Day 35: Accident in the Group

The warning signs were in my blog yesterday — people are getting tired, thinking less clearly, losing concentration, occasionally disoriented.   Today our little peloton was again fairly closely bunched up as we faced headwinds most of the day.   At some point one wheel touched another, somebody reacted, and in the end two cyclists in our group went tumbling.   Fortunately it was on a country road with almost no traffic; unfortunately one cyclist was hurt and one bicycle was damaged.   I was able to swerve around the accident; just lucky.

I’m hopeful the rider who was hurt will be on his feet again soon; the bike has already been repaired.   It shows one of the advantages of being on a “supported ride” — the support van was with us within 10 minutes.

I worry a lot about safety; there are no guarantees.   I will say every day in Singapore I have more close calls than a week on this ride, but that doesn’t make this ride “safe.”   The headwinds are the major problem — we have to ride together just to finish the days (most of us couldn’t ride 100 miles a day into a headwind solo), but riding in a pace line means keeping 6-18 inches off of someone’s wheel; a chain reaction is possible at any moment.   Is the risk acceptable?   It seemed more acceptable before today.

I feel terrible for the riders involved — they’re hurt, they want badly to finish the trip, it feels like something that shouldn’t have happened.   But as with the wind conditions, the heat, the road conditions, etc., it is part of the experience.

So what will I do differently?   I pushed the group to take more breaks today, to improve concentration, but in the end it didn’t make a difference.   Possibly we need to break into two smaller groups.   We need to communicate more when we are going slower.   Being 18-36 inches off the wheel will give less benefit, but probably lower the risk commensurately.

Day 35 Ride Summary (Springfield to Champaign, IL).   97 miles, 1590  feet of climbing.   Steady headwind of 10-12 mph is my guess.   About 1/4 of the ride was north (just a crosswind), but most of the ride was directly in.   A lot of corn and soybean fields.   Roads in Illinois are hands down the worst of the trip (so far).

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