Cyclists- those that have crashed and those that will.


Google Image Result for (2)1029803518_95d38ab91d_o My friend Bob Reading broke his brand new Specialized helmet a couple of weeks ago when he crashed on his mountain bike up at Rothrock State Forest in State College, Pa. A couple of weeks later, he went down twice on his road bike near his home in Florida. His lovely wife Valerie provided us all with pictures of his road rash which brought back a lot of memories for me and they are not too pleasant. Bob is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and a very fit and talented rider. But things happen on a bike sometimes that just sneak up on you. John Howard, who was on the U.S Cycling Team and the first winner of the Race Across America says there are two types of bike racers or cyclists for that matter. Those who have crashed and those who will. It happens and when you are the 58 year old kid like me, you ride to ride another day.

That was not always the case. When I used to ride in criteriums, which were an accident waiting to happen on a tight course with a lot of riders, the slightest mishap like a touched wheel, a rider hitting the brakes in a corner, or someone who had not glued his tubular tires correctly on a rim resulted in riders going down. I had my share of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and went skidding across the course getting that all too familiar road rash on my legs and hip. I sailed over a haybale in a corner in a crit in Parkersburg, WV. and ended up in a mall parking lot dazed and confused. I was fortunate not to break the collarbone which was a common cycling accident. My friend Art Bonavoglia was not so lucky as he did it during a contested sprint. I witnessed another friend George Sagan go skidding under the announcers stand at the Vet Nationals one year. I rode a criterium in the rain one year in New Jersey and there was a huge crash where I was forced up onto the sidewalk, made it around the crash and ended up in front with a bunch of Jersey guys who would take you down for a $5.00 prime.(lap prize). I stayed out of their way and was happy to finish in one piece.

Road races had the same issues and you always tried to stay as close to the front as possible to avoid any crashes. But sometimes you just could not avoid problems due to weather or the careless riding of those in the pack. One race, we had to finish the sprint going over a railroad track. Guys who didn’t research the course didn’t know about the track at the end and had issues when at top speed they went across the track carelessly and went down hard. Another crazy race, the promoters handed out index cards with places written on them. Guys were diving to get the cards and taking riders down right and left. When you are younger, you think you are invincible and do some dumb things on a bicycle. My friend Eric and I went from the entrance of Killington, Vermont to Woodstock in a 60 MPH descent. I did think what could happen if the front tire blew, but I was committed and escaped an issue successfully at the bottom of the mountain. I had a similar experience coming down County Line Road up near Seven Springs Resort when I raced Reggie Zipko down the road to his house. Anything could have happened on that road and I was not too smart with that antic. I remember another time on a ride in Pittsburgh with a bunch of guys when I followed a garbage truck down a hill and into the left turning lane to Forbes Avenue. Much to my chagrin, the truck was leaking grease and as I made the left turn, the back wheel skidded on the grease and I went sailing through the intersection and landed in some hedges in front of a gas station. The grease cushioned the slide a bit but I still ended up with the nasty rash and a painful ride home.

These days I ride to ride another day for sure. One of the things you learn from experience is that you just don’t rally back as quickly when you are older. You have to back off that throttle a bit and know that you don’t have to fly down that hill, ride up over that big log or obstacle, to prove you can still hang. Use the ride for fitness because the days of being competitive are really over. Again, things can sneak up on you and you can’t help the crashes sometimes. But if you can ride with a little more caution and use your experience on the bike, you can stay upright in most situations. I think a rider as skilled as Bob Reading has had enough falls for a while. He will also ride to ride another day. But like John Howard says, the crash will happen to all of us. Lets just hope as the years go on that we are spared anything traumatic. Look ahead, ride smart in a pack, and let caution be your guide. Then we all can be the 60 year old kid riding for fitness someday. Thanks for reading. Be safe out there.

Whoa Nellie!!!

09toswinner ” Man is it hot!” ” Ok Pat- two laps to go. Stay on that wheel. Hold your line. Here come the A’s” I feel a hand on my left hip as the National Road Champion, Matt Eaton is telling me that they are coming on the inside. Mac Martin chuckles as he says,” take it out of park,McCloskey.” Dave Eaton is making his move on the outside. ” Move up Pat- there goes Frank, George and Art behind Dave. Get on their wheel-man!!” 2 laps to go. All of a sudden I hear a loud “BANG” . Hess has rolled another tire and I hear metal scraping the pavement, swearing, and bodies hitting the deck. ” Stay upright,Pat” I hear the bell for the final lap. My legs are screaming, I am trying to hang on. ” Hold your line Pat. Come on hang on, hang on, here is the sprint.” Dave Eaton is leading the charge- hang on, hang on………….finish!!!!” Another Wednesday Night ACA Criterium Race in the books. I have no sprint but I got a good workout and a decent result in the books.

My friend Larry Cohen got me into road cycling a number of years ago and being that I am competitive in nature, I got involved with the Allegheny Cycling Association. ACA is our local club which sponsors time trials, road races, and criteriums which are the most popular form of road racing in the U.S. Back in the day when our band of weekend warriors were competing in the wednesday night criteriums at the Pittsburgh Zoo parking lot, we had a lot of excellent instruction from a number of national class riders who were members of our club. People like Matt Eaton, the National Road Race Champion and Britain’s Milk Race champion. We had Mac Martin and Tom Chew- two U.S. Road Cycling Team members who didn’t get to go the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of the Carter boycott. Danny Chew is Tom’s brother and was Race Accross America Champion in 1996-1999. Criterium races are usually held on a 1 mile course with a specified number of laps. The racing can be fast and furious where you are 6 inches from the wheel in front of you, guys on either side and behind you and the last thing you want to do is hit the brakes in the corners or stray out of your line. Criteriums can either be a concert of cycling fluidity or a crash fest depending on factors such as skill of the riders, aggression in the race and weather. I remember where it was so hot in a crit in Erie that if you didn’t glue your tubular tires securely enough to your rims, they would roll off and you could take the whole field down. The pavement was scorching hot and it was imperative that you properly affixed your tires to the rims. In another race in Parkersburg, West Virginia, I remember getting pushed out of a corner, hitting a hay bale and ejecting out of my pedals and flipping over the bale into the K-Mart parking lot. A harrowing experience to say the least. Another time I was in a criterium in New Jersey when it began to rain and the pavement got real slick in a real hurry. A bunch of guys went down in the corner and I managed to stay upright and wound up in the lead pack. I said to myself,” You don’t belong here Pat- just stay upright and out of the way.” I finished without a scratch. My buddy George Sagan went down and slid right under the announcers stand in the Vet Nationals in New Jersey. I saw the whole thing right in front of me and on the next lap, poor George was hauling his bike out from under the stand. He looked shocked but these things happen quickly in criterium racing. Some yahoo took him out in a corner because he didn’t hold his line. I have a lot of scars on my legs that testify to the “whoa Nellie” factor of criterium racing and when several tri-athletes started to show up for the races and were not used to riding in a pack, they would take guys out in the corners and run them into the chain link fences. It was at that time that I decided to retire from crit racing. Good experience, years of fun, but I knew that I didn’t want any more carnage.

When you see the national class riders in a criterium, it is a vision of speed and grace. They are skilled riders and it is amzing to see the speed and fluidity in those races. I learned a lot in those days of crit racing and my bicycle handling to this day has been honed by those experiences. I am confortable on the road and riding in a pack with other riders. Although I am a lot slower these days, those experiences with the ACA will be forever in my memory. Also, when tellng the tales to the younnger set these days, I always say…………the older I get………..the better I was. Thanks for reading.