Monday, October 5, 2015

Levi's Grand Fondo: neutralize technical descents

A rider died in this past Satuday's Levi's Grand Fondo when he missed a corner on the Hauser Bridge descent and went off the road. Here's the story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Michael Muhney, 40, said the rider was just ahead of him and was “just barreling” down the hill despite numerous course marshals cautioning riders to be careful on the descent. “He was hauling,” he said.

The Fondo is a "timed ride" and not "a race" according to the story. Here's how Oxford English Dictionary defines race:

race (noun) 1A competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course.

I don't know -- seems to apply here.

So the problem is you have a race over a technical, dangerous course and that means people are going to take risks, and when people take risks by definition sometimes things go wrong and people get hurt or die. Fine -- if you want zero risk of death stay in bed in the morning but then your house may burn down and you'll die anyway. So we need to accept risk. But the key here is that the obvious hotspots for risks are these technical Sonoma descents.

One option is to do what we do with Low-Key Hillclimbs GPS-timed multi-climb routes: neutralize the worst descents (actually in Low-Key we neutralize everything but the climbs). These rides are likely using chip timing anyway. So put a mat at the top of the descent, another at the bottom, set a "reasonable safe and conservative speed" for the descent, and if the rider is faster than this then add time to his overall time equal to the difference between how long it would have taken at the conservative speed and his actual speed. Want to go further? Set an unsafe speed threshold and if he's going faster than this than penalize him the time difference between his speed and the unsafe speed.

Don't want to use timing mats? Then use GPS. When riders are paying in excess of $100 entry fees, it's really not much to require posting data to Strava. We do that in the Low-Key Hillclimbs.

This sort of solution would do little to change the nature of the competition. That's about pushing your body over a challenging course. It's not about railing dangerous descents where 50+ year old eyes can't adapt to the difference between shade and sun quite like they used to and riders go flying off the road. Descending skill is a wonderful asset and should be honored but we don't want to encourage riders to risk their lives in an event like this, essentially an unsanctioned race. Restrict the crazy descending to USAC races with their upgrade system and their field limits.

7 comments:

Bridea said...

> This sort of solution would do little to change the nature of the competition. That's about pushing your body over a challenging course. It's not about railing dangerous descents where 50+ year old eyes can't adapt to the difference between shade and sun quite like they used to and riders go flying off the road.

Look, individual responsibility is an individual thing and can't be legislated or enforced. If one person's eyes can't adapt to the difference between shade and sun, then they should slow down and ride at a speed that's safe for them.

Challenging descents also fall into the category of "pushing your body over a challenging course".

djconnel said...

Sure it can be enforced: I described how to do it. Usually if you push yourself too hard on climbs you slow down (sure, occasionally people drop dead from heart attacks but they drop dead from heart attacks getting out of bed, too). If you push yourself too hard on descents it's quite another matter. I don't argue descents should be neutralized on sanctioned races, but this is a different event with different entry requirements. You'd never just throw 6000 riders of all abilities together in a single mass-start USAC road race.

Patrick Gordis said...

I thought some of the comments on this LGF full route QOM ride were illuminating about the inherent problems and contradictions of events like these: https://www.strava.com/activities/405659035/overview

Michael Barnes said...

While the factors mentioned above play a role, the reality is that people fly off the corner all the time. The local fire dept. jokes (or used to joke) that they just leave a ladder set up there. I went down that road a month or two ago, and although I keep my bike tuned up, at 80kg, I couldn't have brought my bike to a stop at the steep section just before the LH turn. It's that steep.

You don't have to be racing to hurt yourself, it's just an unusually treacherous descent. Besides, any good racer knows that saving 5 or 10 seconds on a descent like that isn't worth the risk.

I'd go for hay bales or a net, or just rerouting the course. And any sort of accident there imposes costs not only on the person who crashed, but anyone they take down with them, the ER responders and all the riders who are delayed.

Blog Zombie said...

it's verry nice ..
Obat infeksi lambung untuk anak
Obat Maag Akut Untuk Anak
Obat gondok pada ibu hamil
Obat Jelly Gamat
Website Jelly Gamat

Michael Barnes said...

Looks like this descent will be part of the Tour of California in 2016, let's see how they handle it. I've been down that descent many times, it's steep enough that I would have a hard time bringing my bike to a stop at it's steepest, but then I'm about 175 lbs.

djconnel said...

I was amazed when they descended Jamison Creek Road in 2011 or so.... that descent is insane. Then there was Quimby which they just did last year. Those guys can ride....