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First big wreck, did I do something wrong?

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First big wreck, did I do something wrong?

Old 11-05-14, 02:49 PM
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First big wreck, did I do something wrong?

On Sunday I wrecked bad, knocking me out of the race for my first ever DNF. I've been replaying the scenario in my head and of course thinking of how I could have avoided it. You know, hindsight being 20/20 and all.

So here's what happened. I'm racing Cat 4 masters, I've worked my way up into the top ten in my category and I'm psyched to race and maintain that and of course try to pick up a few more spots if I can. We are the first start in our group, and starting at minute or so intervals behind us are Clydesdales and beginners. So I'm used to passing some stragglers from these classes in the last lap or two of my races, but Sunday's race was extreme. It was a technical course with several tricky off cambers, horseshoes etc and there was a large turn out, so us Cat 4 masters, or at least the lead group, were starting to lap a lot of other riders even by the penultimate lap. I'm talking dozens. Of course I'm not racing them, but when a guy in my race squirts around one or two of them, I need to chase him down, so long as I do it properly. It becomes part of the race strategy, on this particular course anyways much more so than I've seen before. Sprint to get around a couple slowpokes before the next turn, or you'll be trapped until the next opening. If you can pull it off, you might trap one of your competitors and put some time into him.

So entering this long, open, wide curve through the finish line and onto this gravel road straightaway to start off the last lap I'm passing lots of riders, going by them on the left, with a guy in my race following right on my wheel. We're both calling out "left" "on the left" as we do so. As we enter the straightaway, I blow by a couple riders and get over to the far left side along the tape that runs down in front of a bunch of team tents, support tents, etc. There's a slow guy ahead of me - Clydesdale judging by his waistline - but there's room to go by on the left. I see a spectator signaling with a sweep of his arm the level patch along the tape in front of me as if to say "down here, come right along here". I know I've got this guy I'm racing right on my wheel, so I need to maintain my speed or even put a gap on him. I shift into the big ring and start hammering. After this straightaway there's a muddy hairpin turn so I know I'll need to brake and finesse around that which will also allow me to recover from anaerobic output. Last lap, time to burn a match!

Well right at this moment the Clydesdale decides to take his left hand off his bars and wave at some friend or other on the sidelines, sitting up and calling out "hey buddy" or something. Of course this causes him to lurch over to the left, whether by accident or design, and KA-POW I slam into him at full sprint. We're both down in the dirt and I get up looking around for my sunglasses which have blown off my face. I admit I yelled at the guy "what the hell are doing!? Hold your line" or something like that. All I want to do is get back on my steed and keep racing, it's the last lap, I'm super adrenalized and I don't want to lose too many spots. At this point I can feel absolutely no pain or damage. I pick up my bike and notice the bars are wrenched around 90 degrees from forward. I can see the shifter housing is broken. I throw my bike down in disgust at the sideline. A spectator picks it up ands says something like "hey let's fix this and get you back in the race" He starts twisting the bars back into position when he notices my fork and front wheel are angling away from the frame at an unnatural angle. Yep, fork busted, race over. At some point I notice the blood running down my left leg and the huge lump forming on the side of my knee on the other. The course medic thought I might have dislocated my kneecap, I didn't figure that was the case, but I went to the ER and had it looked at. Still aches but looks like I'll get away with a bad bruise.

I don't know what happened to the other guy, but he got up and kept going I guess. Maybe the mass differential was in his favor. I don't think I did anything wrong, but of course I'm wishing there was a different outcome. I wouldn't ride like that on the street, but this wasn't the street, it was a race and people are going to be passing in close quarters. Yeah I was the overtaking rider, but I think there's a reasonable expectation that people hold their line. He had to have known there was riders coming up behind him, he'd already been lapped by 8 or 10 riders at least. I've "traded paint" with other riders on corners etc and that's just part of the deal. Yeah it's only Cat 4 or whatever, but we're all out there racing aren't we?

