Reed Wins In Chicago. Potts Taken To Hospital After Crash.

After 9000 athletes entered and exited Lake Michigan the main event was set to start on Sunday at the Chicago Triathlon, the professionals race.
All morning long the announcers touted the "battle between Andy Potts and Matt Reed," two of the  top triathletes in the nation.  After taking first at the Steelhead Triathlon earlier this month, Potts was hot, the man to beat and Reed was up for the challenge.

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Potts Takes The Lead After The Swim

Potts was the first to burst out of the water and head off to the bike leg of the race, but Reed wasn't far behind and soon caught up to and passed his nemesis.  That's when things went wrong, very wrong. " I passed Andy and after the turn around started to look over, across the lane to gauge how much of a lead I had. I kept looking, but he wasn't there, that made me worry."

So worried in fact that while Reed was running past his wife, he was trying to get information from her about Potts.
Despite being competitors, Potts and Reed are friends, and Reed knew that Potts doesn't give in and fade away.

When he crossed the finish line to win, Reed had the same question for the reporters as the reporters had for him.  "What happened to Andy?"

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Reed hammers on the bike.
Photo Courtesy Paul Phillips/

What happened, was Potts wiped, so badly that he was taken away in an ambulance.  It wasn't a flat or a pot hole that took out the champ, but a slow age grouper swerving into the professionals lane at the worst possible time, as Potts was passing him going over 30 MPH. 

Jenna Shoemaker was out there racing and knows how things can go from bad to worse in a flash. " I try to stay as far away from the age groupers as I can, they are tired, some are disoriented and compared to the rates of speed we are moving, it's like they are standing still, it's scary."

Things we're tense in the finishers area, as people tried to get news of the Potts condition. 

Reed wanted to take off to the hospital to be by his friends side, but had to meet his commitments for the race.  His wife Kelly was receiving texts from Potts wife Lisa, "Andy is banged up pretty bad,  this is very scary, they are doing tests, looks like everything is going to end up OK, I hope."

 " I know what Andy was trying to do, take the tightest line (to the age group lane) to be as efficient as he can and save time, it's an every day race tactic.  The problem is in a race like this, you can trust what the age groupers are going to do or how they are going to react, we all just hope he's OK."  Said Shoemaker.

Before the news of Potts accident could completely sink in, the second announcement came, "Julie Dibens was knocked out of the race and injured."  The same scenario, an age grouper wandering into the professional lane.
"Luckily, Julie wasn't hurt as bad, she was heading North into the wind and not traveling as fast."  Shoemaker told us.

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Dibens Banged Up After Being Bumped By An Age Grouper

Dibens was in the finishers shoot, towing her cracked up bike, trembling and bleeding, an accident that could have been avoided.

Reports about Potts from friends close to him, tell us that he is being
tested and is pretty banged up, but should be OK.  Less than two months
from Kona, we will see if Potts is able to race or was he taken out of
the World Championships by Wave #55.

Let us know what you think? Does this race need to be so big?  Is it
safe to cram that many athletes into such a small space?  Should the
pros start first, instead of last?  Is mixing pros with tired slow age
groupers a recipe for disaster?
Log on and share your thoughts.


Leave a comment
  • It would be safer for the pros if the pros went first, no question. I think they came up with the idea of having them go last so that more people could get to see them perform. By the way, I don't think there was a true "professional lane" that amateurs were forbidden to enter. It's just that when the pros are on the field, you have to stay out of the faster lane on the bike.

  • In reply to jenright:

    It's a tough call. The pros I spoke with, had no problem showing up to first race. They don't have to be there at 4 to rack their bikes, so why not.
    According to them, the age groupers are supposed to stay out of that lane? Who knows. Just good to know that Andy is OK.

  • In reply to jenright:

    It definately would be safer for the pros to go 1st, but they would have half the spectators, or exposure at high profile races such as the Toyoto lifetime fitness. They could possibly wait another hour or two before pro start... or have a pace scooter paving the way.

  • In reply to jenright:

    Maybe a snow plow to clear the path:)

  • In reply to jenright:

    I think the pros starting late is fine - that should not be the problem. But maybe one could close a third lane when they race, just to play safe. They really are quickly in and out. Also, when I raced the triple this morning many, many people did not follow the rules of riding British (ride left, pass right) - and I had to swerve once across the road for legally passing (OK, I'm a German stickler for rules but everybody needs to be ina race that big. Maybe some time penalty for people who disobey???

  • In reply to jenright:

    I raced today as the bike leg of a relay team. We were in Wave#57. I was far slower than the pros and I came up on age groupers very quickly. I can only imagine how fast things went wrong for Andy Potts. I will say that I spent as much time as I could in the fast lane and as far away from slow traffic as possible. I hope Andy has a quick recovery.

    In the 9 years I've raced I've never heard anyone say to age groupers to stay out out the fast lane. And I'm sure that the folks who were still on the course as the pros were compeating would not be thinking that as they fought a 15 mile an hour headwind that someone would be closing at such a high rate of speed.

