Back in 2001, my second full year of MTB racing, I had a mishap at the All Out in Moody Park race. It was wet that year and there were many treacherous root sections. One was down a steep bank to a skinny bridge across a stream. I was in a solid podium position and fighting hard to hold my second place position. I was lapping many sport riders, sometimes at scary speed differentials. This particular bridge crossing pretty much required you to commit once going over the lip and down the roots. To stop was to crash.
Well, wouldn't you know, a female racer was stopped on the narrow bridge as I came flying over the drop. There was nothing I could do. My body slammed down hard on the bridge, which was a bit of a ladder bridge made with small diameter tree sections for cross members. There were a number of cut off branch nubs protruding. One laid my arm open. Much cussing ensued as I assessed the bodily damage and lost a podium position. The girl apologized profusely, but it wasn't her fault at all. I felt bad that she felt she caused my crash.
So why do I share this story now? Last weekend I witness an almost identical mishap. Shortly after Dave, Soups and I started our ride at Bear Brook, we encountered a convoy of ATVs. It was part of a Toys-for-Tots charity ride. They were heading down 1 Mile Rd, adjacent to the singletrack we were on. The first few ATVs were travelling at ridiculous speed, maybe even getting air where you would think it would be impossible. These things looked like dune buggies with roll cages and side-by-side seating. There was snow cover too, making the marked ATV route somewhat glazed over with traffic.
As we approach the doubletrack ATV route from the side, the next ATV driver saw us and slowed to a stop. Maybe she did this out of courtesy, maybe she thought we weren't going to stop, who knows. But the guy behind her was either going too fast or not paying close attention or both and ended up in a pickle. He wasn't going to stop in time on the icy trail. He lost control and slammed right into a large hardwood tree. It looked pretty horrific, with his vehicle and body bouncing off pretty hard. Several others from the convoy stopped and ran up to help, telling him to not get up as he writhed in pain. Eventually he took his helmet off, got up and hobbled around. He didn't seem seriously hurt and had lots of help on hand. We continued on our ride.
Even though it wasn't an ATV race, it was spooky similar to my mishap more than 12 years earlier, something I had long forgotten until seeing this mishap play out before my eyes. The injured ATV rider didn't blame the woman who stopped in front of him, and I didn't hear anybody blame the cyclists for being out there. Shit happens in competition or when bravado is involved. Self preservation instincts are suppressed, risks go up. How many times have you been riding with a group, whether it be Tuesday Night Worlds on the road or through technical terrain in the woods, where you struggle mightily to not get dropped? Risk vs. reward. Sometimes we make silly choices. We own the outcomes of the choices we make.