I didn't call out "on your left" at this particular time, that might have helped, but we were doing it all along that curve and I was shifting to the big ring and putting the hammer down for the straightaway, I guess I just didn't have the breath or whatever to call it out again. If I could have braked or swerved I would have, but I was in the process of accelerating not coasting or slowing down, and I had nowhere to go, he angled right into the tape.

Well just part of racing I guess. I hope the other guy is ok.

Has anybody else been in a similar situation and wrecked? Did I do anything wrong?
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Old 11-06-14, 07:10 AM
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I'd say the mistake was picking the line between a rider and the tape. On a long straight, why pick the most restrictive line?
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Old 11-06-14, 11:24 AM
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Well I was already on the left side going round the outside of the right hand curve passing those other riders on the left. So I just stayed over on that side figuring less deviation the better. Plus the left side had what I thought the smoothest cleanest run to the next corner. Of course if I could redo it, I'd pick the right!
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Old 11-06-14, 05:16 PM
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I'm usually the person being passed in scenarios like this. In general, if the racer passing me lets me know where he wants to be I'll go out of my way to let him be there. If they don't let me know but I realize they're there I try to make an obvious space for them to pass. This works out well 99% of the time. I haven't had an incident like yours, but once in a while in comes to bumping and mutual frustration.

In my experience, there are two common "mistakes" that faster riders make when overtaking slower riders:

1. They expect/ask/force the slower rider to take a difficult line. If I could ride any line on the course, you probably wouldn't be passing me. On an open stretch where there's a clear, smooth line surrounded by thick, energy-sapping grass I'll concede the fast line if asked even though it slows me down. On the other hand, going through single track with one easy line surrounded by slippery rocks or roots or whatever, I might not have confidence that I can safely ride anywhere but the easy line. If someone tries to squeeze me off that line, they better be prepared for me to crash into them, because it really might happen whether I mean for it to or not.

2. They call out ambiguous instructions. For instance, this weekend I was riding through a section that made kind of a sweeping 3/4 circle followed by a S-turn kind of zig-zag. Half way through the sweeping circle part the guy behind me calls out "passing on the inside." Well, that's great except the "inside" was about to change two or three times in the next 50 feet. I did my best to interpret what he wanted, but apparently I got it wrong because he shortly followed up with an exasperated "just stay left." There was no harm done in this case, but if he had started with "left" or "right" it probably would have gone better. Also, this was a relatively easy place for him to pass and he waited until he had a very clear opening. In a more technical section at higher speed, the misunderstanding could have had a worse result.


Now going back to your scenario, reading your account what you did sounds very reasonable, but that's natural because it's told from your perception of what happened. From your account, it definitely sounds like he just flaked and drifted off his line. Objectively, I think it's very possible that he did something like that. Beginners do that kind of thing.

On the other hand, I think it's useful to try to imagine what he might have been thinking without assuming incompetence. Here's the best I could come up with. You said you were approaching a muddy hairpin turn. He's a slow rider and probably not very skilled. He almost certainly wasn't thinking "brake and finesse." More likely he was thinking, "How can I get around this turn without falling in the mud?" Then going back to basics with that thought, he's probably thinking "outside-apex-outside." As he's approaching the turn, he's going to move to the tape to try to line himself up for the turn. If he wasn't expecting you to suddenly start hammering, I can see him going left in a way that seems sudden and unexpected to you. Conceivably (playing full-on devil's advocate at this point) what you heard him say was even some kind of surprised reaction to suddenly noticing where you were. I can't explain the hand off the bar thing.

This "outside-apex-outside" scenario is a very common manifestation of what I describe as "mistake" number 1 above. Skilled riders can go through tight turns in any number of ways, but often there's only one way I can do it without coming to a crawl. It's not uncommon for someone to grumble "hold your line" and I'm thinking "this is my line."

I'm not trying to say you did anything wrong here. Like I said, it really doesn't sound like you did. I'm just trying to offer a bit of a window into slower racers' thought processes.
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Old 11-07-14, 01:29 AM
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Thanks for the comments Andy. It's true you only have my side of the story to go with. For clarification, we were already well through the turn when the collision happened and on a wide open straightaway. I'd say six could ride it abreast if they wanted to. Now there's often better stretches to run on as you say, but in this particular location, it was more-or-less an open gravel road. There was no need for him to lurch over to the left to find a better line or whatever.

