Safety at races


New Member
Jan 18, 2002
Has the safety at races become a serious issue. I know Cyclelab and some of the major races (94.7, Argus and amashovashova) are taking it seriously, but what about the smaller races? In the recent Cansa Lost City Race two people were killed and many injured, and last year one cyclist was killed. What is the reason for these fatalaties? Is it lack of organisation or is it simply the inability of a cyclist to control his bike in a bunch (group) situation at speed?
I have a friend who raced in A-group. Imagine the bunch on the left side of the tar road - single lane either way. While in the bunch, a taxi overtook them on the left gravel shoulder of the road, a truck overtook them going in the same direction on the right gravel shoulder (i.e. on the wrong side of the road), and he saw a car coming down the right side of the road in the opposite direction. He heard the car skid, saw it hit the tyre of a cyclist trying to get out of it's way. He does not know what happened to the cyclist.

As for me - I turfed myself off my bike onto the gravel on the road shoulder, but I have nobody to blame but myself for not concentrating. No other cyclists or cars within a 3 metre radius ... Different story to that above!

:mad:Part of the problem does, IMO sit with the organisers. As I'm not that fond of racing I don't do too much of it. I decided to improve my seeding index by doing the Cansa race on Saturday. I was seeded in the "D" bunch and noticed many non-athletic people in the group. I also noticed many non-athletic people in the "c" and "b" bunches. This however does not mean that these people cannot ride though.

I reached the front of the bunch in the first 5kms of the ride without even trying and stayed there for pretty much the rest of the ride. (I hate wheelsitters)

About 15kms into the ride I needed to take a couple of minutes behind some guys to recover from Lactic Acid build-up and moved over to the right. Some poor bugger was half-wheeling me though and our wheels touched. Game over for him and about 8 other riders who came down as a result of his inexperience. I also felt awful. (we were doing 40km/h at the time coz I checked)

We caught the "C" group main bunch at about 50km and they were all over the road. I had to ask everybody in the group to move over to the left do the faster "D" group could come through. (We then inherited about half of the "C" group). We caught a major bit of the "B" group at +-70km on a hill (albeit a slight one) and they were right across the road. Literally. While it was a great opportunity to break the D+C group in 2, I still had to pass this lot and had to try an weave my way through to the front. There were cars approaching from the front and I was just waiting for everyone to try and compress themselves back into the left side of the road. And another time I was actually forced off the road when some guys surged at the front and the fekking wheelsitters did not want to get dropped so the swamped the four guys who had just pulled them up a hill for 20kms. All I can say is thanks to my MTB training and thanks to the puncture gods. (I actually had to do a bunnyhop to get back on the tar.)

So what I think this evidences as that it actually is a bit of both. Organisers think that putting marshalls at intersections is addressing the safety issue. (By the way, these marshalls did a sterling job and I thank them for their efforts). People must be seeded on the past performances and there is no way that some of the people seeded in front of me had the fitness or the experince to do a sub 3 100km race. Never. Also, people need to think a little more when they're on their bikes. :mad: :mad: :mad:
This is really worrying especially as I have only just moved into Road Cycling from the relative safety of MTB'ing. One thing I have heard though is that Road Closure is a VERY expensive affair. The West Rand Spring Classic was cancelled because the Traffic Dep't wanted R40 000 to close one road (A Main Road admittedly). Now if you're looking at a race with 4000 entries (Rather large?) that is R10 for each person just for one road. I have seen a thread somewhere else on this site complaining at entry costs and another one complaining at the small number of races (though I don't think we do badly on that score, seems to me you can race every weekend if you want to). But one can imagine if races increased by R50 and half of those currently being held were cancelled. I think the organisers of these things are in a terrible position with practically no reward and the constant risk of financial loss and worse (I'm sure the day will come when someone will try suing). This is not to say that things are ok but having organised a few sailing events from my time in that sport I know that it is a completely thankless task. Unfortunately I think the only way these races will come good is through a large injection of money by sponsors so that full time organisers can be hired and road closures paid for.
Hmm, one more thing. From the sounds of it, other than full road closure it seems as if the biggest problem with the Lost city race is the continued bad attitude of these other road users. If anything perhaps organisers and marshalls at these events should have the right to take down number plates and report drivers for reckless driving. Oh wait, this is South Africa, nothing would happen as the number plates are stolen, the vehicles unlicensed and the police under-paid, under-staffed and therefore un-interested.
The problem is 2 fold. Firstly the inexperienced riders that refuse to move left. The amount of people I passed that would not move left was frightning. This causes large bunches to have to move over the centre line. Very dangerous.

Secondly the motorists. We had guys coming past us at upwards of 80km/h. Not nice. When I was still with the front bunch we had a marshal on a motorbike that would ride on our right and keep the traffic clear etc. he was doing a great job.

Labrat, That huge C group caught me on the final 20km (i was doing the 70km ride) stretch and I latched onto them. You are quite correct in saying they were inexperienced and all over the road. I actually kept my wheels on the yellow lane and had to take evasive action more than once. Instead of these guys riding 2-3 abreast there must have been at least 5-6 abreat taking up the whole road. They eventually dropped me after the speedbumps. 3 of us sprinted up to the back of them (only 2 of us did the work :mad: ) but I could not stay with them.
You may have seen or heard me moaning then. I was wearing the Club100 kit (Microsoft). I was near the front at the speed bumps.
let me make myself clear I am in no way accusing of bad organising of the event(accept the finish).

I to was in the A bunch for the 103km distance and i can tell you that the inexperience in that bunch was enormous, a few times i had to take evassive action. i was lucky in some respects though as i got a puncture and that way could get clear road although thats another story.

the A bunch after the 50km mark was joined by some of the B bunch which made our bunch huge as we had stayed mostly together from the start (as you would expect) but the bunch itself was unorganise and dangerous to ride in as they did not keep left as intellegence would suggest they infact ingulfed the entire road surface and that is why there was such a safety risk there. as well as cyclists raming on brakes in a conjested environment like that.

I hope that we can all enjoy our cycling in the future with no injuries or accidents.

GodBless and my thoughts and prayers are with those families.
Looks like the C bunch was the big culprits of the day!! But, as I was in the C bunch I also experienced a lot of guys swerving in front of you, or just have no thought of other riders on the road. And these guys were not even that young!! I only stayed on the side of the bunch to avoid being slammed into some rider who could not keep his line. With races such as the Carousel and Sun City (fast and flat) you will always get big bunches with inexperienced cyclist, but with the 94.7 coming up, it will be a whole different story. Hopefully these guys will pick up some tips during the year and ride more sensibly next year (wishful thinking!!!)

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