Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When It Doesn't Go Right

Monday I was riding with a couple friends. Two of us are doing the Lake to Lake triathlon this weekend, and one is doing Triple Bypass, so we rode the course at a fairly easy pace. Around the time we reached the point where the course descends to the Horsetooth Res, we paused. I told them about the quarter mile or so. It's a very steep descent, if you're climbing the other way you'll probably need a bigger spread than 11-23 coupled with a standard crankset, and the shoulder/bike lane is strewn with gravel. Since CO law allows cyclists to ride in the right lane of the road if the lanes are impassable, I told them they might as well stay in the road for their safety. We agreed there would be no waiting for each other until we reached the top of the next climb.

Being the most experienced rider, and the fastest, I took the lead. By the time I reached the bottom of the descent, I was hitting around 50 miles an hour, I spun out my 53-11 gear. I squeezed the brakes; there's a little right hand turn at the bottom, which isn't a big deal, the turn is shallow enough to take at 40-ish mph without a problem but it's never smart (in my experience) to come screaming through a turn as fast as possible. It leaves you open to all sorts of bad things, like hitting an errant rock at full speed.

I'm glad I did because as I came around the turn, an SUV pulled out in front of me. I hit my brakes and got as far over as I could on the road. Not far enough, I watched as the right tires of the Mercury Mountaineer went into the gravel on the side of the road. It was surreal, I felt my rear tire lock, and watched my reflection in their right mirror as my head almost hit it. Then I was in the gravel, doing everything possible to stay upright. I got out of the pedals and managed to get a foot down, coming to a halt as the SUV, either ignorant or malicious, sped off. The thought of trying to chase them and get their plates hadn't occurred to me until Matt and Patrick, my riding buddies, came screaming down the hill too and kept going, they hadn't seen it. Giving me a glance to make sure that I was okay, they kept going as I remounted my bike and followed.

That was the closest I've ever come to being hit, and there have been a fair share of close calls. Had I not been paying attention, the entire passenger side door would have hit me. After seeing the disregard with which cyclists are treated in respect to their well being and safety, the thought has occurred to me to screen print a jersey with something along the lines of "I'm a human being just like you, with a family just like you."

I'm also thankful for my Road ID, and I would encourage everyone active to get one. While I was riding with two other people who know me well, it is comforting to know that had I been hit and alone, my family would have been notified.

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