    I don't know if you can find a easy fix that doesn't change the vibe of the race. 9000 people with different race goals is what makes this such a happening.

    Having said that, a pace scooter escort for the leaders might not be a bad idea.

  • In reply to jenright:

    As someone who started in one of the last waves, I agree that it comes down to communication. When I was on the run course, the pros were on there. The leader biker was telling people to stay over or telling you that you were perfect where you were. The biker leading the person in third place just kept blowing his whistle. It was confusing. Did I need to move? We are all running on the edge of the path. I would have appreciated being warned that we may encounter pros on the course and where we should be. This could easily be done when we are waiting to enter the water and would help eliminate this problem.

  • In reply to jenright:

    I was a spectator at the race yesterday and I saw
    the last age grouper in a green cap clining on the the side wall in the swim. He had a group walking and following him and he was way,way behind. I think he climbed along the wall the entire way. I remember thinking this guy is going to get eatin up by the pros. Not sure if he was the age grouper involved. But do we blame the age groupers in these situations when someone is speeding by them??I know there was a gap between the pros and the age groupers but I don't think it was big enough...Pros should go first. There are plenty of spectators at that time.

  • In reply to jenright:

    I raced yesterday in wave 54 and while I finished my race without being overtaken by the pros I did see them on the course during my bike and run legs. In my opinion the bike leg was not nearly as organized as it was in the past. Especially the turn arounds. When that is added to 500-1000 more participants (im not sure the exact number) there can be trouble. My first pass on the bike was extremely crowded with slower age groupers. There were a few hairy moments where a wrong move could have sent someone into the third lane where cars were driving by at 40+ mph speeds. In my opinion, this is just the face of a deeper problem of having courses that are too crowded.

  • In reply to jenright:

    I think the pros need go off late. This adds to the ability to spectate for the event and thus creates a larger buzz.

    I do think that age groupers need to be more careful, and not just for the pros. I have raced Chicago twice and spectated many more times. It is amazing how inconsiderate many age groupers can be when it comes to drifting and not staying on their line.

    It actually isn't any better on the run. You will have packs of people standing three or four wide on paths and it forces racers to go around them.

    Although some people are doing the race just to finish or for fun, others are racing. Those just out there for fun or to finish need to be more considerate of those "racing."

    Race organizer definitely need to have a motorcycle pushing age groupers over on the bike for the pros. It only makes sense that the pros should not have to worry about the things that happened yesterday.

    But, that is the strength and weakness of triathlon. Everyone races the same course at similar times (okay 6:30 is a lot different than 11, but they do their best given the amount of people). Like marathons, triathlons are a race and an event all at once. This is not true in bike racing where there are "events," like century rides, and then "races," whether they bee crits or road races.

  • In reply to jenright:

    Sprint on saturday....something which splits the riders up..... the cycling lanes can be reopened to cars by noon both days.. I know this makes not sense when we (the competitors) love the crowds!! but something HAS to give...

    the slow cyclists were a HUGE problem... reminded me of driving on the highway when the slow drivers are in the left lane and NEVER move over... thankfully Andy will race again - maybe not here though if there are not BIG changes for the elite's and pro's....

    I also saw a pretty scary head injury in the Northbound side around 945am... guy was cut off and knocked out cold

  • In reply to jenright:

    I raced in wave 55 yesterday, and it was even more hectic out there than in the past four years when I've raced this event. To my wave 55 mate that didn't play by the rules, please don't ever come back. Go take up a sport where your stupidity won't kill someone.

    Besides the instigator of the Potts wreck, half of the people out there shouldn't have been let onto the race course, and now two pros and I'm sure countless amateurs paid the price. Bad swimmers, dangerous bikers (two of which almost hit me), and the jerk running while on his cell phone - are you kidding me? Don't come out to a race you're not prepared to complete. Don't risk the safety of those around you because you didn't care enough to listen to a course talk.

    Beyond the athletes, the race organizers are fools for running this event they way do. Is the $1.6 million in registration fees alone not enough to pay a few race officials to watch for the safety of the course? Not one official could be seen on the bike course. Or how about a few cans of spray paint to mark the tire-swallowing potholes in LSD? Can you manage that detriment to your profits?

    My countless thanks to all the volunteers - you guys are amazing. But whoever's holding the purse on this one should realize that they're doing a horrible job, and that they're lucky the papers are reporting injuries instead of fatalities.

    This race has gotten way too big, it's a poor reflection of this great city, and I'd like to see the pros boycott this event until it cleans up its act. I sure will.

  • In reply to jenright:

    Mr Wallach...big problem with your story, or the information you're getting is that there is definitely no "age group lane" vs. a "professional lane." Talk to a course official, there is a "riding lane" and a "passing lane." If one age grouper is passing another age grouper, they were supposed to use the right lane - what you are referring to as the "professional lane." If this Shoemaker chick, or any other pro, thought they were supposed to have that lane all to themselves, there were mistaken.

