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Old 07-25-10, 05:54 PM   #1
shiz702
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How do you justify the risks of racing?

I started out the year as a cat 5 and moved up to a 4 after 10 races (including 3 skills clinics). I've raced 12 races so far and out of all 12 I've only seen 2 races go clean with no crashes. I've been involved in 2 crashes, both times I got caught behind other people doing stupid sh*t.

I took a break in May due to an intense summer class. I was afraid to crash again and miss classes. Now that this class is almost over I really want to get a couple more races in before the season ends but I'm having a hard time justifying the risks. My first crash kept me off the bike for almost 3 weeks with a sprained wrist and bruised hip (plus all the road rash just plain sucks).

So my question is, how do YOU justify the risks to yourself? I know, I know, just HTFU right? I really enjoy racing but thinking about crashing again makes me question the point.
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Old 07-25-10, 05:58 PM   #2
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im a little bit crazy

no but in all seriousness all sports have there risks, you just need to realize that living a life without risks is boring
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Old 07-25-10, 06:01 PM   #3
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I started out the year as a cat 5 and moved up to a 4 after 10 races (including 3 skills clinics). I've raced 12 races so far and out of all 12 I've only seen 2 races go clean with no crashes. I've been involved in 2 crashes, both times I got caught behind other people doing stupid sh*t.

I took a break in May due to an intense summer class. I was afraid to crash again and miss classes. Now that this class is almost over I really want to get a couple more races in before the season ends but I'm having a hard time justifying the risks. My first crash kept me off the bike for almost 3 weeks with a sprained wrist and bruised hip (plus all the road rash just plain sucks).

So my question is, how do YOU justify the risks to yourself? I know, I know, just HTFU right? I really enjoy racing but thinking about crashing again makes me question the point.
here's a suggestion: take a class on the psychology of economics. the reward of bike racing is great enough that we are willing to take the risk (not to mention the thousands of dollars we sink into equipment, race fees, etc), obviously, it seems that you are risk-averse in this regard, and there's nothing wrong with that. you know, there are always triathlons and duathlons in which you can participate
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Old 07-25-10, 06:04 PM   #4
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I don't justify the risks. The truth is that love doing probably the riskiest races of all: road races. It makes no sense at all. Please don't make me think too hard about it.
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Old 07-25-10, 06:24 PM   #5
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I now race my bike because when I used to cave dive, I had seven friends die.

(edited: now 8)
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Old 07-25-10, 06:51 PM   #6
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I've been a motorcyclist for 30 years. I've seen plenty of accidents at the track and on the street. I used to rock climb. The guy who first taught me about climbing died on a mountain a few years later.

Every activity has risks. I try to understand what they are and adjust my behaviour in order to minimize them. If the risks are still higher than the enjoyment I get from the activity, I stop doing it.

There's no justification involved. That sounds more like self-delusion than rational thought.

I do have moments in races where I am thinking "What am I doing here? This is stupid!". Usually when the pack's bunched up and being squirrely. But by the end of the race it's gone and I am glad I did it even if I am not content with my placing.
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Old 07-25-10, 06:51 PM   #7
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you just need to realize that living a life without risks is boring
No such thing. If you are alive, you are constantly at risk.
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Old 07-25-10, 06:59 PM   #8
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I'm risk averse.

It took me 42 years to break a bone. I've done upwards of 55+ races a year for 26-27 years. I do mainly crits. I rely on my mad skillz (hahahaha), intuition, and luck to stay out of trouble. I ride pretty aggressively at times, but other times I'll turn it off if things don't seem right.

I like crits. Controlled speed, everyone gets to know the course, I get to know everyone's habits.

I hate road races. Usually narrow (yellow line), ultra fast descents, and no idea how each rider reacts to various situations. Plus I get dropped on the first climb anyway.

I really, really, really like racing. So I do.
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Old 07-25-10, 07:49 PM   #9
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I now race my bike because when I used to cave dive, I had seven friends die.

(edited: now 8)
I used to do stupidly dangerous stuff when I was young and unmarried. I used to do open boat whitewater. I'd run Class IV whitewater in an open canoe if it was Class IV due to technical nature and not due to the size of the hydraulics which would make running open boat impossible. I was totally insane back then.

There was one river I went down that was totally off the hook. We did it as a lark at the end of doing a week of whitewater as it was on the way home. I talked to a guy later who asked me if I saw the warning sign that said "This river is dangerous in high water." It turned out that the sign was underwater.

That cave diving stuff scares "teh sh1t" out of me.
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Old 07-25-10, 08:04 PM   #10
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Starting out, I found most crashes easy enough to avoid by protecting the front wheel and having situational awareness. Situational awareness meaning you make room for yourself before you get squeezed out and don't follow sketchy people too close. There aren't as many jackass moves in P/1/2 races if that's any motivation.
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Old 07-25-10, 08:21 PM   #11
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With all due respect to those who have been injured, cycling seems relatively safe compared to motocross.
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Old 07-25-10, 08:30 PM   #12
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There aren't as many jackass moves in P/1/2 races if that's any motivation.
Not an option for those of us without talent, but at least we all get older- masters races are also safer.
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Old 07-25-10, 08:40 PM   #13
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I got certified to jump solo. When I went back for another jump about 6 months later, my instructor from the first lessons wasn't there any longer. I asked where he was working now (I guess you feel like you know a guy pretty quickly after getting strapped to him for 3 tandem jumps, and 2 other assisted jumps in the course of an afternoon.)

The answer: he died when someone else piloted themselves directly into his chute. They were both too low to go to reserve chutes, only Mick died though.

Anyway, my commuting is probably more dangerous than a race. Going down or getting tangled with another bike has less consequence than getting hit by a car.
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Old 07-25-10, 09:01 PM   #14
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Basically, what cdr said.

Also, I get more worried about crashing on the local hammerfest rides and occasional rallies.
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Old 07-25-10, 09:11 PM   #15
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I wear a helmut, nice and tight! At the risk of attracting the A&S trolls that mitigates a lot of the risk in a simple crash/fall. Maybe it is because i'm more worried about traffic. Also the more amateur the more dangerous. Spend time in the front where you can actually see what is going on/coming up.
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Old 07-25-10, 09:49 PM   #16
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I don't justify the risks. The truth is that love doing probably the riskiest races of all: road races. It makes no sense at all. Please don't make me think too hard about it.
this
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Old 07-25-10, 10:50 PM   #17
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I don't.

But seriously, the risks aren't all that great, and there are ways to mitigate them.

There are racers who are constantly crashing, or nearly crashing. I'm in Cat 4, so there are guys that you hear constantly cursing and complaining about dangerous riding by others. Which is funny, because I don't feel unsafe in most of my races. There was a guy in the crit that my team put on in late May who could be heard swearing loudly on every lap about the stupid, sketchy moves being made by other racers. He got crashed out on the second-to-last lap and walked to the finish, where he proceeded with a vulgar rant about how cat 4 racers can't ride their bikes, etc. As you can imagine, this was greatly appreciated by all the parents with young children nearby. Anyway, he and the guy he tangled up with were the only people who crashed in that race.

There's another guy who complains about the sketchiness of the local crits, which is funny, since he's established a reputation for causing crashes.

It turns out that there are some simple things you can do to avoid most crashes. I do things like keep my head up and watch the wheel in front of me. I don't half-wheel the racer in front of me. If someone makes a threatening move at my space, I do not challenge, but back out. I don't try to gain position in corners, and I don't cut the inside line.

There's always an element of chance, but I've been safe in crits, so far. I used to be more aggressive and less careful about these rules, and I felt a lot less safe. The issue wasn't so much with my riding (though any honest low-cat rider needs to have some self-awareness: few cat 4 racers are excellent bike handlers) as with that of others. But now that I've developed some more situational awareness and changed the way I approach handling in a pack, that issue seems to have largely melted away. And I seem to have actually improved both my pack skills and racing aggressiveness, rather than seeing a decline. So not cutting corners hasn't hurt me, but it means I have fewer scares. Recognizing things that can get you into trouble (whether technically your fault or not) and developing an eye for riders to avoid can go a long way toward making you safer. Ultimately, you can only control the quality of your riding. Expecting everyone else to make the best decision at all times is asking too much.

Things may well be totally different in the higher cats, where overall bike handling skills are greater; so it may be possible to get more aggressive about fighting for space in the pack. I don't know. But in cat 4, adopting a more low-key approach to moving and handling in the pack has made me feel pretty safe.

So, you can do a lot to ameliorate your own risk. In addition, think about it: you may hear a crash or two in every race, but how many racers go down each time? I've seen some big crashes in road races, but the odds are actually pretty good when you consider the number of riders crashing vs. the total number of starters. Even more so when you consider that a lot of these crashing riders may be the aforementioned ones who find themselves in trouble often.

I don't want to suggest that there's no risk, or that the consequences can't be severe, but your odds of crashing in any given race aren't actually all that high, and most injuries are simply uncomfortable annoyances, like road rash. So I bets my money and takes my chances. Ultimately, is it worth it? I don't know. I can't make a rational assessment of that. But racing is too much damn fun right now for the risk of crashing to turn me away.
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Old 07-26-10, 01:06 AM   #18
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I think as long as you're fine just finishing with the pack and stay away from the sprinters the risks are low when compared to the training benefits.
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Old 07-26-10, 03:01 AM   #19
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I think as long as you're fine just finishing with the pack and stay away from the sprinters the risks are low when compared to the training benefits.
I don't know why you pick out the sprinters (seeing as I'm one, since I can't climb or TT).

I find the highest risks (in Cat 3s) surround specific riders who don't look or think far enough ahead. It's like the car drivers on the highway that switch to the right lane as soon as they come up on a slower car, then immediately get stuck behind even a slower car as the left lane streams by them. Or the car that pulls out just in front of another car, but if the car had waited literally a few seconds, the road would have been totally clear. I wouldn't want to race bikes with those types of drivers.

I said here in BF that I prefer 100 rider fields, but that, if all the racers were from, say, CT, I'd race with 140. If you include literally just one of 5 or 6 racers in a 3 hour driving radius, I'd drop that number down to 60 racers. Those guys (one who I'd call a sprinter - he's a multi time Masters National Champion on the track and in the crit - but some of the others are not true sprinters, they're just really strong) make the races sketchy and unpredictable.

Some of the safest close quarters racing I experience is in the last lap of races like Bethel or New Britain (aka Nutmeg State Games). Check out the helmet cam clips I've posted (YouTube user sprinterdellacasa). In general the races are pretty safe. There's one sprint where I go into the sand at Nutmeg, and, yes, one of the 5 or 6 guys I prefer not to race with took out the front half of the field there.

The worst have been Somerville and Harlem, but the latter includes most of those 5-6 guys (and in a field of only 63 I think), the former was closed out at 120+ racers and guys came from everywhere to do the race (including those 5-6 guys).

I thought of something regarding risk averse. I joked about being risk averse at my old job, IT in the financial world, where it's imperative to have data backed up. I was the most careful person when it came to rebooting a machine.

It must have rubbed off on me because I have, on my back up machine (I won't call it a server because it's not), in addition to two drives (operating system etc), a set of mirrored drives (so 2 of everything), an external drive to that box (so a 3rd copy). I also back up from my laptops, and I have yet another back up drive in my big laptop (so a 4th copy, but focusing on portable data that I gather when I go on trips, like helmet cam footage or pictures). Finally I have two more external drives, one backing up my only Mac (although all the helmet cam files reside everywhere else too), the other a 5th repository for my helmet cam footage and the very large iMovie files from the Mac.

cdr
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Old 07-26-10, 06:03 AM   #20
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As has been implied by several responses, it isn't how risk-adverse you are, but how risk-adverse the other racers are. As an old-man Cat 4, I can race Masters and get shelled, or race Cat 4 and get bumped and bashed all day and finish in the top 20. I was in the 50+ Masters at Hilltowns on Saturday, and we started 10 minutes after the Cat 4. We dodged cat 4 bodies, their attendants, their police cars, and their ambulances for the first 20 miles (after that there is a little hill that takes care of the bunching). I went down the steep hill in the Masters this year and never felt safer or better, at 50mph. Master's racers just don't take the stupid risks, the jamming into places that don't fit them, and the sketchy passes that seem to mar every open cat 4 race I have been in. Of course, it is hard to actually stay in a Masters field around here, but my brief experiences have been fun.
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Old 07-26-10, 06:13 AM   #21
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^

this is why I race M40 or M35 instead of 4. I have been told it's a mistake, since I get my ass kicked by Nat'l champs and World champs, but I hate the 4s, and I still do a fair share of races in the 4s and don't really finish well enough to get upgrade points yet.
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Old 07-26-10, 06:56 AM   #22
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I don't know why you pick out the sprinters (seeing as I'm one, since I can't climb or TT)
Assuming a wreck is unavoidable I'd rather not be going sprint speed when it happens,
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Old 07-26-10, 07:17 AM   #23
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I only question myself during warm-ups. Once I line up, I'm fine. Not enough oxygen in the brain to think about it while I'm racing and too much adreneline afterwards. Then I start looking forward to the next one.

The cycle repeats each time.

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Anyway, my commuting is probably more dangerous than a race. Going down or getting tangled with another bike has less consequence than getting hit by a car.
Yes. Frequency and severity.
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Old 07-26-10, 07:19 AM   #24
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I really want to get a couple more races in before the season ends
Why?
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Old 07-26-10, 07:49 AM   #25
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I don't recall ever thinking about justifying it for any reason. I enjoy bicycle racing.
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