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bobco85
06-13-2016, 09:30 AM
Keeping this as a separate discussion from the crash victim statuses as found on the following thread: http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showthread.php?10414-Air-Force-Classic-Crash&p=141278

Given the severe crash that occurred 5 minutes into the ride this year, should the Air Force Cycling Classic Challenge Ride be handled differently?

To set the stage, some information on the Challenge Ride:

it is a timed event where riders are challenged to complete as many laps of a 15 km course in a 3 hour time limit
medals are given depending on how many laps a rider completes (0-3 for bronze, 4-5 for silver, 6+ for gold)
enrollment is open to the general public
there are no skill requirements for this ride
the severe crash occurred 5 minutes into the ride

I did this ride in 2015 and 2014, and I remember that at the start the organizers requested that people line up according to how many laps they were expecting to do so that the faster riders would presumably line up at the front with slower riders at the back. IME only a few people actually took this request seriously. I do not know if that happened this year, though.

Also, it appears that the first underpass on the route is where Jefferson Davis Highway has a 2-lane exit ramp at I-395. So, you have lane merging (4 lanes to 3), a big downhill, a curve to the left, and the darkness of the underpass all occurring with a large group of cyclists. I think all of these combined make for a dangerous situation regardless of the skill level of those involved.

My thoughts on the challenge ride in general: without focusing on the severe crash, while the challenge ride is not a competition against other riders, it is a competition against the clock with prizes, and people should expect riders who are taking it seriously and/or riding fast. I do not consider it a casual ride, and I do not think it is a family-friendly ride. If they want a family-friendly ride, it should be separate in some way.

MRH5028
06-13-2016, 09:51 AM
The mix of serious riders and casual riders is not ideal. They really need to separate into two events (Time Challenge Ride, Family Ride)

Even if they do that they need to do staggered starts and enforce them. For marathons they have different starting gates for how long you think the marathon will take you. They need something similar for this ride for laps and then stagger the starts by a couple of minutes.

I'm used to riding in tight turns with a crowd from racing cyclocross, but there were several times where I felt uncomfortable. Such as when riding in a crowd at 10 cyclists all in a row go whizzing by with no call at all.

Maybe ride marshals should pull people who do no call passes?

Harry Meatmotor
06-13-2016, 09:56 AM
staging/start corrals based on average speed: <10, 11-14, 15-17, 17-19, 19+. Ride begins fastest to slowest corral. Add color bars to bib numbers so ride staff can quickly determine whether a rider is in an incorrect corral, i.e., an 11-14 avg rider in 17-19, or 19+ should be warned.

Add an input during reg. to determine rider staging. If unsure of you're potential avg. speed, check last year's results or ask a registration volunteer for advice!

General notes on average speeds:

<10 = family noodle-toodle! (how fast I ride when getting ice cream)
11-14 = low end of typical non-enthusiast/recreational cyclist
15-17 = average non-enthusiast/recreational cyclist
17-19 = average enthusiast cyclist
19+ = ...(smh)

mstone
06-13-2016, 10:08 AM
General notes on average speeds:

<10 = family noodle-toodle! (how fast I ride when getting ice cream)
11-14 = low end of typical non-enthusiast/recreational cyclist
15-17 = average non-enthusiast/recreational cyclist
17-19 = average enthusiast cyclist
19+ = ...(smh)

I think speed estimates like this are exactly why the speed groups were so useless on the dc bike ride--"non-enthusiast/recreational cyclists" are not maintaining 15-17 MPH in a large group ride. (Though they apparently all think they're juiced like Lance and have the balance of Brian Boitano.) People who don't routinely track rides and compete in events have no freaking idea what speed they can maintain, so asking them is a complete waste of effort. I'd maybe break it down as "plan to compete for a medal", "planning to ride fast but not place competitively", "planning to ride fast but never raced before", and "having a nice day".

