One track-minded passing etiquette vital in bike racing
Out of respect for anonymity, I won’t disclose the name of the man responsible for the puffy red, black and blue tire track running from my wrist through my armpit. I know he’s got some bumps and bruises of his own.Nobody would hesitate to agree that mountain-bike racing is a dangerous activity. But certainly, all racers can take a few precautions to ensure that everyone finishes the race as safely as possible.In Wednesday night’s Hammer in the Hay race at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott, I know I’m not the only one who was taken out by another rider. Racing on singletrack is very challenging when it comes to passing, but there are a few things racers of all abilities should keep in mind for their own welfare and that of other riders on the course.
As a sport racer, I’m very aware in a lap-course format that expert and pro riders are in the midst of a much faster-paced race than I am and will be overtaking me at various points on the course. Thus, I always do my best to get out of their way, and have at times even stopped on the side of the trail to let them by.The 4 Eagle course had plenty of areas to pass, but the rocky descent – the only technical singletrack section on course – was a precarious choice, if not an outright reckless one.The aforementioned rider clattered up behind me as we were both speeding down the trail, yelling “passing on the right,” without a second’s pause. He was alongside me in the act of passing for a split second when he swerved back onto the course and into my front wheel – later he told me a rock caused his bike to bounce back onto the trail. I endoed, got tangled up in his back wheel, and we both went into the ground, hard.He was cool about it.After my wind returned and I was able to speak enough to answer his questions, I realized nothing was broken and told him to race on. He offered to stay with me and I insisted he keep going and we both finished our races, much farther down in our respective fields than we would have been minus the crash.
Passing on singletrack is tricky business. As a slower racer, I feel an obligation to yield to those who are faster, but racers overtaking others have a huge obligation to do it safely, perhaps slowing for a split second in order to pass at a more suitable section of the course. Also, they should let riders know as much in advance as possible the specifics of their intentions to pass – “Passing when you get a chance,” or, “On your left,” “On your right,” etc. In my four years of racing, I’ve generally been impressed by the deference and care with which fellow competitors conduct themselves when leaving me in their dust.That said, all racers should respect each other’s competition, regardless of race category. In the Davos race, for example, despite the understanding that all racers should wait for the entire field to finish the hill climb before riding down the course, a handful of riders chose to ride down the road as the sport and beginner classes were still on their way up. As downhill riders tore down the road around a corner I was riding up, I was forced to brake around the only part of the course where it was possible to accelerate. I could only assume that one of them had a girlfriend about to give birth or a vicious bathroom emergency to prevent them from waiting 10 more minutes to ride down with everyone else. We are so lucky in the High Country to have these opportunities to race. The atmosphere can be intense, but mostly, we should remember that we do it because it’s fun. We should all be aware of the risks we take when we set off on course and the potential risk we might pose to other riders.
So, by all means, stoke that fire of competition. But don’t forget to keep it fun for everyone.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado