If this keeps up, I will be talking a lot about crashes during this year’s Tour, even though I’d really rather not. First, a little plug for my coaching blog, where I’ve got a two-part write-up on how to treat road rash: http://www.ontracktriathlon.com/?p=221 If you look around, there’s also a post on why crashing is beautiful, although I’m sure the guys in the Tour might not feel that way today.
What can we learn from the pros in the Tour to keep us “rubber side down” on our rides? First, big groups contribute to crashes. If you’ve ever ridden the MS-150, or the Hotter’N Hell, you know this already. But if you’re newer to cycling, you know this instinctively if you ever drive in a big city. I grew up in Houston, and now live in Dallas. I know there’s a much greater risk of a fender-bender on 610 or 635 at rush hour than on FM1175 at 8am on a Sunday. So be extra cautious if you do have to ride with a large group. Also avoid riding where there is a lot of vehicular traffic.
The second thing we can learn is that nervousness leads to crashes. If you are nervous, you’ve got a tighter grip on the bars, and probably locked elbows. A little bump, on the road or from another rider, is likely to make you fall, and you’re less able to make quick steering adjustments. If this sounds like you, practice riding, practice relaxing, and stay near the back of the group. If you see someone around you that looks nervous, just give them a wide berth. It’s also perfectly acceptable to ask someone to ride at the back, or even leave the group entirely if they are posing a risk. Of course if you’re not comfortable asking that, you can always choose to leave the group. Better a solo ride than learning what road rash is like!
Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org