Judd
06-13-2016, 10:49 AM
I think speed estimates like this are exactly why the speed groups were so useless on the dc bike ride--"non-enthusiast/recreational cyclists" are not maintaining 15-17 MPH in a large group ride. (Though they apparently all think they're juiced like Lance and have the balance of Brian Boitano.) People who don't routinely track rides and compete in events have no freaking idea what speed they can maintain, so asking them is a complete waste of effort. I'd maybe break it down as "plan to compete for a medal", "planning to ride fast but not place competitively", "planning to ride fast but never raced before", and "having a nice day".

I advocate that participants must submit a link to their Strava or MapMyRide for corral placement. Any strategy other than real data will have about the same results as the current state.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

LeprosyStudyGroup
06-13-2016, 11:15 AM
If we talk about this issue here, does it come to the attention of the organizers and planners of the ride? Or does it disappear into the ether?

I am talking out my neck here, because I didn't witness any of the 3 crashes I had to stop for, but I doubt the first two most severe crashes were caused by people in the "wrong spot" according to their pace, but instead caused by the high speed and overcrowding around the head of the race. If a bunch of amateur riders are going that fast and in such dense formation, the smallest thing like catching a wheel or whatever can cause a pileup and I'm guessing that's what happened to crash #1. The second crash at the bottom of the AF monument hill was because several of the front 20% of riders lost control on potholed and gravelly conditions on the turn at the bottom of the hill. I don't think there's much to do about that organizationally outside of rerouting the course or having someone check the course before hand and set up like warning zones about dangerous areas that the "racers" are made aware of beforehand.

Setting up pace zones at the start of a ride is good, but those zones also need to be limited occupancy. If there were several first come first serve leading zones of say 30 riders that released once a minute or so to spread the lead-out, that seems like it would help to me. With a ride like this, it seems like the "official start" should matter less and people should be timed according to their individual start and finish times. Why have individual tracking chips if they aren't used? I didn't see any evidence that my laps were counted or timed by the event itself. There were a ton of people crowding and filtering into the start for the first 20 minutes or so. I was one of only a handful of people that I witnessed who saw that starting crush and just said "Nah, I'll wait till this clears out before I start"

Edit: I wanted to add that, as a newbie to big cycling events, I'm really surprised that 2/2 rides I've been on around here have started with 4-8 Lane wide starting areas that immediately lead into a turn and 2 lane wide stretches within the first 1/8th to 1/4 mile. That seems, on it's face, like a bad way to start a high turnout cycling event.

hozn
06-13-2016, 11:19 AM
The mix of serious riders and casual riders is not ideal.

I have never done this ride, but this sentiment seems to me to be the heart of the problem. I am confused by a ride that offers medals to people who complete X laps and a ride that is simultaneously open to / encouraging of people pulling trailers or riding with their kids.

If they want to make it competitive (which I do find a little weird, since there's an actual race later in the day or the day before), maybe it needs to be a little clearer that participants are expected to be comfortable riding at speed around other cyclists.

Steve O was talking about riding the unicycle, which sounded like a fun way to do this. And I figured I would do the ride with my 6-year-old next year, maybe pulling a trailer -- a fun opportunity to ride some of those roads closed to traffic. But I'm unlikely to do either if I'm going to be an obstacle between some cat6 rider and their participation medal. :)

KLizotte
06-13-2016, 11:24 AM
I really don't think people riding 16+ mph should be mixed in with newbies, slow pokes, family riders period. Unfortunately given that this is a loop course the fast riders will eventually catch up with the slower riders. Mixing the extreme ends of the riding spectrum is a very bad idea overall. Newbies (including folks riding Cabis) don't know how to ride in a pack and may not even be listening for "on your left" nor will they look over their shoulder before shifting left or right. Add in the potholes and very tight curve by Rosslyn and it is a wonder accidents like these haven't happened before.

I am curious how such an injurious accident could have occurred in the first five minutes though. It doesn't seem like anyone could have gotten up to a high speed in such a short time given the crowds so am perplexed by how the hurt the cyclists were.

Am really hoping they pull through all right.

