Tuesday, May 10, 2011

on loss and preparation

Today was a sorrow filled day in cycling as the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) saw the death of a 26 year old cyclist yesterday as he made a high speed descent off the last climb of the day. United in grief, the peloton became a relatively slow moving parade across todays planned route; with each team taking a place at the front of the group to honor the fallen rider. The team he rode for crossed the finish line arm-in-arm, with the riders best friend, American Tyler Farrar taking the deceased riders place in their lineup.

Photo from Cyclingnews.com

No one would confuse me with a professional cyclist (though they may think I have eaten a professional cyclist or 2). While I lack their bike handling, their climbing power, their ability to pedal my bike at high speeds for more than a short distance; one thing I can do that they do is go downhill very fast. In the past year, I have reached a top speed of more than 40 miles an hour on my bike on quite a few occasions and approached 50 MPH on a couple of occasions. Most of those descents were short steep little hills where it was over before it started, and none were of the distance and difficulty that claimed poor Wouter Weylandt. A few though were longer descents that keep my speeds in that range well after I've reached the bottom of the hill.

It's these moments that are the only times I really experience fear on my bicycle. At that speed, no helmet, no brakes, no super-fast reflexive movement is going to save me from a very serious injury if anything unusual were to occur. While I'm not dealing with a peloton of riders sardined together, what I get to ride with is even more dangerous; a bunch of other cyclists with probably my same semi-lacking set of bicycling skills willing our body to perform at higher levels that it may be prepared for in situations we could never replicate in training.

Unlike so many instances of commuter cycling accidents, there was no question of if the cyclist was wearing a helmet, or if he had proper brakes on his bike, or maybe that he was texting. He was a professional, taking risks he knew could lead to a tragic end if even one thing went wrong. Sadly, it did, and now his girlfriend and their unborn child will face each new day without him. He died doing something he loved, and that's something

Most of my readers are fellow triathletes or participants in other amateur endurance or contact sports. So to you my friends, i ask only this: Please be careful. Train safely and compete smartly. Go as hard and fast as you can go while still being in control (or at least the edge of in control). Check and re-check your equipment and safety gear before and on race day. While Wouter's death is a tragic accident, I don't want to have to ride in honor of a friend because of something that could have been prevented. I'll do the same, because the thought of Rachelle and my family going through what this guys family is going through right now is just overwhelming to me.

Don't live in fear of loss, enjoy and cherish the people in your life each day knowing that you've done what you can to reasonably prepare for avoidable loss as we participate in what are dangerous sports.

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