you well.
Ride safe, ride confident, and face your fears. See you at the races!