AFHokie
06-13-2016, 11:36 AM
I advocate that participants must submit a link to their Strava or MapMyRide for corral placement. Any strategy other than real data will have about the same results as the current state.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I wish they could enforce this, but how many folks participating actually use one of the many apps or track their rides with a bike computer? I like the idea of different color bibs to give participants an idea of the wearer's experience level, but again, how to enforce getting people to not over or under estimate their speed & ability?

Last year was my first time riding the challenge ride and did not have a whole lot of Strava delta to compare so I went with a corral I felt was a little slower than my ability, but I figured I'd rather go slow at first while passing people than tying up clearly faster riders trying to pass me. However how do you prevent people like the couple who started in a faster corral than me who were significantly weaving back and forth at less than half the average group speed before the first turn? At that point, trying to pull them off the course would've probably created an even bigger problem.

I do think they need to eliminate the choke point previously listed and even more importantly, work with the state and local road maintenance offices to ensure the larger potholes, broken pavement portions, etc are either fixed or at least very clearly marked for the ride.

tnelson
06-13-2016, 11:36 AM
If we talk about this issue here, does it come to the attention of the organizers and planners of the ride? Or does it disappear into the ether?

I know some folks at ASI and will forward this thread to them.

Mikey
06-13-2016, 11:41 AM
Charge entry fees per lap. Think you will ride 6 laps - then pay more to register. Have 3 heats, Families 0-2 laps pace, Intermediate 2-4 lap pace, and Expert 4+. Let your cost structure drive demand.

Then you can also limit registrations for each heat.

Just a thought

Judd
06-13-2016, 12:43 PM
I am curious how such an injurious accident could have occurred in the first five minutes though. It doesn't seem like anyone could have gotten up to a high speed in such a short time given the crowds so am perplexed by how the hurt the cyclists were.

Am really hoping they pull through all right.

The first accident happened at the end of a downhill. I was going over 20 just soft pedaling here. Lots of bunching at the start and people swinging around slower riders to pass. There were also very very very few people calling out when the pack was slowing. Lots of lacerations for the first wreck.


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KLizotte
06-13-2016, 12:54 PM
The first accident happened at the end of a downhill. I was going over 20 just soft pedaling here. Lots of bunching at the start and people swinging around slower riders to pass. There were also very very very few people calling out when the pack was slowing. Lots of lacerations for the first wreck.

Thanks for the explanation. I haven't done the ride in about four years so am unfamiliar with the course.

consularrider
06-13-2016, 12:57 PM
Thanks for the explanation. I haven't done the ride in about four years so am unfamiliar with the course.

The route changes just about every year, some are much better than others, but there always seem to be significant bottlenecks.

dasgeh
06-13-2016, 12:57 PM
Having ridden this on a box bike with a baby a number of years ago, I have some first hand experience of what the mix of serious and casual riders feels like.

(1) I didn't start with the group. I think this is key.
(2) The vast majority of the course is great - plenty wide for a serious riders to pass casual riders without incident.
(3) Those few places where the course isn't great -- the turn around at Rosslyn, the bottom of Columbia Pike -- are really dangerous when the serious and the casual riders mix.

So to make everyone more safe and comfortable, I'd recommend:
- get casual riders to start in a more staggered way
- fix those places where it is very narrow or there are tight turns. One option would be to have 2 different courses in those areas.

I'll note that it's already pretty pricey. If I were faced with a $60+ ride that were much shorter (in time or distance), I wouldn't be very inclined to do it...

Oh, and we really need a true OPEN STREETS EVENT.

dbb
06-13-2016, 12:58 PM
When the underpass for Boundary Channel Drive gets repaved, the route might be changed to use Boundary Channel and Long Bridge instead of returning to Crystal City on 110. That would avoid the single lane issue at a couple of of the choke points. I would think that the Pentagon Police could be convinced to permit the ride.