I truly think he just flaked, wasn't taking the race very seriously, and was more interested in waving at and calling out to his buddy. Obviously I know he didn't mean to mess me up and yeah it was probably just a flakey beginner move. Kinda dangerous, hopefully he's learned something. The whole thing is a bit of a blur, but he didn't jump up and remonstrate with me or anything so maybe he'd already realized he made an error.

For my part, being in the right (I think) doesn't really help when my fork is busted, my race is over and I'm sitting there bleeding on the sideline. I was definitely pissed. For the record the bystanders were very kind: trying to fix my unfixable bike, calming me down, finding out where the medic was, bringing me my helmet that I left behind. More than anything I'm bummed now that I'll have to miss this weekend's race! So that's two races out of the series and there goes my standing. So hopefully I'll learn something too. I should have called out again "on your left", that might have saved me. If he'd heard maybe he would have left his damn hand on his bars and held his line. I'm definitely going to have to be more cautious around stragglers. I don't want to get hurt or hurt anybody. But on the other hand I've got a race to win and yeah you get adrenalized. This particular race was the worst I've seen in my limited experience for lapping folks. I certainly got frustrated with it, but short of the organizers limiting fields or stretching out the day, I get that there's not much to be done, so everybody just has to deal with it. I guess I need to make an attitude adjustment, and consider these other riders just another form of obstacle, part of the race. It's just not something I think a lot about or train for, it doesn't feel like you can run your own race. Passing people here or there, ok, but whole gaggles and knots is another thing. I will say that at some point overcrowding a race course with bunches of people of different abilities may tend to raise everybody's frustration level and also make things less safe. The slower folks are trying to race their race too (well maybe not my arm waving friend) and being put in a position of being lapped by lots of faster riders who are frustrated and zip very close (unavoidable at times) may reduce their enjoyment of the experience.

Here's an example from Sunday that stands out in my mind. There was a grassy sidehill off camber that got progressively wetter and muddier as the laps went on. You could ride it if you stayed very high and kept pedaling. The first few laps that's what I did. Later as we start running into those other groups a bottleneck forms as somebody fell or just didn't have the confidence or ability to ride it. I rode up on it behind another guy in my Cat and we both we yelling out "pedal! keep pedaling!" Because if it get's too slow, we're not going to make it across; slowing down and waiting to get around isn't going to work in this situation. Scooting out to the side is not option, you'll slip down on your ass in a heartbeat. And of course you're thinking of the guys in your race that got ahead of this cluster and are speeding away with every second. Got through it a few times, but I probably should have just cut my losses and dismounted and run around people other times.

Slaps forehead! You know what it is, I changed Cats this year aging into Masters 45+. In one of my series that means they start us ahead of Clydesdales, Beginners and Masters 60+. When there's a big turnout on a technical course no wonder we were riding right through these groups by the end. Ok *lightbulb* this is the worst start of the day to be in. All the more incentive to upgrade, once I get a new bike and my knee recovers, if I can get my form back I'll have to seriously consider the jump to Masters Cat 3. I was pushing to up near the top of my Cat anyways and there's always some sandbagging. I can't compare times directly but if I add an additional lap to my times in this years' races, I'd have finished ok in Cat 3, bottom half for sure but not right out the back. Ok time get that new bike! And keep improving my fitness!
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Old 11-07-14, 02:07 PM
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Yeah, the off camber section you describe sucks for everyone involved. It's exactly the kind of thing that a slow rider can only ride in one place, and maybe not even one. I hate going into a section like that with the lead group coming up behind me. Typically in a case like that I'd try to run it myself if I could get far enough to the side to make room for the faster riders. In extreme cases I'll even just come to a full stop and stand off to the side waiting for a group of riders to go by, but that can get dicey because there are sometimes as many as 200 people in my category so I've got to slot in somewhere. Plus, there are always people at the back that I'm racing against and I don't want to let them jump in with the group that I'm letting by.

