• L_Space

    This was totally predictable (the dangerousness of the course). The many DNS listings in the results do not reflect the many who asked for a refund and got it, or those that saw the course and said not only is the risk too great, but unless you get in the top 15 on the first few corners, you were going to be out of the money. With 122 entries, you’re looking at a 88% chance of not winning before even half a lap is covered. Changing a Nationals course in the last week is ridiculous and to choose one that is more suited to field sized of 20 or less, blatantly irresponsible. I convinced friends not to go as the chances of coming home broken were high. The officials must have realized the impending injuries and were negligent in warning the local medical community of impending trauma. Many angry people on the change, the course, the aftermath. Very unprofessional.

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  • Wow – a truly crazy read. I haven’t raced a ‘full’ season in about 10 years, and wasn’t old enough to race a Master’s nationals when I was racing. I know the nationals creates an even more heated and contested field – definitely more than the Master’s fields on most weekends. Hell, the understanding in Master’s always seems like – you have to work Monday – let’s be fast and smart out there. I did have the opportunity to race the Downer’s Grove course for many years that’s right outside Chicago…and for years was the National Crit Champs course. It was fast, semi-technical (depending on the year and a few alterations here/there), but you virtually always knew what you were walking into. Point being – it was a known course, with all it’s benefits and shortcomings known before you ever pinned on your number.

    This make-shift course for Nationals looks cool from the aerial, but obviously was a cluster-f$%k on the ground. I feel horrible for everyone that trained hard, threw down $100+ for 30-35min and ended up with thousands in med debt due to a litany of issues with the course, access to medical, access to the course, etc etc etc. I’ve been contemplating a return to racing, as I miss the challenge, travel, training, etc…but why come back to do it big and know that the Master’s Nationals can end up like this? We – guys and gals over 35 – are what drives this sport…and I truly believe if any event is going to be dialed in anywhere in the race calendar to showcase all ‘our’ hard work – it should be the Master’s Nationals. Treat us with respect and we’ll keep coming back year after year – keep giving us BS like this…and you might be surprised how fast the fields thin out.

    • Nick Duckstein

      Great post. Couldn’t agree more about the dangers of the criterium course.

      Four of us came from Seattle, WA and each raced the criterium in separate categories — 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, and 60-65. All of our chances for results ended as we got caught behind crashes. We were the lucky ones in that none of went down.

      USA Cycling violated their own commissioned study on “Course Safety Guidelines” conducted by an independent body in 2013. Those recommendations are here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/USACWeb/forms/safetyguide.pdf

      There is really no excuse for that course, the expenses incurred by USA Cycling (both medical and legal) , and especially the injuries to those that crashed. All that could have been prevented by run the national events on a proven course.

    • James Scott

      Great Post, Sean! Would love to see you get out there again.

  • Jeff–I think you are in this unfortunate video. https://youtu.be/SR3lKujJN7I

    btw….special mention to the guy crashing into me from behind for the rainbow socks to protest NC’s bathroom ruling.

    • Whoa!!!

    • jules

      this seems like a terrible race that shouldn’t have gone ahead. but the crash in this video seems to be on a straight?

      • Yes, it was on a very wide straight. Racers manage to knock each other over without any help sometimes, but overall I have never seen so many crashes, across so many fields, as I did at nats. Some of it is just old guys with little team support fighting too hard for medals, but this course was also just problematic. The RR course was also bad…..not selective. Coming into the final km with 150 guys was a shitshow and there were 3 crashes in my field in the last 3 km.

      • Dave

        Crashes on straights usually happen when there is a prize at the end of the straight, e.g. starting a climb at the front, getting onto the Arenberg cobbles first, avoiding a Shimano neutral service car making a bid for the Most Aggressive Driver jersey, getting into the difficult bit of a sketchy crit circuit…

  • Torontoflatlander

    What a boondoggle. USA Cycling needs to make this right if they’re to prove that they’re looking out for the best interest in the safety of the riders, and should at the very least refund the price of admission. I’ve never seen anything like this except for some crooked never-happened races in the Philippines.

  • jules

    I strongly sympathise with the author here. It does seem like the organisers didn’t carry out a proper risk analysis. But from my experience of similar races (not as bad as this), I can’t understand why riders just accept the risks at face value and charge head on into corners 5 wide, at top speed. I’ve seen it happen and thought “I’m not joining in” even though I’ve lost position as a consequence. Riders need to take some responsibility. We’re not pros, but we should look to the pros as an example. They race on dysfunctional courses all the time and mostly manage not to crash. The reason is – they look for each other. Amateurs often just seem to think “woah.. this is going to be gnarly out there today. I guess I’ll just take maximum risks and try to stay at the front, hope for the best”

  • Byron Nix

    I was in the 45-49 as well. I previewed the course earlier in the day as officials were changing turn one due to multiple crashes. I did not look forward to this race, but as I was trained and ready to go, I was not going to miss it. Thankfully I survived the RR and Crit crash free, because as It turns out, I had a bigger purpose for Championship week. On Thursday night I changed my flight from Friday to Sunday, when I realized my little buddy and Nationals Roomate Greg Daniel needed help for his own races. Thanks Peets Coffee for all your assistance as well, and the rest is history!!! Greg Daniel is now the youngest US Pro Champion ever!!

    • jules

      On behalf of my sponsors Spikez Energy Bars – more carbs and that distinctive taste that will keep you reaching for more – and Johnson’s Nursery in Blompton with the biggest range of potting mixes on the east coast, I want to extend my congratulations.