Steve O
06-13-2016, 01:03 PM
I was an ambassador on the ride this year. Last year I was a participant, and I finished 6 laps to get the gold medal, which I later learned was not made of real gold.
My experience from last year is posted here (http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showthread.php?7135-Air-Force-Classic&p=118157#post118157).

I started towards the very end of the pack, figuring that would be most helpful to people who broke down early (not much help if I'm ahead of the people who need it). So by the time I reached the scene of the first crash I couldn't really see anything and the ambulance was just getting ready to leave. Similarly with the crash by the AF Memorial. I got there late and helped the other ambassadors with crowd control and warnings. So I can't really add any information about the crashes themselves.

My observation is that most of the bad stuff happens early in the ride, both the really bad and just the little breakdowns. I believe this is for several reasons:

People who bring bikes that are poorly maintained break down and either get fixed or leave the ride; they are weeded out
It's more crowded at the beginning
After the first lap, people know the course better


In fact, during the last hour I was out there the only times I stopped were to help some people who were tired or dehydrated--no flats.

I actually think there is enough room on these roads to accommodate this ride if they can manage the first lap better. Once everyone is spread out over the 15km it works okay. Not perfectly; there were a few gangs of riders being a bit aggressive, but towards the end it mostly worked okay.

Although I would have been happy to issue a warning or two, it wouldn't have really been possible. Since I was riding around at about 15ish mph, if a pace line went by at 23, unless I felt the urge to chase them down, it was already too late to do anything. Not all the fast riders were poorly behaved. It is possible to make the six laps without being a jackass. I like to believe that's what I did last year (for the most part, I rode solo, though, so I was not part of any fast groups).

Here's an alternate idea, though. What if casual riders went out first. Then the gold medal wannabes would start 20 minutes later, which would be enough time to spread the course out. By the time they caught many of the other riders, everyone would be on their second lap and already more familiar with the course. Maybe a 15mph pace car for the first few miles, too.

That's just one idea, though. Some sort of spreading out needs to happen.

Another would be to have the start line have a funnel that narrows down to 2 lanes, so that the bottleneck occurs before you even start rather than partway in. Then the funnel gets removed after everyone is past. Yes, that makes the start really long, but that is the whole point.

I'm still toying with the unicycle idea for next year, although I'm starting to lean against it. If I were to try it, I would likely start at 7:30 or so, allowing plenty of time for the course to spread out and just after the fastest riders have started their second lap. I actually don't think my biggest worry would be tangling with other riders; as the slowest rider on the course, I would just stay to the far right throughout. On the other hand, I liked being an ambassador and helping out people with their dropped chains and flats. I also liked not having to pay. For me, this year was more enjoyable than last.

Steve O
06-13-2016, 01:04 PM
Why have individual tracking chips if they aren't used? I didn't see any evidence that my laps were counted or timed by the event itself.

Results are here: https://runsignup.com/Kiosk/21617/Results

dasgeh
06-13-2016, 01:07 PM
Steve, great comment and I think most of what you wrote is spot on, with one quibble:


Once everyone is spread out over the 15km it works okay. Not perfectly; there were a few gangs of riders being a bit aggressive, but towards the end it mostly worked okay.


During the last lap, when the people trying to hit whatever medal they're trying to hit, people can be jerks.

consularrider
06-13-2016, 01:24 PM
When the underpass for Boundary Channel Drive gets repaved, the route might be changed to use Boundary Channel and Long Bridge instead of returning to Crystal City on 110. That would avoid the single lane issue at a couple of of the choke points. I would think that the Pentagon Police could be convinced to permit the ride.

This would be more like the route I rode the first time I participated, either 2009 or 2010. It had rained overnight, stopping just before the official start time and Long Bridge (Old Jefferson Davis) hadn't been repaved yet. Talk about choke points, there was one place with about a three foot wide dry passage between big puddles. Also lots of large puddles along Boundary Channel. Oh yeah, and we had to ride through at foot of snow at 95 uphill and into gale force winds both ways. ;) :rolleyes:

hoffsquared
06-14-2016, 10:06 AM
Hello,

This was my first Air Force Challenge Ride. I would say that this is not a family friendly ride. I am daily bike commuter and have done many non-drafting triathlons. Riding amid so many and so close was pretty intense for me.