I would expect that getting into a time slot that doesn't include beginners would help a lot, even after you work your way to the front of that group. Around here beginners race by themselves and though the next group up has a lot of slow riders, most of them are experienced enough to make passing a little easier or at least predictable.
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Old 11-07-14, 02:57 PM
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I was the other rider. Going for a hand-up but could not get over. You chose a bad line and took us both out. Yeah I have damage to my bike as well. I'm racing the same cat as you but I race to do the best I can safely and cleanly for those around me. I always wish to finish wheels under me, pass more than one, and out sprint whoever I can at the end. Although we are both racing masters it is only cat 4 and as you say there are beginners out there as well. You put us both in a bad situation and your after the fact assessment is flawed as was your decision during the race. You can read my account of the incident in the masters race report thread. Technical courses like Marymoor do not suit my abilities but like you I'm out there doing all I can. Why take risks to better a finish in Cat 4? Not just that but non-sanctioned self seeding Cat 4. Sorry we had the collision.
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Old 11-07-14, 04:03 PM
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Well this is interesting. I'm sorry we had the collision too, I wish it never happened, and I hope that comes across in my posts. I was analyzing what happened and I hoped you were ok. However, I did not choose a bad line, I just stuck in my line as I was on the outside left anyways and I just stayed there and kept going. Myself and another fast rider were staying far left to get around groups of slower riders and did not change that approach. Yes, I put on a sprint because it's was a straightaway and hey it's called a race. You, on the other hand, deviated from your line, as you have just yourself said, to go over and get a hand-up. I'm not expecting racers in front of me to take their hands off their bars and ride off their line, meaning the line they would take to get down the straightaway, to cut over to the sideline to grab a beer. If you are going to do that, it's incumbent upon you to make sure you can do it safely, because none of the riders around you can be expected to predict such a move. I certainly didn't predict it and so we crashed. I hope you'll take more care next time you go for a hand up.

As to risks, well racing involves risks and we all take risks on the course to get around that corner faster or whatever it is. Race long enough and you'll fall or crash eventually. We are deliberately putting ourselves in close proximity to other riders all trying to ride our best race, doesn't matter what category it is. However there is the concept of holding your line, and the understanding that there is a line. I.e. well, this guy is racing and the course goes this way and the next turn is there, so he's going to ride the best line towards that goal.

Good luck on Sunday, I'll be sitting it out with wrecked fork and knee.
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Old 11-07-14, 04:42 PM
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Also for what it is worth I even on the pre-laps could not keep my rear wheel under me in the off camber. Lap thre I tried a different line because one of the race organizers had mentioned that it was rideable, it was not. I could have raced as a clyde this year but honestly thought I'd be below that threshhold by now, stuck at 204. The result would have been different although it is just as likely that you would have wrecked me 1 minute later. Had you been aware of what was going on you would have heard the crowd telling you there was a hand-up right ahead.

Like Andy I often yield to passing riders if they make know their intentions. This is not my first year racing, as a matter of fact it is my third year. My safety and that of other riders near me is of primary importance. Cat up Niloc and ride in the bottom half of a field, how will you respond when you are getting lapped? Actually race in Cat 3 sometime and get lapped by Brian Meyers when he is riding his single speed. The take home message here is you cannot crash fast enough to gain spots. My line by the way was straight. Judging someones abilities due to waistline is ignorant and arrogant. Assuming experience due to speed is the same. Now that you can put a name and face to the guy you crashed will you re-assess your thoughts on the crash? I jumped on my bike and finished my race after a quick once over. i was mad as hell and if I would not have done so it is likely one or both of us would have had an old fashioned ass-whooping that might just as likely ended in an arrest or two. It is racing, no need for angry words. I perceive you have disdain for those slower than you.
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Old 11-08-14, 12:03 AM
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Hey man, I am truly sorry about this. Please notice the title of the thread. You were mad as hell, ok that makes two of us. But once I calmed down I wanted to process what happened and try to see what I could have done differently. If I made some assumptions you don't like, ok sorry no disrespect. I'm actually glad to hear the other side. I try to race a safe and clean race too, I've never seriously collided with anyone before and I'd rather not do it again. I believe there are things you could have done differently too, but our recollections are different and it's a he said / he said argument and there's no point in carrying it any further. I think it's safe to say neither of us wanted this to happen, I sure didn't want a busted fork, a DNF and trip to the ER and I'm sure you didn't want to get knocked over and have your bike damaged either. But hey I'm already looking at the bright side, my ride was pretty beat anyways (old skool steel) and now I have an ironclad excuse for my family that I need a new bike!