      • Dave

        You’re clearly not wise in the ways of American sponsorships, as you forgot to include one with the “powered by” tag.

  • Timbuktoo

    Can Cyclingtips chase up USA Cycling for a response to this year’s Masters National Criterium Championships? I’d love to hear what they say, especially on the late course change and medical side of things. Sounds like other interests (local business complaints, compacting racing to fit into a tight timeframe, switching the races to a mainly closed circuit and get ’em off the roads! thinking) won out over rider safety (should be #1 interest) and course design. As others have said, it’s disappointing that the showcase events were such a cluster. Hardly a banner moment for USA Cycling.
    What is USA Cycling’s’ plans for next years championships? A closed mall car park course after hours featuring ramps and speed bumps, with some slaloming between the concrete pillars/columns to make it more selective!!!

    • Jeff Koontz

      Upon my original post to Medium, I sent a link, via twitter, to Derek Bouchard-Hall and received the following response: “Thank you for sharing your experience Jeff. USA Cycling is reviewing the event and will seek to learn lessons for future.”

  • Robert Merkel

    Thanks for posting this.

    This race sounds like a recipe for crashes – a high-stakes amateur title, between riders who don’t know each other well, on an unfamiliar circuit, most riders riding for themselves rather than for teammates…

    One point not perhaps clearly made in the article is that courses with no selective features can actually be more dangerous than ones where hills, crosswinds, hot dog turns etc. allow the cream of the field to drop the rest.

  • hornk

    On the medical side of things that sounds pretty irresponsible. I’ve never promoted a bike race, but I’ve race directed two triathlons. Both times I made sure that the closest ER knew we were holding an event. Triathlon is lower risk than bike racing, and as it turns out we had to send exactly one person to the hospital (he cut his foot because he chose to run a 5k barefoot on asphalt) between 600ish racers. But we still notified them beforehand. If you’re running a full schedule of crit racing, even on a well designed course it seems you’re pretty well guaranteed a few serious injuries so I can’t imagine how you would fail to take that basic step.

  • Spartacus

    So a bunch of middle aged weekend warriors crashed on a course that any 11 year old Belgium kid with a season of kermesses under the tyres could handle with one eye shut and they’re now having a cry about it? If you can’t stand the heat … Maybe stick to triathlon?

    • David Bonnett

      This isn’t about the skill of the riders (never mind the likelihood that you aren’t in any better position to assess than me from my vantage point in Australia) but about the last minute changes made, once again, by a “race organizer” who appears to be oblivious to the hazards they are creating. Instead of blaming the racers we should be holding the officials responsible for not doing their jobs correctly.

    • duanegran

      This isn’t a very constructive comment. The people who race the national events are generally speaking pretty fit and experienced. On any given race day there will be some amount of acceptable crashing that fits into the mantra of “that’s bike racing”, but clearly the crash rate was really high at nationals this year. It wasn’t raining (thank God) and the people racing it for the most part keep the rubber side down at other races, so it goes back to the organization.

      As for some constructive points, things I believe USAC needs to learn from this:

      1) Somehow, someway make it possible for people to do some warm up laps on a course. It is recipe for disaster to get acclimated to the course at 50 kmh with a dozen people near your elbows.
      2) If there isn’t time for warm ups and practice laps then shorten each race. A shorter race is preferable to a longer race with these dangers.
      3) If rules or sense prevents doing #2, enforce an actual neutral loop or two with clear penalties.
      4) Don’t settle for a course that makes it confusing or complicated to get access to the medical tent

      • L_Space

        Since start position on this course was paramount, a neutral lap would be as tightly contested as the final lap of the race. In the 60-64 race, the officials announced that the first lap was to be a neutral lap (with no pace vehicle), but 5 guys were off the front with a 10 second lead for the start of the actual race. The officials had to then put a motorcycle out on the course to block the guys at the conclusion of the second lap and control the combined field for the third lap; so essentially 3 neutral laps. Even with those neutral laps, the 45 minute race lasted 38 minutes, so really only about 30 minutes of actual racing.

        Also, with the tightest set of corners less than 100 meters from the finish line, the winner of the pack sprint in that race (an extremely skillful rider, multiple masters track world champion) crashed in the first s-turns as he had riders to the side and behind preventing him from taking an ideal line or from slamming on the brakes just after his bike throw and there was woefully inadequate run-out from sprint speed to the first corner; again not surprising there was a crash after the finish with this poorly designed course that would have been tight for motorized Kart racing.

        There were five crashes in that race alone with a field less than half the size of some of the younger fields and these guys know how to handle bikes at race speeds. It seems two medical tents would have been appropriate, one on the infield and one outside the course.

        Yet very little about this race was appropriate. People made time, hotel, and travel commitments in advance only to be switched with only a week to go to an inappropriate course. Bait and switch is not the way to run a Nationals.

  • Jim Bob Jones

    Great perspective. Thank you.

  • Geoff

    I believe it was a friend of mine whose frame was folded in half in the pileup described. Fortunately he was able to repair it leaving only cosmetic imperfections: https://sites.google.com/site/guidetocarbonframerepair/

    What an awful experience.

  • Chris Spaeth

    This article has been forwarded to
    Derek Bouchard-Hall at USA and he is aware of the issue and they are reviewing it.

  • Aaron

    Roadies are such babies. Wahhhh Wahhhh, the course is too scary. Wahhhh Wahhh, I broke my hand bone.


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