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Ragbrai: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly {Part III}

August 9, 2010

Here is the last installment of my Ragbrai posts. If you want to read a really upbeat account of this event, make sure to read my first post on The Good. For some practical tidbits, post number two – The Bad – might make for useful reading. And for the finale, I present you with The Ugly of Ragbrai.

It was around mile 45 of the ride, just when we mistakenly thought we were almost done and the headwinds were really picking up, that I picked up my pace and tried to catch up to my husband. He was riding just ahead of me and it occurred to me that if I rode closer behind him, I could benefit from some of the wind sheltering he’d provide.

The riders were all pretty spaced out on the road and us ‘regular’ cyclists were taking up the right side,  allowing the Lance Armstrongs of the ride to speed on by in the left lane. A woman was riding just ahead of me to the center of the road (and to my left) and T. was still just up ahead. As I closed in on him, I noticed that the woman to my left started veering sharply to the right and pulling into the same space I was occupying. I yelled “on your right”. And then yelled it again a few more times as I saw no reaction from her, just a steady and determined merging to the right.

I clamped down on my hand brakes, veered right to avoid her, and last minute saw her turn towards me with a look of surprise and a loud “sorry”. But too late – I was on the gravel shoulder and losing control of the bike. The skinny road tires did not do well on the uneven terrain especially as I was braking. It was a controlled crash. I landed on my feet but with the bike underneath me. I hit my shin hard on some part of the bike because it swelled and bruised within minutes, and the brake levers got bent out of position and further away from the handlebars, which made braking for the rest of the ride a challenge. But other than that, nothing too bad happened.

At this point, T. kept riding on ahead not having heard me pull (ahem…fall) off my bike but my roommate L. rode to where I was standing and we got back on the road together.

The Ugly was not this whole above part. Rather: “I made that bitch fall off her bike.” Those were the words spoken by the cyclist involved in my near-collision as she rode on. I wouldn’t have heard this were it not for my husband who was in perfect earshot of her as she said it. At that moment, T. saw that I was no longer behind him and looked for a way to turn around. Meanwhile, friendly Ragbrai cyclist with the colorful language added that it ‘served me right’ since the entire left lane had been free for me to use.

I don’t want to get into the logistics of when and how we should have passed each other because, as with the recreation of any road accident, it could take forever and we’d still be no closer to the truth. I also don’t want to get into a debate about whether one should turn and look before merging, although I’m pretty sure that it would be safe practice to do so. Even if the fault of the near-collision lay entirely with me, here’s my beef: Did it really warrant a snarky gloat to fellow riders when I came crashing off my bike? What kind of person boasts about having caused another person harm? Who – willingly partaking in a social ride – says something like that?

As I lost sight of her in the crowd of cyclists pushing on, I realized that I wouldn’t get the answers from her in person. All I could do was get back on my back, be glad that I wasn’t seriously hurt, and push on to the finish.

I only hope that the padding in her bike shorts was worn and deflated and that her spandex chafed her in all the wrong places.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Tizzle-T permalink
    August 9, 2010 14:58

    Sounds like a real DB!

  2. August 9, 2010 15:04

    Wow. That is really ugly! I can’t believe a fellow rider would gloat like that. It’s so mean-spirited and uncalled for, and totally defeats the purpose of a group ride. Glad you were able to get back on your bike, that you were not hurt, and that you finished the day with a smile.

    And yes, karma in the form of chafing would be perfect!

  3. August 9, 2010 17:25

    WOW…that is horrible. What a shame some people have to be so mean! Glad you were not hurt!

  4. Janni permalink
    August 9, 2010 18:56

    Next RAGBRAI you should be accompanied by a rubber duck like mine ( – then other riders fling into the roadside ditch on the left…

    • August 9, 2010 19:15

      Awesome bike bell :) I saw those all over Germany and think they’re awesome, I even photographed a bunch in a shop window.

  5. Megan permalink
    August 9, 2010 22:35

    Wow! What a horrible story. Glad to hear that you aren’t hurt. I am amazed that you were able to recover your mood to enjoy the ride. I would have let incident spoil the whole trip for me.

  6. steve permalink
    August 10, 2010 17:03

    Thank God you were not seriously injured. I love your blog and adventures! Thanks for sharing.

  7. August 11, 2010 03:54

    That makes me want to beat her up :) Remembering that people like that must be pretty unhappy is a good counter to anger.

  8. Lara permalink
    August 12, 2010 00:24

    Wow! This is my first time here, and I am appalled that this incident happened to you on a ride like this! It makes me made. Even if you were totally at fault, there was no reason for her to be smug or nasty about it. What a, well, you know the word i want to use….Glad the ride was good for you overall, and hope your bruise heals quickly and your brake levers are an easy fix.

    • August 12, 2010 12:52

      Thanks, Lara, and welcome to the site. The ride was still great and I am happy to say that I’ve had many more wonderful encounters with fellow cyclists than otherwise.

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