Freewheel BIke MS 150 Team 2013

Freewheel Bike MS 150 Team 2013

Recently,  I wrote about a friend and mentor of John's not wanting to group ride anymore.  Andrew can no longer lead A level rides, due to an illness, and would rather not ride in a group if he cannot lead it.  You can read about Andrew here:

I initially suspected that Andrew's decision to no longer ride in a group primarily came from a place of pride.  I think that pride is definitely part of his decision, but there is probably more to it.  I am sad for him and even more sad for all the new and underdeveloped riders that desperately need his mentoring/leadership and training.  He helped mentor and train John to become an excellent road rider and leader.

John and I just completed our 14th MS 150 on our tandem.   We have the honor and privilege of pulling our team 150 miles on paved trail and road each year.  Our team likes riding behind 'the bus' - as our tandem is referred to, because we ride a straight line, a consistent pace and we ride with our team's safety as top priority.    I like riding in front's the safest!  I trust John implicitly and he respects my need for more caution than he would normally ride with when he is on his own.

Last Saturday we experienced our first life threatening crash on our team.   Thankfully, our teammate will recovery fully from a fractured skull, broken collarbone, broken ribs and burst eardrum.  The two riders that were behind him will also recover fully from their broken collarbones.  As is often the case, our teammates devastating crash has caused me to reflect on group riding and ask the following questions:  how much do I trust and respect my fellow teammates?  With my life?  Am I willing to ride anywhere other than the front of the team?  If not, why?  What can we do to build more trust and respect?  Where do pride and safety intersect on the road?

Are you a veteran leader out there, or a newer rider that needs to learn the safe ways of the road?  Either way, our riding stature and position comes with a responsibility to ourselves and fellow riders.

I fully admit it feels great to lead our team and be able to hold a line and decent speed for 150 miles, so there is some pride doubt about it.  I hope and pray I will know when I can no longer ride effectively for my group and bow out- either to lead a slower group, or to ride in back of a team I trust and respect with my life and John's.

Ride safely everyone!

John adds:June pics 033

This was really scary. Hearing the sounds of bicycles and bodies hitting the ground, just a few dozen feet behind us, was really unnerving. Now that I know our team member is OK (he's home recovering) I'm still struggling with understanding what happened.

We were JRA (Just Riding Along) about 70 miles into the first day's 75 mile ride. This section is an old railroad bed paved trail. Amy, me and "The Bus" were in our normal position up front, with eight of our team and an unknown number of "opportunists" strung out behind us at ~ 22mph. We crossed a shallow depression that crossed the trail (felt like a bump) that had been spray-painted white to highlight it - one of hundreds we had experienced that day. There were multiple callouts; "BUMP", as we rode across it... and then the sounds of chaos & crashing.

Amy is the person you want with you in a situation like this; cool, calm and instantly in control. She ran back after we'd stopped and had 911 dialed before she reached the three riders on the ground. "IT'S ONE OF OURS!!!" she yelled back to us. Our team mate was on his back, unconscious, his helmet shattered. Two others were sitting, moaning, holding their arms - both with broken collarbones.

Julie was the girl friend (I think she was, not sure exactly) of broken collarbone #2. She must have had a bunch of first responder experience. After seeing her boyfriend was in pain, but not in need of her attention, she quickly attended to our team mate. She directed us to hold him still when he regained consciousness. She sat and stabilized his head until the first responders arrived 30 minutes after Amy's call.

Once the paramedics arrived and took over, the thought occurred to me that he's going to want to know what happened. It's very common to lose some or all of your memory of the time that precedes a head injury. I asked the two other riders if they could tell what happened. The one directly behind thought he had tried to bunny hop the bump and just flipped over the bars, the other saw nothing. Once our team mate went down there was nothing either could do. Both hit him, flipping over and landed on their shoulders. Broken collarbones are very typical in a fast, group ride crash - you may remember Tyler Hamilton winning a stage of the 2003 TDF after breaking his in a crash.

Near as I could reconstruct; after talking to the other two involved and examining his bicycle (nothing failed), the best explanation was that he had one hand off the bars when he hit the bump - and probably a light grip with the other. We'd already ridden 70 miles and (although very fit) he has lower back pain that causes him to sit up and stretch frequently by reaching back with one arm. The bump caused the remaining hand to slip off the bar and the momentum carried him over the front of his bike.

His helmet saved his life. It shattered, absorbing the energy from the impact that would have surely killed him. His was the third broken collarbone that day and his three broken ribs were no doubt caused by the impacts of the two riders who hit him.

Now that we know he'll be OK, our team leader is framing a chunk of his helmet, along with our group picture, as a memento of the ride.


Amy Macgowan
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