I don't mind racing in the back half, been there, and sure, I hope to try Cat 3 someday. I just cracked the top ten in Cat 4 so I don't think I'm sandbagging just yet. I have to race my ass off just to keep up with the guys around me. But if I can get back on a bike and get some more top ten finishes this year I'll consider it for next year. And if I get lapped fine, I guess that would be a sign that I'm racing above my level. I'd rather race with a bunch of riders of more-or-less equal ability and see what I can do than spend time trying to get around a bunch of slower riders (or be passed constantly by faster ones) - I think most people feel that way.

As an aside, I understand that there's going to be a little lapping and interaction between groups, but I thought last Sunday was a little much. I mean the lead of our Cat was lapping it's own tail as well as huge chunks of the other groups and there was still almost a full lap to go when we crashed. Every passing event in a race has the possibility of a crash, however small, and when a race is set up to have so much lapping going on, the law of probability kicks in. Did you see that crash with the broken collarbone on the descent after that one off camber? I don't know if it could be organized differently, I'm sure they've thought it out the best they could, but our start got the short end I figure. Last year at my time it was Cat 4 open followed by Cat 4 Masters 35+. That's it. There might have been a little overlapping though I was neither fast nor slow enough to experience it. But it was probably just a guy or two here and there. Not a whole start plowing into the back end of another. Anyways, I digress.

Good luck Sunday.

For record I did not hear the crowd yelling about hand ups, I was too focussed on the race and the guy nipping at my heels. I save the beer for after. Maybe we can have a beer after a race someday and laugh about all this. It's just fricken' racing right? I'll show you the new bike you helped me get.
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Old 11-08-14, 12:37 PM
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Sounds good to me Niloc. Lets have a beer shake hands and race another day. There are always different perspectives. I'll not be holding a grudge. it seems you and I might be racing for different reasons. For me it is a fun sport. Hand-ups are part of the fun. I train hard to be able to put out max effort on race days. I do the best I can and my skills are improving. This race and Silver Lake were the only races where I was lapped, it happens.

A couple years ago I watched a four rider breakaway in Cat 1/2 lap the field in the Ballard Crit before the race was even half over, it was something to see! Logan Owens, Steve Fisher, Ian Crane, and one other rider all managed to snake their way through 100 other riders safely. I mention that only to say lapping happens and sometimes it happens on a big scale it is part of racing where you do laps. The more technical a course is the more likely it is going to happen. 50 riders lapped 16, 5 of those in the last quarter mile and the winner was nearly a minute and half out front, and since he is not going for the series championship, took a second and a first in his two races in our series it is likely he is a sandbagger and take away his result and the field looks even more spread out.

MFG tries to limit the number of racers by running categories close to the same ability level at the same time while also keeping the numbers as even as possible. Cat 4 alone is usually so big that it is hard to pair it with anything. We have to deal with 3 other Cats in our race and I think that must be what was frustrating to you. I think starts are staggered by a minute and doing the math my best lap was 8 minutes so I was likely lapped about the middle to the end of my third lap and we wrecked over a lap later. It is likely you were running into lap traffic as early as the second lap and due to the nature of the release going faster cat first and our field being shared with beginners I can see that making it tough. I was trading places with others the whole race as well, although each missed clip-in lost a couple spots.

Hey the good thing is I could maybe use a new helmet anyway and my bar tape was looking a bit ratty and now I have new bar tape and will be buying a new helmet. Hope you find a good ride out of this.

