I am sure my opinion will not be shared by all. First, let us start with saying bike racing is dangerous. I can remember almost six years ago doing the Midweek Cycling Club learn to race program and have Jeff Archbold standing up front before the start of the first night and saying: "You will crash. Get over it". There is no way to make it safe no more so that driving a car is safe. On the highways, one has to practice defensive driving. One has to anticipate the stupid moves of other drivers and know how to react.
The problem with racing, at least in the master ranks, is everyone has the notion of "safe racing". This does happen when it does happens because the same guys race together over and over again and get to know each others skill and fitness levels. However, add some unknown riders, new riders , gravel on the road, rain, etc. into the equation, and safe racing does not happen. Gaps happen. Wheels get crossed. Bars connect. Sh*t happens. Because most masters only race a few races a year and are more concerned about their FTP then skillfully handling a bike, no one gets "good" a bike handling. So, when things get a bit "sketchy" (ever heard that muttered at a race before?) they have no idea what to do. I can remember the first time being coached by Ed Veal, elite racer now on the national team, and complaining about these races: his words: "get over it". I've never complained about a race being sketchy since.
Bike racing in Europe is a different beast. Eon D'Ornellas has told me that racing in Europe resembles a contact sport. One need only watch any on bike video from the Tour de France or big European race to see that when they say fighting for position, they MEAN IT. Guys grab jersey's, push guys out of the way, fill holes that maybe are not there - yea, maybe it's not legal, but if the commie can't see it, they can't do anything (and I'm a commie). I am on a mailing list in which Ed Veal relates his racing experiences. Last season, I remember he send one out talking about his experience racing in Belgium. At the final sprint at one of the races, the road was only wide enough for 10 guys, and 10 guys were at the front FIGHTING to stay at the front racing for the finish line. 60km/h, banging bars, elbows, full out GO. Again, fighting for position. If this were an Ontario race, everyone would be complaining our "sketchy" the race was and more than half the guys would have sat up. Now with cameras on bikes in track racing, you can see what the same thing happening there. I can recall recently watching a 200 lap Madison which had a on bike camera, and seeing riders using hands to push riders out of the way. I would argue there is a great chance of contact on the track because of the lack of brakes on the bikes.
I can recall a video on Youtube of Chris Hoy winning a Keiren after getting boxed in and then pushing his way through a hole. Watch this video: HERE (or see below). I watch this video and make myself angry that was not my reaction to what happened at the OCUP on the weekend. I crashed out because I clearly got pushed down the track by a rider that didn't shoulder check. My reaction, I think, could have been different. I found myself in a hole that wasn't there and ended up clipping wheels which sent me flying. I think I should have done one of two things differently: Accelerated with elbows out pushing the riders in front of me out of the way (although that might have caused a crash) or putting my hand out and push the rider coming down on my up the track. Defensive riding.
I am not advocating for guys in the masters ranks to be doing any kind of aggressive racing; that is, fighting for position in the final sprint, etc. because we do have to go to work the next day; however, I think we need to get good at defensive racing. This comes with experience. Building up a lack of fear for "sketchy" situations and working on the skills needed to deal with them rather than complaining. We need to be able to put a hand out and push a guy out of the way who is crossing our line. On the track, we need to do the same for a rider who is ignoring our STICK command. We need to be able ride elbows out push our way around the track if needed.
At some point, I would like to spend some time racing in Europe. I would like to learn to get used to offensive and defensive bike racing. I want to be able to do what Ed Veal did at the Tour de Terra Cotta in 2013. He started at the back of the pack, and pushed his way up the side of the pack and ended up on the front. You can watch that in the video I had on his bike HERE (or see below).
For driving, one can take a defensive driving course. We are going to encounter "unsafe" situations in bike racing, but we need to be prepared and know how to act to them rather than complaining about them. Perhaps, we need courses in defensive bike racing. Had I stuck my hand out and pushed the rider out of the way or did what Chris Hoy did, maybe, just maybe, I would have finished the race
Chris Hoy pushes his way to a win:
Ed Veal moves "thru" the race to the front: