Accidents of Miscommunication in Las Vegas:
The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Race Director

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, Winter 1994

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There has been some confusion regarding a situation that arose during the 1993 Team RAAM as it passed through Las Vegas. Let me explain exactly what happened, my actions, and my rationale.

I arrived in Las Vegas, Time Station #4 at 286 miles, just moments before the lead teams of the Team RAAM arrived. It was about two am race time, or eleven pm local time. I knew it would be a tight spread among the lead four teams, then a gap until the rear four teams. At Stateline, mile 251, only 37 minutes had separated the first four teams. At any rate, first through TS4 in western Vegas was PacifiCare/Trek at 1:50am, then Make-A-Wish followed just two minutes back. I was sitting in a parking lot near CP164, mile 288, when the lead teams arrived at an immense gridlock of traffic. Minutes went by and traffic didn't move. I got out of my car to check things out on foot, discovered that traffic wasn't moving even when the lights went green, and I started coughing and my eyes started tearing from all of the smog pouring out of the idling cars. Apparently shows let out en masse around this time and this was the result. Meanwhile, the lead two team racers fidgeted in the suffocating smog with their support vans. It was an unbelievable and impossible to adequately describe situation.

I noted that solo riders wouldn't have had this experience: they went through later at night, three am local time, and were on a week day, not a weekend. I came to several conclusions in rapid succession:

  1. The smog was suffocating and downright unhealthy.
  2. For all I knew we'd all be stuck in this for hours.
  3. It was probably a mistake for us to have routed the race down The Strip in the first place, in terms of traffic hassles.
  4. It was, for all practical purposes, just like broad daylight on account of the miles of casinos and their lights.
  5. As Race Director, I had the authority to override standard RAAM rules as the situation warranted.
  6. It was very likely that the teams would want a time credit for being stuck in this mess. Of course we wouldn't have given this, but it would have been a hassle dealing with the soon to be complaining crews and riders.

Thus I decided to let the riders ride through the downtown part of The Strip solo, without their support vans, lane-splitting their way through the horrendous traffic and away from the smog and insanity as fast as possible. The riders immediately agreed and took off with my instructions that they must ride cautiously and defensively and not ride beyond the lit-up part of The Strip until their support vans rejoined them. I then instructed the support vans and secondary support vehicles to turn left at CP165, Flamingo Road, and proceed north to I-15, then go east to Lake Mead Blvd. and head south to The Strip, rejoining the RAAM Route at CP173, where they would look or wait for their rider. All were agreeable. I expected that this would be the case for all eight teams, and thus would not affect the overall standings in any way. And I must stress that I made this executive decision not to speed up the race or help the lead teams hold onto their positions, but instead to get us all out of the smog and insanity ASAP. Since it truly was just like broad daylight, I saw no harm in doing this.

I then continued to literally walk up and down The Strip, right out in the lanes since traffic was rarely moving, and look out for RAAM vehicles. Shortly after 2:10am I gave the same go-ahead to Team New Amsterdam Beer, then the same for Team Dickenson ten minutes later. (That's race time.) Then the gap I had been expecting appeared and a wait ensued for the remaining four teams, Norway, Jibofo, SCOR, and Patterson, in that order.

And then, like Moses parting the Red Sea, the traffic quickly dispersed during this time gap. Not having moved my car during any of this during the ride-by of the first four teams, my partner and I now began to continue east on The Strip until traffic would back up and become immobile. After relocating twice like this temporarily, the traffic suddenly cleared and our efforts at routing crew vehicles around the mayhem would no longer be needed, as the mayhem had vanished. It had only been the post-show let-out crowd that had given us all the problems.

After waiting a bit longer and with the rear four teams still nowhere in sight, I decided to head east and resume my officiating duties at the front of the pack. During my stay on the side of The Strip, the other primary Team Race Officials had come through, whereupon I had given them the instructions to go ahead via the freeway and wait for the Teams to arrive at CP176 at mile 308, the spot where we would all re-enter I-15 eastbound. The rear four teams rolled through Vegas' TS4 at 2:35, 3:23, 3:30, and 3:45. Team Norway had been closer than I expected and in retrospect I'm not sure why I didn't see them prior to my departure. I must have just missed them, not that it mattered as they and the other three rear teams would have a simple ride up The Strip with their support crews. From the race's point of view, it was as if my maneuvering had never happened, just like it should have been. We'd all gotten out of Vegas quickly, and the overall standings were the same on the east side of town as they had been on the west side of town.

