01 May 2015

When to call the SAG wagon

Cycling: When to call the SAG wagon
By John Cutter - Orlando Sentinel

Somewhere near mile 85 on Sunday, I realized I was not going to finish the Tour de Forts, one of my favorite cycling events.

It was only 15 miles to the finish, but I was hot and tired. More importantly, I didn't feel safe on a busy two-lane road with no bike lane and construction ahead. It was the tightest part of the route, the vast majority of which was on extremely bike-friendly roads.

After the fifth car whizzed around me, as I struggled to ride more than 12 mph into the wind, I pulled safely onto the grassy shoulder.

It was time for the SAG wagon, which picked me up and took me to the finish. 

It's not how any cyclist wants to finish a long ride, but sometimes it is the smartest move.  It is far better to live to ride another day than let physical and mental fatigue cause you to injure yourself or another rider.

But almost every instinct in a cyclist fights against quiting, especially that close to the end of a Century.  

My "spidey" sense told me to stop on that road in St. Johns County. I had felt that way for a couple of hours, after we turned into a strong wind around mile 45 in St. Augustine and my speed dropped quickly from 20-plus mph to 13 or so. 

I ignored that little voice. Part of the appeal of riding is pushing yourself hard, yelling "shut up legs" while you imagine that post-race meal and drink. 

I see no shame in grabbing that ride from the volunteer, who sweetly even offered to drop me off close to the finish so I could ride in. Since this was not a timed race, she wasn't violating any rules, simply trying to be save me if I felt embarrassed. 

I didn't. Although I didn't like making the decision, I am at peace with it. 

I encourage cyclists to know when they have passed the limits of safe riding. Ask yourself, are you having trouble keeping your bike straight in your lane? Are you cramping? Are you having trouble thinking clearly? Do you feel safe?

As I put my bike away at my car, I saw another cyclist pouring hydrogen peroxide on nasty road rash on his legs and arm. Apparently someone stopped unexpectedly in front of him, sending him to the ground.

I don't know if the person who stopped was past his or her limit, but I felt even better about my decision. I could have hurt myself or someone else if I hadn't stopped for the SAG wagon.