Train Safely, So You Will Live to Race Tomorrow
Or, put another way, remember that first layer of safety: Control Your BikePardon my take-off on the title to a very good and hopefully, thought provoking article in the November print edition of Bicycling, but reading that stuff made me shudder. With Kim Flint dead after crushing himself on a steep descent, and Chris Bucchere a convicted felon after blowing through a busy urban intersection as the light changed and hitting a pedestrian (who later died) one has to wonder why riders would take such chances with both their own and other's lives. Someone has failed to learn that to win a race you actually have to finish it.
|Descent where Kim Flint died, -9.6% grade. |
From Forbes article linked in text.
Shades of Fabio Casartelli...
Note this is now flagged.
A lot of people already think the lycra-clad crowd is both arrogant and insane, but I don't see the point of living the stereotype by racing all out over public roads for virtual trophies. Its easy to get carried away with the competitive spirit, but one has to moderate one's behavior to conform to the reality of riding in a real world set of conditions. Real, sanctioned races are held under race permits with traffic and race restrictions, course marshals and police. Note that the Bandelier Loop, which is the basis for the Tour de Los Alamos and also a Strava segment, has, during the race, course marshals at several locations (such as at Back Gate, the base of Truck Route, and major intersections in White Rock) and in addition, the fast descent to Ancho Canyon is traditionally neutralized. Note too that aside from sanctioned races, this course, as well as the rest of the world, is governed by normal traffic laws, to say nothing of the laws of physics. One of those laws governs the relationship between transforming kinetic energy (speed) to work (reducing your rib cage to splinters).
In a sanctioned race, a rider can get DQ'ed for stupid behavior. In a training ride one can get the boot off of one's own team for putting others at risk--no one wants the reputation of being a squirrel. Riding against one's self can be just as deadly. I had my own Come to Jesus Moment on a day I was descending NM-4 and nearly ended up as a hood ornament on an oncoming F-150 while apexing without sufficient regard to reality (which is pretty much how Bicycling described Kim Flint's fate). Lesson learned-- "closed course, don't try this at home" means exactly that.
I don't think the car companies, aside from their legal staff, are serious about that "closed course" admonition, but neither do they put up web sites where customers can brag about street racing and get egged on to top the latest best time on an uncontrolled course. Sadly, while these online Strava competitions may have started out having the best of intentions (and most users of the site may be reasonable riders with good intentions) the site had, wittingly or not, also provided a global platform where the risk-takers could push each other to the ragged edge, turning the "closed course, don't try this at home" idea on its head. Being able to flag treacherous sections of road is great, but it doesn't change the underlying issue I have with this model, to wit, all-out time trialing on uncontrolled courses has the potential to seriously undermine traffic safety.
Although at least one judge in California decided that Strava is immune to lawsuits when people crash and burn trying to be top dog on its web site, I hope the company takes these two incidents as lessons learned (which to some degree it has, with the flagging system). But really, in the ultimate analysis, it is entirely the rider's problem. No one at Strava is holding a gun to anyone's head and forcing them to ride stupid, which, I guess, was their defense as they collected their dividends. Meanwhile, when things go wrong, the rest of us are tarred with the same brush of irresponsibility as the lunatic fringe, not to mention having to go to its funerals. Note added later: Bob Mionske's comments, "Suing Strava", are here.
So the bottom line? If you want to push the envelope against yourself, bump real elbows with buddies, or compare yourself to online competitors, by all means do so. But first scout the course and scrap the idea if conditions look ugly. Then make sure you are riding within a safety envelope and not being a public menace. Remember, in a group ride, one can hopefully (not always) count on ride leaders or experienced colleagues to moderate things based on conditions but in a virtual competition, do you really know the state of mind of the competitor or what the road looked like yesterday? The only moderator in a virtual competition is the guy holding the handlebars on your bicycle. Don't let yourself down.
You can't run life in reverse when the outcome sucks and as we all have to admit, when you push the envelope hard, sometimes that envelope pushes back even harder.
The Castro Street "bomb", via Youtube and SFCitizen, seen in the vid below. There is one other San Francisco "bomb" segment still on the Strava site, this one on Hyde Street, with an average grade of -4.2% and max of about -10%. I count thirteen cross streets. Top time is 20.8 mph equivalent.
Watch the vid and draw your own conclusions.