After arriving at CP308, I headed back up the RAAM route, which is to say in reverse going west, until I found a support vehicle and rider heading toward me. It turns out that this was Team Dickenson. I raised them on the CB and asked them how all had fared in Vegas. I was then told that their rider had been hit and crashed, prior to their reconnecting with him in town. My heart sank and I got a queasy stomach right away.

But the support team didn't have anything else to say on the matter, so I looked around for other teams behind them. There were none, as I had expected, as they were the fourth team, so I resumed easterly progress onto I-15. Later that night (morning), at unmanned TS5 in Mesquite at mile 371, I was confronted by a crew member from Team Dickenson. I was told that their rider Doyce had been hit by a car in Vegas while his support vehicle was away following the alternate route that I had instructed them to use. This crew member was implying, if not outright stating, that it was my fault and due to my special decision back in Vegas that this accident had happened.

It goes without saying that I was very concerned for the rider and equally unhappy about the situation. I asked if the rider had gone to a hospital and was told that he planned to do so in St. George, Utah, at mile 422. I pointed out that unless he had been struck from behind, then it wasn't necessarily true that his support vehicle would have protected him. Without saying so out-loud, I wondered how a bicycle, or a bicyclist for that matter, that had been hit by a car could be rideable. It seemed improbably at best and I wondered if there wasn't more to this than meets the eye.

During the rest of the RAAM, I was told by headquarters that Team Dickenson was very upset with what had happened. I eventually spoke with Shermer on the phone, told him what had happened, and explained my decision-making process. Shermer expressed his support of my decision.

Doyce never did go to a hospital until after the RAAM. He also never rode again during the RAAM, except across the finish line with his teammates. The three others did all the riding for some 2600 miles, an amazing and impressive feat. Eventually Team Dickenson finished fifth, only one place lower than they had held in Vegas. Unbelievably, Doyce had broken his leg in the accident, but did nothing about it until returning home after the race.

The new Race Across AMerica book by Michael Shermer went to press shortly after the race and included a brief race synopsis of RAAM 93 which stated that Doyce had been hit by a car while cycling through Vegas and that "hindsight would have dictated otherwise" in terms of my executive decision. But that is not true.

Shortly after the race, an official complaint came in from the same crew member on Team Dickenson, questioning my judgement call. Her complaint stated that Doyce "was struck by a hit and run car. No one stopped to help him. We did not know where he was. Dazed and hurt as he was, he was able to get on his bike and find his crew by riding 3 miles." She then stated that "Mr. Kostman was trying to save some time for the riders and crews... Time could and should have been made up later in the race... Our rider was following the race directors (sic) orders. Yet were these orders correct? You decide."

So Shermer investigated and discovered something amazing: upon simply being asked, Doyce admitted that he had never even been hit by a car in Vegas, nor had he apparently ever even said that he had been hit by a car! He had somehow run into the curb and/or fell over hard on his side while making his way east down The Strip. No hit and run, or even hit and stop, driver had ever been involved. It was purely rider error that caused the accident, the same type of thing that can happen whether a support van is present or not.

So to make a long story short, there never was any story in the first place! Team Dickenson, or at least one crew member, had simply presumed something had taken place that never had, then blew it into a major issue. But after being informed by Shermer that Doyce admitted to never having been hit in the first place, the crew member still insisted that this issue be voted and commented on by the RAAM Board of Directors. And that is where it stands now, wasting all of our time, just like happens in our insanely litigious society from coast to coast.

That's the story, but I conclude with a simple plea: Everybody, please, let's communicate a little bit better, and let's start taking responsibility for our own actions. That will make much smoother sailing for RAAM 94 and life in general. I love to sail, don't you?

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