You Crashed, Now What?

Criteriums can be risky.  There is one rule in bike racing and even more so in criterium racing:  You race, you crash.  It is more of a matter of when and how often.  Lance Armstrong crashes even though he is a highly protected, experienced, and valuable bike racer.

 What causes crashes?  Here is an incomplete list:

  • People in front of you crash.  Many times the crash has nothing to do with you at all.  There was something that happened in front of you, so you end up on a pile, sliding, etc…  I look at this as a probability situation.  The more people in front of you: the higher the probability that there will be a crash.  Each rider in front of you multiplies the risk factor.  In fact the probability goes up faster the further back you go in the pack because the skill of the riders goes down the further back you go in the pack.  In addition, one of the key factors in crashes is fatigue, and the further you go back in the pack, the higher the fatigue level.  Stay up FRONT!
  • Doing something sudden or unexpected, braking or moving left or right.  Riding safety in the pack requires everyone to follow a basic rule:  Don’t do something sudden or unexpected.  You can cause a crash that takes you down or riders around you down by breaking the rule of expectation. 
  • Not protecting your front wheel.  Your job in the pack is to protect your front wheel.  One of the quickest ways to go down is to allow someone to overlap your front wheel.  On a straightaway this can be very sudden and violent. 
  • Flat/blowout.  If you have ever had a front tire blowout quickly, then you can imagine how bad this might be if you had a front tire blowout around a corner or in the middle of a pack.  Slow leaks can be just a bad around a corners if you don’t notice it until it is too late.
  • Mechanical.  Crit racing is hard on bikes since most of the courses are held on city streets which are not maintained like a velodrome.   I have seen the following stuff break in races: Spokes, handlebars, stems, forks, frames, shoe cleats. 
  • Cornering too fast.  Going to fast around dry pavement is hard to do.  It can be done but this is not main cause of crashes, but it is the biggest fear among new crit racers.  It is much more of an issue for wet pavement.
  • Road conditions.  There are all sorts of bad pavement situations that can cause crashes.  Concrete and black top roads in the north are greatly affected by the winter salt, the tar strips get very soft in hot sun, crosswalk paint is slippery, manhole covers,  buses drip oil at the bus stops, etc… 

You Crashed now what?

  1. When you crash, the adrenaline immediately hits your body.  You will feel no pain and will instantly want to get back up and start racing.  Your heart was pumping hard already, but now it will be in overdrive.  RELAX and Breathe.  With a free lap in a criterium, you have time.  However, most crits have a limit on the free lap towards the end of the race.  This is usually announced at the start of the race, but typically it is something like:  the pits close with 5 laps to go.
  2. Stay still for second.  Sense and feel your body.
    1. Don’t get mad, don’t fight, worry about your body
    2. Don’t check your bike first
    3. Did you just wake up on the ground?
    4. Does anything not feel right?  Anything broken or damaged?  Wrists, collarbone, hips, head, etc….
    5. Look at your skin and look for blood
    6. Did you break your helmet
    7. If you are hurt don’t move, just stay still and wait for medical attention.  Don’t let people move you if you are hurt!
  1. If you are okay, now you can check your bike.
    1. Do your wheels spin?
    2. Are your handlebars and seat straight?
  1. Get to the pits by the start finish.  If your wheels are damaged, you might need to go cyclocross.
    1. Tell the officials that you were in a crash.
    1. Minor mechanical problems can be sometimes fixed in the pits. 
    2. Most races are wheels in/wheels out, which means if you put your own wheels into the pits before the race then you can use them if you get a flat or damaged a wheel during the race.  Some larger races will have neutral  support so you might be able to get a wheel if you did not put wheels into the pits.  Sometimes you can share wheels with teammates, but work this out ahead of time.
    3. Many times a free laps becomes 2 laps because of where a crash might have happened on the course or time necessary to fix a mechanical. 
  1. Get back in the race!
    1. If your bike and you are okay, then you can rejoin the race about where you where in the pack.  If you were in the break, you can rejoin with the break, etc….
    2. The officials control where and when you can rejoin the pack. 
    3. Before the pack comes by, get ready to sprint and rejoin the pack safety.

 Crashing sucks but it happens.  You need to be prepared mentally for the situation so that you can react.

Ride Hard