john anner

author, international development expert, fundraising strategist and avid explorer

John Anner Race Report

Crash Report June 2004

I’ve crashed two out of the three times I’ve been out for a race weekend this year. Hurt myself both times; fracturing two ribs in April and picking up some chip fractures in my right foot plus torn back muscles last weekend. Both times, I’ve taken out other riders – Tom Hicks is the latest victim, and I did a number on both him and his bike. My wife is angry and concerned, and frankly I’m a bit worried myself.

Put in a larger context, I ran all last year without incident, and crashed once in 2002. So I’m asking myself, Am I doing something wrong? Or is this just the way things happen in racing?

Lots of people never, or almost never, crash despite much more time on-track than me. I consider myself a pretty cautious rider; I don’t make hairball passes, very rarely get in too hot, nearly always ride within my limits, and yet. . . Two crashes in three weekends? Seems like pretty rotten odds to me.

This last crash was in turn six at Thunderhill. Hicks and I had been having a really good dice, passing each other several times a lap. He passed me into T1, I passed him on the exit of T2, he closed the door into T3, I went around again just before the top of the Cyclone. . . lots of fun. We were turning pretty good times for us, and in many corners I could feel that I was going as fast or faster through them than before, but not by any startling amount.

The crash was strange. Tom was right on my tail as I late-apexed Turn 6. There was a novice in front of us on an EX 250, about ten bike lengths ahead but moving much more slowly. I saw her drift wide through 6, and thought I could pass her easily and safely on the inside. Just after the apex, I leaned the bike over a little bit more to cut a tighter line, on full throttle, and felt my toe touch the pavement. Nearly at the same time, the shift lever started to drag. In an instant, I felt both wheels let go, probably the rear first. Did the shift lever add just enough instability to break traction? Or did I simply run out of clearance? Or run off the edges of the tires? I’m just not sure.

I do have one really clear memory of seeing sparks flying from around my left boot-toe, probably from the shift lever. Was this before the bike started to go down, or just after? Again, I’m not sure. If it was before, why was I looking down there instead of where I was going? It might be a false memory, or maybe I was seeing the sparks as the bike flew away from me after we hit the pavement. The crash seemed to happen in slow motion. I landed on my left side, spun over on my back, slid a few yards and then flipped over, smacked the back of my head (another helmet toasted), did another somersault and came to rest in the dust and star thistle on the edge of the track.

Is it my riding that is causing these crashes? Here, I’m a little more sure, but not entirely. I’m not going all that much faster than last year – one to two seconds a lap on average – but still five to seven seconds slower than the fast guys. My skills might be a little rusty; I’ve had somewhat less seat time this year than usual, and I’m a year older. On the other hand, I’m in better physical condition and 16 pounds lighter than at this time last year. I have not had any near-misses, off-track excursions, “oh shit” moments or other indications that I am riding over my head. The bike feels good. I haven’t messed with it at all in terms of changing any settings. Tires were good in both cases.

So what’s wrong? I’m inclined to shrug it off, put it down to the luck of racing, and not worry about it. I’m more concerned about my wife, who appears to be armed and dangerous. But I thought I’d put it out to the group. Any ideas? Things I’m missing?

Thanks, and thanks to everyone who lugged my gear, brought me beer, loaded the truck, found missing parts (bike, not body) on the side of the track and otherwise helped out.