FWIW my previous post was written before I read your #8 , sometimes it takes me a good long time to write a reply.
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Old 11-10-14, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Niloc View Post
After this straightaway there's a muddy hairpin turn so I know I'll need to brake and finesse around that which will also allow me to recover from anaerobic output. Last lap, time to burn a match!
Was going around the slower rider on the left going to provide a better setup for the upcoming turn? If so the choice of line makes sense, but I try to give people in other fields a wide berth to the extent possible. He should have held his line, and you should have let him know you were coming.

You also have the person on your wheel to consider. He can't see what you see, and while he can make his presence known too you shouldn't knowingly place him in danger. That said, everyone has to make their own choices. That's why we sign waivers to do this.

Absolute best case scenario you are racing for some energy bars or a pair of socks in a discipline that is surprisingly difficult to explain to relatives and coworkers.
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Old 11-12-14, 12:48 PM
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Well the upcoming turn was a right hander, so staying left would put me on the outside to enter it which is generally the preferred position, but I wasn't so much thinking of that at the moment, it was a long straightaway and I was already on the left side so it was just easier and more efficient to stay there.

I don't want to re-open the debate on the crash, because it seems like Black wallnut and I have patched things up, but for certain I should have let him know I was coming, I wished I'd done that. FYI my knee is mostly better, I couldn't race Sunday, but I was able to go for an 80 mile road ride so I'm feeling lucky there. My new frameset will hopefully be arriving tomorrow so I'll be able to build it up for this Sunday's race. I'm spending some cash unexpectedly but my crashed bike was quite old so I'm getting an upgrade out of the situation and I'm psyched to test it out. I think I'll actually be able to repurpose the old Bianchi reparto corse, can't have too many bikes right? (judging by your profile I'm sure you'll agree!)

You bring up the subjects of motivation and reward. Black wallnut suggested we might be racing for different reasons. The crash has definitely given me an opportunity for introspection on those subjects. Yeah, there's no purse or prize for my races, heck there's not even much in the way of bragging rights, because I don't have that many family / friends that even know what I'm talking about! But I enjoy improving and getting out there and doing my best. That's what the competitive spirit is all about right? I get adrenalized out there and I want to move up in the pack and I don't want to give up a spot without a fight. I enjoy the competition, and after the finish I always ride up to the guys I finished near and congratulate them on their races and recount a particular corner or situation.

It is a fun sport and it seems laid back and welcoming to newcomers, which I'm sure is one of the reasons for it's rapid growth. This is in contrast to road racing which seems much more forbidding and insular. I think hand ups are fun too, although to be honest I don't see them very often at my races, maybe I'd need to join a team.

But like I said, at this last race I didn't even notice them, I was so focussed on the race. If I put my head back in the moment, I was entering the last lap and one of the last sprinting opportunities of the race, and I know that I pretty much have to race to exhaustion to finish where I have been. I'd fallen on the last off camber and lost a few spots, there's no way to know where I was at, but probably around 10th maybe a little lower. There's a guy right on my tail who's been there through the long curve from the other side of the course, in fact he may even have been able to catch a little draft, at the least he was following my lead through the crowd. He kept calling out "on your left" so I knew he was there without checking. If I was to pull over / slow down at that moment for a hand-up, I gar-ron-tee he would have gone right around me and kept going. I might have had to battle him for the finish anyways, but I'm not about to give him that leg up for a hand up!

Yeah it's only Cat 4 masters, but drive to win is there just the same. However it is certainly not worth getting badly hurt or hurting anybody else. There is risk inherent in the sport and we all sign waivers, but I have not been nor do I want to become a reckless rider. I do feel there's less risk somehow in say battling a corner with a peer than in overtaking slower riders / groups. I will be more cautious in those situations in the future. I don't call out much on the race course, I guess I figured that was for passing riders while commuting, but I will communicate more. I think most of the remaining races I'll do will have smaller fields so that should help with the crowding factor.

Good luck out there and keep the rubber side down
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