I like the idea of a staggered start to spread out the field. It would be simple to do and not add much time to the event.

There should be emphasis on staying to the right to allow faster riders to pass. I did this as much as I could.

Steve O
06-15-2016, 01:56 PM
From the other thread (http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showthread.php?10414-Air-Force-Classic-Crash), but should probably be here:


I am going to respectfully disagree with this, as someone who earned a gold in 2015. For two reasons:

- I like to believe that although I averaged 19.6 mph to achieve the gold, I did not in any way create danger or discomfort to other riders riding either slower or faster. I believe it is entirely possible to ride safely, courteously and (sort of) fast.

- I don't believe that eliminating the medals will stop those riders who are trying to make it 6 laps from still trying and still behaving exactly the same way.

Agree with Steve. As long as it remains a bike ride there will be people riding it fast regardless of medals.

I think the only options are separate events for faster riders and casual riders or at least some kind of staggered start. I guess you could have/enforce speed limits and restrictions on pacelines as well.

At this point, there's no way I'd take my kid to this event or recommend it to anyone.
Then it should be called a race and run as a race, with qualifications. It is not marketed as a race. I rode in this a couple of years ago and learned that quickly: while it is not a race, it certainly feels like one on the road.

I also agree with Steve O. I am almost always on the carbon fiber bike if I'm not commuting or running an errand. The medals or absence of medals would have no impact on my speed.

I agree that taking away the medals will do anything to change the behavior. As long as there are open roads, people will try to ride as fast as they can just to prove themselves.

This was my first ride riding with people. From the start I knew that people take it very seriously, so I was a bit nervous. After seeing the first accident, I decided to take it more safe. This included slowing down on curves and going downhill, and not cutting people off. I pushed it going uphill to make up for it and I still averaged 21mph at the end. You can ride safe, have fun and still complete the 6 laps.

Agree. It's also a "challenge" ride that is associated with a professional race. Why wouldn't amateurs wanting to test themselves want to get out on a closed course and race themselves? There are PLENTY of family friendly rides in the region, but there are not as many rides that encourage trying to test your speed and endurance. Not every ride needs to be for all abilities. Maybe they should advertise as such.

I'm not a racer. Too big and heavy, but I fully support those guys who want to race in an event that looks and feels like a race, even though it's for amateurs. It sounds like separating the events would go a long way toward rider safety in this case.

I don't think the promoters are being dishonest in how the event is run. It's marketed and promoted as a Challenge Ride, where riders (especially corporate groups making donations) are challenged to complete as many laps as they can within 3 hours. To complete 6 laps in 3 hours requires an average speed just under 20mph. So, obviously, there are going to be riders going faster than 20mph at times, and groups of riders will likely use pacelines to conserve energy. However, there are no prizes aside from the medals, no podium, no upgrade points, etc. It is not sanctioned as a race by USA Cycling; it is sanctioned as a ride. All riders who participate must complete a USA Cycling waiver. Hint: the requirement to sign that waiver is an important item to note (and I'd recommend reading or rereading the waiver).

Full disclosure: I did this event several years ago and got a gold medal (though we had 3.5 hours back then). My ride was uneventful and I'm glad I did it, but not really interested in doing it again.

I'm not disagreeing with anyone here, nor am I recommending any changes to the event, but question: What is the appeal of this event for strong cyclists who would be credible competitors in USA Cycling-sanctioned races? In other words, if one is capable of racing, why not just race? There is a whole calendar of races for amateurs; all sorts of events (crit, road race, TT).

What did you have in mind? I am only aware of Kidical Mass, which is great for families with wee kids, but I'm not aware of much for elementary age kids and up.

...
For example - the Reston tour de Cure below... 5mph and 7mph? Those are family or beginner rides. They're also separated from the 108 mile riders by time. The 108 milers have to get on the road by 6:45am. These shorter rides start hours later.
.....


