I am not sure if this post will help anyone understand the circumstances better. The main idea behind making this post is to clear up the "what the hell happened" from a unique perspective...I hope.
Athens Twilight is the grand daddy of all Crits. Gene Dixon and this staff have tirelessly put this race on for 35 years. I have been fortunate enough to commentate 1/3rd of them.
Here's my perception of what went down that night.
First off. The fact that all the criteriums at the highest level are now being streamed LIVE is such a beautiful thing for all cycilng fans. We get a unique perspective on one of the hardest disciplines in cycling: Crits. With that being said it opens up the "armchair quaterback" that really hasn't been there. Social media really heightens the releavance of these races now.
Here's the setup for the race.
- Handfuls of race radios are passed out to: Staff, officials, neutral support and volunteers.
- There are judges on the main stage. Two moto officials. In this case two of the best. Dave was the lead moto and Bill (Tour of Georgia fame. One of the BEST moto officials I know)
- Lead Pace Car in front of the lead moto. Sweep moto (Bill) to collect numbers of dropped riders, crashes etc.
- Chief Official (on street near main stage (John)
- Pit officials (gather info on riders that go in to pit)
- Judges on main stage to score the race.
- Commentators. Jackie and I on the main stage ( I have a tendency to wander) Jeff Hopkins on the back stretch.
- Several cameras to capture live feed. YOU AS fans get to see 90% of the course. We however, get to see it, but only it fragmented sections.
So, Here's your set-up: Lead Car->Lead moto (Dave)->Breakaway (Holloway/Ray)-> Peloton -> Second Moto (Bill)
Ray and Holloway get a 15 second gap on the peloton and maintain that lead for several laps. Eventually I see Magner and Clark (Hincapie Devo!) now with Ray (Hincapie Devo). HOWEVER, Magner and Clark had this "What the hell do we do look on their face" and CONSTANTLY looking back. My commentary, if I recall, went something like this. "Jackie, Jeff, you will NEVER see that happen in a crit like this (3 riders on same team, in a 4 man breakaway). Something doesn't seem right".
Well something wasn't right. Let me give a bit more of a setup. Athens is a FAST race. Each lap is only 1:10. Sometimes faster. So, if you have a breakaway of 2 at 15 seconds. A peloton that stretches 25 seconds. If you think about it....there is only about 15 seconds of decision/communication time.
Now. The TRAILING moto Bill, did a selfless act. Yeah he gets paid to officiate but c'mon that took balls to stand there. NOW...I'm sure Bill Radio'd to say crash on the turn. HOWEVER, it's his job to also protect. Well. He did and He got hit. Processing all that in 20 seconds is mind boggling hard. Emile Abraham was down on the deck. Hurt (He has a concussion and stiches but says "I'm doing ok :) WHEN HE GOT hit he got hit hard enough to put him in the hospital, with broken ribs. So I'm sure that knocked him for a loop. Again precisous time is ticking.
We, at the finish line, (Speaking only of commentators) didn't know that a wreck occured. ONLY that something didn't appear right. (TY and Oscar giving us the "what do we do look")
Also. There is so much speed and decision making that has to be made quickly on 90% of Crit courses. From racers, to officials to commentators. Well the RACERS got it right. THEY policed it. Why? Because they realized that it was well..chaotic. There is NO way it could have been communicated between officials and racers any quicker because BILL was injured. (Again it doesn't look like it on the feed, but he ended up in the hospital with some pretty good injuries, that I bet compromised his ability to quickly communicate). Hell it looked like he even tried to help the racers more after getting hit)
So you have the time continuum again. Everyone is saying the race should have been nuertralized and of course, it should have, but I keep going back to the speed. EVEN IF THE RACE WAS neutralized earlier I don't think it would have mattered. Why? Ray and Holloway were closing in on a 20 second gap. Peloton stretches 20-25 seconds. Race course is 1:10. By the time we could have gotten a MORE messages to the leaders they were already passing or closing in on the crash...again.
Essentially during the MINUTE that it all came down...the pro peloton did what it will always do. Police itself.
Resolutions? Not many. Red or Yellow flags? Likely not. The racers wouldn't recognize the signal until after a lap or two of PASSING THE FLAGS. There is WAY to many things going on at the big crits and waving a flag would work but only after a couple of laps.
Sirens? Maybe a better solution.
Red/Yellow lights like NASCAR...probably a good one.
Criterium style racing is the most exhiliarating racing in the US. It's inherenlty dangerous. To say the promoter and the officials got it wrong would be a mistake. I think it was right. MANY right decsions were made in the 1 minute and 20 seconds, form the racers, to the officials (they did try and warn the breakaway and the riders of the crash) and well....to us commentators.
Hope this explains a little bit.