My first road race of the year ended badly for me. The sun was shining on a cool morning–the kind that is just cool enough to have a great race. It was February 23rd. Bikes, riders, family, and fans were everywhere. I was excited. For the first time I had actual teammates. Mostly this time of year, they have mountain bike races, and I have to make solo runs. I know that this was a few months ago, so I am only revisiting this to make a point.
I will not bore you with the inside details of a forty-mile road race, if you are reading this you pretty much know what goes on for the first thirty-five miles on a roller course . . . not much; so I will cut this down to the last kilometer. Making the last turn, my heart rate was very low, nose breathing, feeling incredible. Two of my teammates had gone up the right side, and it was my intention to slide right into the slipstream, surfing our way up. That is when it happened.
I only saw movement on my left side. Someone’s shoulder came into mine. My handlebars shook violently. A loud snapping sound. My front wheel locked up. The next thing I know is hitting the pavement at close to 30 mph. I was sliding across the road on my left shoulder and my head. I could not stop sliding, a rag doll moment. The next thing I recollect is opening my eyes and being facedown in a ditch across the street. I jumped up and sort of walked and jogged to my bike. I mounted it. Nothing worked. This would be my first DNF. I carried the bike across the street and put it in the grass. My jersey had been torn off of the back and skin missing from various places. Blood was dripping from my fingertips. Emergency people came on the scene somewhere in that time frame, with my wife catching a ride with one of them. Something was not right with my eyes, so an ambulance was called. At the hospital, all of my tests came back clear. I was bandaged and sent on my way. Before leaving, the doctor looked over to the chair where my helmet was tossed. The helmet was more melted than broken. He said that if I had not had it on I would have been life-flighted out of the scene or DOA.
I know that there are many articles written on the importance of wearing a helmet, but today I did a small recovery spin up a bike path on the Chattahoochee River and counted. I passed twenty-two people and only seven wore a helmet. Should we have laws and enforce the wearing of helmets on bicycles like we do seatbelts in cars? I am always shocked when I pass someone not wearing a helmet, especially adults with children who are also not wearing helmets. There are public awareness and announcements, but the danger continues all of the time. It takes very little force to crack the skull when it strikes pavement, according to my doctor that day; following that there is an imbalance in pressure, swelling, convulsions, and possible death. It is definitely not worth being a “tad more cooler.”
What helmet laws or enforcement or lack-there-of are in your neck of the woods? I would like to do something, but I do not know where to start.
By the way, in case you are wondering, the teammate who pulled us into the final kilometer watched what happened to me from the back. He said the culprit swung too wide in the turn, got caught out in a big headwind and panicked. The freaked-out rider then brought his bike hard into the group and slammed into me, driving his front skewer into my front wheel. This shredded many of my spokes, causing my wheel to fail and launch me into the pavement. In all of the chaos, no one could identify the rider after the race.