That particular weekend features two crits, and both are on the National Calendar (which means you'll see domestic pro teams mixing it up with our local teams, and it's really exciting to cheer for our local gals and guys). Saturday's races only feature age-graded races open to any male racers below Cat3, and no Cat5 race of any kind. Sunday's races are only open to PRO, 1, 2's. What that means is that there's really only one race any male Cat4 in the region can enter, and it's an open, Cat 1, 2, 3, 4 race. In simple terms, it's a stupid fast race for $40 where most Cat 4s will get dropped within 10-15 minutes of racing.

So, for such a big event, there's really nothing for any Cat4 or Cat3 ladies, or Cat4 or Cat5 men. I'd rather spend my money (Or volunteer for free entry!) and ride the Challenge Ride than spend $40 to get blown out the back of a Masters field in 8 minutes. And, I can ride to both events, no need for hours in the car to go race in the middle of no where, MD.

An easy to enforce step to improve safety is to ban aero bars and tri-bikes. This would at least ensure that all riders are not riding "aero" and have quick access to brakes, while perhaps cutting down on the more aggressive speed demons.

sjclaeys
06-15-2016, 02:06 PM
Steve O told me to post this here so I am:

An easy to enforce step to improve safety is to ban aero bars and tri-bikes. This would at least ensure that all riders are not riding "aero" and have quick access to brakes, while perhaps cutting down on the more aggressive speed demons.

OneEighth
06-15-2016, 02:22 PM
First they come for your aero bars; then they come for your fixies.

Tim Kelley
06-15-2016, 02:29 PM
First they come for your aero bars; then they come for your fixies.

Stock (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=pitchforks)up on supplies (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=torches&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Atorches)!

sjclaeys
06-15-2016, 02:59 PM
First they come for your aero bars; then they come for your fixies.

Glad that you're not asking me to take your aero bars out of your cold, dead hands - that's gross.

vern
06-15-2016, 03:23 PM
Stock (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=pitchforks)up on supplies (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=torches&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Atorches)!

Don't you worry...I've got my stuff buried up in the mountains with some goo's and gels and other junk for when that day comes...

mdub47
06-15-2016, 03:44 PM
This was my fourth year to do this ride. In 2013, 14, and 15 I completed six laps in just under 3:00 hours averaging right at 19 mph. This year with all the slow downs and stops I finished 5 laps in 2:33 so I didn't go out for the 6th lap. I was also caught up in a secondary crash behind the first main crash and even though I didn't hit the pavement it rattled me a bit.

My experience in all four years has been that the start of the ride is very tense with 3000+ riders of varying ability all mixed together (corporate teams start up front, not fast riders) and with a very fast downhill about a mile into the course. After the first two-thirds of a lap (the climb up to the AF Memorial) the riders are pretty well spread out and things settle down. You can still encounter issues with some fast riders being jerks, people not calling their passes, slower riders riding in the middle of the course, riders not holding their line in a turn, etc., but the course is generally open enough that these things don't become a big problem.

Given that, it seems a start staged by predicted speed (number of laps) would allow the spreading to take place quickly and would solve most of what people have complained about.

Tim Kelley
06-16-2016, 09:31 AM
Email from the event organizer:

"We have begun to look at new ways to activate the Sunday Challenge Ride. The growth we are seeing made it apparent, even before Sunday, that we would need to look at ways to spread out the field...educate the wide range of cyclists we have participating and find ways for everyone to enjoy the day of closed-road cycling in the Northern Virginia area. We have received a variety of great suggestions, from sponsors and individuals, that we are already considering."

Steve O
06-16-2016, 12:34 PM
Another point: I think someone mentioned that they were giving instructions/warnings/etc. before the start of the ride. Those could only be heard by riders near the front. I was back near the 2100 block of Crystal Drive and could hear nothing. So if they want to use verbal instructions as one method of educating riders, they will need to beef up their sound system along several blocks of the starting area.