Bikes, Races, Gran Fondos and Risk

You guys, I don’t know.

I race, and started racing when I was 53, although I’ve ridden bikes all my life. Given my age and profession, you can surmise that I’m not risk -averse but calculate what risks I’m willing to take.

I read that a rider on Levi’s Gran Fondo died in a solo crash. I don’t know any details other than what I just stated. I do know that putting thousands of cyclists on narrow, twisting roads, many of whom have not ridden said roads, in a timed event is a recipe for disaster. I’m willing to guess that most of them don’t race. How are they then to navigate those narrow, twisty, steep climbs and descents of Sonoma county, at speed? It isn’t just that the Gran Fondo is a race of sorts — think of the Strava scores they want.

That all adds up to increased risk of injury. That more people aren’t hurt or killed amazes me.

In 2006 I rode the Solvang Century for the first time as my first century. It was great fun! We lived 12 yrs. in Lompoc, so I knew the roads well, just not by bike. In 2007 I rode it with my husband on our first tandem, in 2008 on our second tandem. In 2009 I rode it with a friend on my road bike, and just before lunch experienced a small, fast group who blasted past us without any word of warning, with about 30 others in their draft. No one said anything. I was annoyed; anyone overtaking another rider should say something. The shoulder narrowed and suddenly the road was full of carnage. I was surrounded by riders, got in my drops and hit a pile of bikes at <20 mph. I ended up with a black eye and a broken wrist (which was diagnosed post-ride at the Santa Ynez ER). I ended up having a titanium screw put in my scaphoid bone and spent 6 angry, frustrated weeks on the trainer.  And so ended my organized century rides.

Last year we rode Foxy’s Fall Century, which starts & ends in Davis, and includes many roads we regularly ride. We did the metric version on the tandem — we’re always in front, the safest place to be — and it was great fun. So that’s the amount of risk I’m willing to calculate. The vibe is good, no one is racing, and we’re all mostly on the road to enjoy the ride. We had so much fun we’re doing it again this year.

But a Gran Fondo? Even with Jens Voight? Probably not. The risk isn’t worth it. I want to race next year.

About debster822

A fulltime REALTOR who plays as hard as she works -- sometimes harder. I race my bicycles; some are faster than others. It's a good life!
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