I've seen a guy with stars and stripes sweep across the entire lane like a snowplow in the last 500m. He didn't go down. He also won. As to the guys who had to check up when he did it, well, there were no officials watching.
it'll help out call out if you're coming up from behind and squeezing between a gap, or call out the person being a selfish dick at others' expense.
That said, I'm hesitant to say categorically the Cat 5 is crashier than other cats. It might be, on average, but the variability from race to race is fairly large. I've been in races that felt very safe and races that were crashfests when I was racing collegiate, as a Cat 4, and as a Cat 5. I've always felt very safe racing in Georgia (until I got caught in a giant pileup at Athens) and really frightened racing in Alabama (where I never crashed). I've done 8 corner crits in Nashville where I once crashed myself out as a Cat 4 but never had anyone else take me down, then got taken down in the 1/2/3 race last year when a guy dug a pedal right in front of me.
I'm also reluctant to say that bike racing is very dangerous, I'm more inclined to say that there are risks associated with any sport. Simply riding on the road with traffic is risky. At least the variables are more controlled in a race.
It's tough, because policing bad behavior is hard to do when the players are experienced and can recognize the difference between legitimate moves that lead to some incidental contact or an unavoidable incident, and reckless, endangering riding. When you're talking about riders who may not even be able to reliably distinguish reckless riding by another from what was actually an overreaction or mistake on their own part, it gets worse.
Whatever the case, crashing in your first race sucks, and I hope it's not discouraging. But it does happen. If it helps, a lot of people go many years without crashing. That's not all random chance. Try to figure out who they are and watch what they do.
I move into a gap between 2 riders.
Guy says: "Hey, I'm right here"
... yes, how could I possibly move in here without seeing you?... Your point?
"Whoa, ON YOUR RIGHT!!1"
... yes, I know - you've been there for a while now.
Through a corner: "Hey, watch out I'm on the inside!"
... yeah, that's why I purposely left you like 3 feet of space man. Your welcome.
Then the guy who claims I almost crashed him out. I moved up the left through a big gap on a straight section. I even called it but I guess he didn't hear me. After I was forward of him he swerved a bit left and his hand hit my hip. This was apparently almost crashing him out. I even know I was moving straight because I was continuing through the gap.
I'm doing much better at ignoring all the yells and demands.
No thanks, don't feel like it.
"chase him down!"
Um, yeah sure I'm just gonna go work my butt off so you can chill out.
Yes, as I've moved up the categories, the yelling of phrases such as "hold your line!" "no brakes!" "inside!" and other such inanities has declined more rapidly than the number of crashes.
For what it's worth, as you race more in your local area, you learn to recognize not only who the legitimately sketchy riders are, but also the riders who are most uncomfortable riding in a group. And you learn to ignore them when they complain about how someone (or even you) is riding unsafely. Actually, the sketchy riders and the complainers about how sketchy everyone else is are typically the same people. Keep that in mind.
It's not so much an injustice as just part of the sport. It sucks, but it is what it is. What you describe doesn't necessarily sound like contact that should cause you to crash, but every situation is different. I've been on both sides, being crashed and having someone beside me crash instead of me. Part of it.
We had a big crash on a straight section of a road race at mile 11... on a straightaway. At least with cat 4's, you're guaranteed some sort of experience with group riding and corning; I personally find a little comfort knowing that I'll be riding with smoother wheels. With cat 5, you can get anybody, some who haven't done a corner with a peloton before, or are really nervous and edgy.
I haven't raced with any group that's particularly aggressive or reckless per se, so we'll just have to wait and see. But my outlook is that I will be able to tolerate aggressive riders more than unpredictable riders.
C, heal up soon. And like I advised after the crit...Tegaderm for that road rash. [I was in the black kit and white/blue Cervelo - we actually talked a bit after the road race about the U of A].
I was in the same race as C, and while I didn't see the crash I can attest to the fact that there were a lot of inexperienced guys doing their very first crit and a lot of sketchy riding. I fell off the back of the group and didn't have the power to catch up as a result of one guy coming WAY off of his line and nearly taking out the whole field.
C's situation is tough to swallow - and hard to offer advice on - because it's entirely possible that he did everything right, but got taken down because another rider wasn't racing right. I know that can happen in any category, but we have a higher concentration of nervous, inexperienced riders in ours who jump or overreact to the slightest bump or contact.
I do an informal crit here in PHX most Tuesday nights. I beg the more experienced guys to point out any mistakes or sketchy riding that *I* do so that I don't put myself or others in danger. If there is something like that in Tucson, perhaps you could try that. Best of luck.
My team (Faster) had its tent at the final corner. Didn't see your crash, but the finish of the Cat 4 was a cluster because two guys went down in front of us just before the bell lap, and lots of confusion ensued as the moto-ref and the pack came around to start the sprint. We screamed at our guy to go just as they got the injured off the course. He did and took second. Not a fair finish, but that's another example of the 'stuff' that happens. There was also a crash in the juniors, and at least two people went down in the TT, something I have ignominiously (just plain ran off the road) personally experienced. There was at least one crash in the RR. I think that was Cat 5. Two years ago a pro went through the rear windshield of a car allowed onto the RR course at a particularly bad time. He was relatively "OK". We have to accept that what we do has its risks, and do our best to be safe. That involves racing confidently rather than tentatively, and I encourage you to do all the practice crit's you can to make sure your crash doesn't make you tentative. I do the previously mentioned Tuesday night training crit in Phoenix, which has had its own share of crashes, such that we no longer have a real 'finish'... at some point, one of the folks on the side just says "shut it down". Liability and all that. And bear in mind that a race pack is a far different animal than a group ride. It's far more dynamic and less structured, with situations you won't face on a group ride. There is just no substitute for the real thing.
And its worth saying that a higher than normal stakes race like VOS, which will get the motivation and adrenaline up even higher than normal, is an interesting choice for a first crit. Especially given the course, which is a fine example of the worst pavement you ever see in Arizona, even if you live in Tucson The road surface in two of the corners made close quarters more likely to be problematic. In our race, you had to power through those bouncy sections or lose places.
In the vein of how what constitutes a gap varies from person to person and pack to pack, in the 'higher than average experience' M55+ pack (I'm a real newb compared to most of the others), there was a guy who was pretty aggressive about asserting his 'positional rights'. Meaning, if he was ahead of you at all, and wanted to move over, he wasn't going to care whether your front wheel was there or not. After another guy gently placed a hand on his hip a couple of times to keep him from moving over. Yellow line rule can make for space contention. I heard "If you push me again, I'm knocking your ass to the ground." Guys like him tend to get a bit of extra space around them, because it's generally just not worth it to take issue with someone else's riding style. You just make a mental note and adjust, as doing otherwise can have less than desirable consequences. Not much talking in our class, unless it's an attempt to influence the race, like the 'deals' being made in our crit yesterday as we worked towards the final lap. "I'll lead you out if..." stuff like that.
The best way to improve, as with any endeavor, is to be as brutally objective with yourself as you can possibly be. So who knows how much you might have contributed to your mishap. Take the perspective that, whether you did or not, it may have been avoidable had you done something differently. Factor that in, learn from it, and keep racing.
May you heal well, and quickly...
"If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."
I enjoyed reading all of the responses, the perspective and advice. Like has been said, it's dangerous. Regardless, I hope to see you at TBC, we were pretty evenly matched at VOS, and round two should be fun.