    All that said, people were definitely abusing that lane. Mostly because there is simply too much bike traffic out there. Much like any Chicago highway, the left lane is supposed to be a "passing lane" but when the road becomes full, it ends up just being another lane of traffic, with the middle and right lanes traveling just as fast. That doesn't excuse all the people that were blatantly breaking course rules and spending way too much time in that lane when not passing anyone, or passing on the left, which almost killed me a couple times.

    Bottom line, this course is very dangerous...I said it three years ago when I first did the race and I'll say it again: someone is going to get killed one of these years. It's so easy to crash because of any number of factors, and with the traffic lanes right there, it's going to happen. Someone will crash into the traffic lane and it's lights out. Hopefully course officials get proactive about this rather than reactive and take the necessary precautions before something terrible happens.

  • In reply to jenright:

    I agree that having two lanes of traffic zip by on LSD is a definite hazard. To jackietreehorn's comment: It is just a matter of time before someone gets killed by a car.

    I like that it is a big race and that professionals compete in it. Ideally, they should shut down all of LSD and use the four lanes in the following manner:
    Inner Left lane: slowest age groupers
    Outer Left Lane: passing for age groupers
    Inner Right Lane: Professionals Only
    Outer Right Lane: Course officials and media

    It's just too dangerous to have traffic continually zipping by with that many people.

  • In reply to jenright:

    The pot holes and expansion cracks between the 2 bike lanes made it difficult to pass slower rides and stay out of far left area for the fastest of the competitors. I wanted to stay more in the middle to pass but due to poor conditions had to jump to right lane to make 70 % of my passes. If CDOT would have used some patch material to make mid point less stressful I am pretty sure there would have been less accidents. I thought the race was a great experience and the weather turned out much nicer than expected.

  • In reply to jenright:

    The rules (as published) seemed to be, "Keep to the LEFT at all times on the bike course unless in the immediate act of passing. Always pass on the RIGHT and then move immediately back to the left lane once you are sure you have safely cleared the cyclist you were passing". Frankly, if I encounter a group of half a dozen or more bikes on the right travelling 10 mph slower than me (which happened a lot, my bike split is in top 4%), I'm passing on the left before I slam on my brakes ask them to move over and hope that they're paying attention. If there's more than a about a yard between you and the white line by the median without a bike in it you're too far to the right, and you're going to be passed on both sides. It'd be useful as well if people who were moving in to overtaking positions checked over their shoulders, just in case there is a faster rider they're unaware of. As far as there not being enough space, I was in wave 43 and there seemed to be lots of room on the left with a load of people moving slowly on the right. The surface was bad, there were not enough marshals (I did see a few, and I also saw a few helping out at accidents which takes a lot of time) and not enough signage reminding people to move over. There wasn't enough separation of public / competitors...the TV coverage I saw shows someone cycling along with / through the age-group runners. These gripes apart, I'd do it again (nice distance, usually I race longer...)

  • In reply to jenright:

    I was in the race in wave 46. SHAME ON THE CITY OF CHICAGO!!!! It was the most dangerous course I have ever seen, with the most gigantic potholes I have ever seen on a race course. It was a miracle that no one was killed. After I complained to the race directors, who briefed us & warned us as to the locations of the holes. I asked while the City did not fill them in like they do everywhere else. They told me they asked them to and they refused. SHAME ON THEM! THEY HAVE MILLIONS FOR THEIR NAZI CAMS EVERYWHERE THAT MAIL YOU TICKETS for anything & everything, but they dont have 50 bucks to pay for asphalt to fill in some pot holes so people don't get killed. As a police officer of 17 years, I know that usually the City can not be sued (immunity) but in this case all the people that got hurt in the tons of crash I saw happen should and can sue the City of Chicago regarding what is called "deliberate indifference" And Chicago thinks they should get to host the Olympics, give me a break? What a joke! I feel very bad for Andy Potts and I am not convinced that the idiot that hit him was not swerving to avoid one of the several monster pot hole that were there.

  • In reply to jenright:

    I raced in wave #14 on Sunday, as well as last year's race. While I am new to the sport, I am very competitive (259 out of 2304). There are WAY too many people on the course that have no clue what they are doing. People in the swim portion that CANNOT SWIM? Are you kidding me? Bikers riding mountain/cruiser bikes with a basket, in the right lane at that! I rode in the right lane almost the entire time because it was the only spot that was open. Every time I went to the left lane, I was forced back to the right by someone going VERY slow. Course officials need to institute cut-off times for the swim, eliminating those who are out there floundering in the water. There also needs to be pace vehicles/scooters on LSD reminding bikers to stay to the far left, especially when the PROS are beginning their race. The occasional police car would keep the car speeds down. On the run course, station a volunteer at each water stop with a bullhorn to make the announcement. Keep the pros later in the day, just make it easier and safer for them to race. To all of those out there who just do the event to "complete" it, next time try the marathon. 4 hours to complete the sprint is not an accomplishment to be proud of.

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