Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Devon GP - A great start, but not so great finish!

As Darcy mentioned in his earlier blog I was unfortunately involved in a very unexpected, unnecessary and rather nasty high speed crash on Sunday at the Devon RR. It involved three riders, including myself. While I know who the other riders were from talking to others after the race, looking at the finishing results and remembering faces and team kit colors, I will refrain from using their names in my description of what happened. Let’s just call them rider A and B, and me. In the heat of the moment – everything happened so fast - no one really thought to look for numbers or ask for each others names.

Leading up to the RR, the Devon GP weekend was going great for me. I had finished 6th in the ITT and 4th in the crit on Saturday and achieved my primary goal for the weekend which was getting the necessary upgrade points to move into cat 4. Then came the road race on Sunday. It was a relatively straightforward out-and-back course with no crazy descents, hairpins or other technical aspects. It should have been an uneventful road race. The race got off to a brisk start with a few guys off the front early. Within about 10km we had brought them back into the fold and the race was then well under control. There were a few erratic riders as always in the bunch but we were pretty much all together to the turnaround; maybe a half dozen or so guys fell off on the climb up to the turnaround and a few more fell back on the return climb. I was front- to mid-pack most of the way, trying to protect my fifth place on GC but also prepared to work for Darcy if he was in the lead group as we neared the end of the race. On the climb back out of the Genessee River Valley two guys from Pedalhead got away. Before the right hand turn back onto Township Road 512 we’d caught one of them. The other guy was still away by about 100 meters. Leading up to and after we’d turned right onto Twp Rd 512 a few of us were working hard at the front to try and bring the breakaway rider back into the fold (including rider ‘A’ who was to the one to cause the crash). We were being blocked reasonably effectively by the breakaway guy’s teammates. About 8km down Twp Rd 512 on the way back, and still in a 15+ man group (I cannot recall exact numbers as I was fifth or sixth wheel at the time), and with one guy still off the front (we could see him very clearly up the road) we came to a marshaled cross road at which rider ‘A’, in front of me made an inexplicable sudden and sharp turn to the right as if he thought that was where we were supposed to turn (why he thought this I still cannot understand). It was much more than simply not holding a line; it was a clear right turn at 45+ km/h followed by a sharp braking when he must have realized he’d made an incorrect turn. I, as well as several others who witnessed it all from a little further back in the peloton, and who I spoke to at the medic van, could not understand why he’d have thought to turn there: (i) he was not even front wheel and those that were leading our group to his left were clearly going straight, (ii) there was a breakaway guy clearly visible up the road and (iii) if he’d paid any attention to the race route, which each and every one of us are required to do before a race, he’d have known that we only turned right at the T-intersection at the end of the Twp Rd 512 (it's an out and back - that means we get to the finish line the same way we came!). I was just off his wheel and a little to the right, and rider ‘B’ must have been in a similar position just behind me. In the nanoseconds I had to react I tried my best to avoid him but given how sharply he turned to the right, our speed at the time and his decision to brake upon realizing his error, it was to prove impossible. We were down before we even knew it. I cannot recall whether rider ‘B’ hit me from behind as I was trying to avoid rider ‘A’ or whether rider ‘B’ collided into me after I’d already collided with the back end of rider ‘A’s bike - it all happened so fast. As the rest of the peloton rode away, the marshal came over to see if we were all okay. Rider ‘A’ got up pretty quick and just stood there in obvious disbelief at what he had just done. Funny, he didn’t even come over to see if we were okay. I was very slow to get up, in a lot of pain mainly in my left shoulder and still completely in shock at what had just happened...so unexpectedly on what should have been a routine part of the race course. Rider ‘B’ was sitting on the ground a little longer and I recall him saying he was okay but in too much pain to ride on. After making sure everyone was okay and straightening out a few components on my bike and making sure the vital parts were working and still intact, I hopped on my bike and slowly rode to the finish. I recall Rider ‘A’ also indicating to the marshal that he’d be okay to ride on and from the results it looks like he came in about five minutes after me.

After crossing the line in extreme pain I was driven to the medic van in the parking lot, looked at and then Darcy drove me to the Devon hospital for x-rays and further medical treatment. The hospital staff were great and very expedient. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to see either rider ‘A’ or ‘B’ again that afternoon to get their perspectives on what happened. I sincerely hope that both of them are doing okay. I am still trying to figure out what rider ‘A’ was thinking and why he did what he did. I may not know the answer without speaking to him. So what can we all learn from this? Firstly, always ensure good and effective communication among riders whether racing or out for a recreational ride, and secondly, make sure to know the course/route before you race/ride on it (drive it beforehand or study the technical guide). This should not have happened and could easily have been avoided if everyone knew the course.

As for me, thankfully and very luckily it does not appear that I have any broken bones. I have what appears to be a very badly sprained SC joint and pretty nasty road rash and bruising on my left shoulder, back, both elbows, hip and left hand as well as lots of other minor scrapes, bruises and burns over my body. I trashed my helmet but other than some bruising behind my left ear, my head seems to be okay.

I hope to back on the bike very soon. In the meantime, and always, ride safely!



running_on_ice said...

Wow Matt! Not cool. I wish you an expedient recovery. Congrats on cating up!

Dan Sigouin said...

Holy doodle Matt, sounds like some kind of experience. I hope that you recover fast and this does not set you back for the rest of your race season.

After reading your report, it would be hard to imagine any credible reason for rider A to pull that kind of move unless something was on the road, needed to expel a mouth full of spit and was really shy about it, or had a seizure!

Another valuable learning lesson after last weeks C4 race. It's too bad that all the learning lessons involve donating flesh to the Pavement Overlord!

Take care


Steve P said...

Congrats on moving up! I'm sure you'll be back at 'em just so you can try racing with the bigger guns.

Harley Borlee said...

heal up quick Matt! Good to hear nothing is broken! See ya out there soon!

Al said...

Hi Matt. I am rider 'B'. As a result of this crash I recieved a broken clavical, stitches on the point of my elbow, miles of rash and a concussion. My recollection of the event is dissimilar in that I believed a Speed Theory rider the culprit here. Rider 'A' had on a white and blue kit, not sure what team. Cannot recall much else because it happened so fast. However, I wish you a speedy recovery. If rider 'A' took us both out, then it seems to me he fared rather better than we did. I'd like a chat with him some day.

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