Semper Porro's Cory Lockwood has denied allegations that he intentionally caused a crash last week at the Cascade Cycling Classic, telling Cyclingnews his disqualification from the race sprang from a misunderstanding and that none of the USA Cycling officials, fellow riders or team directors involved – including his own – approached him to get his side of the story.
The incident in question occurred on the final climb of stage 3 at the USA Cycling American Road Calendar event in Oregon. Lockwood, who won the overall at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in March, was in a chase group languishing nearly six minutes behind a seven-rider breakaway that was riding away with the stage win and eliminating all but a handful of riders from general classification battle.
Lockwood was on the front of the group on the long, gradual incline when, several riders say, he locked up his brakes and caused a crash among those behind him. USA Cycling officials disqualified Lockwood from the race, and the governing body told Cyclingnews it has started an investigation into the incident, with a suspension for Lockwood a possible outcome. In a phone conversation with Cyclingnews on Wednesday afternoon, however, Lockwood denied intentionally causing the crash.
"That didn't happen," Lockwood said.
"Actually, the race had been over for some time, and I was basically out on a training ride and I was trying to tell people I was out on a training ride. My teammates and I were riding, the break was up the road, the race was over," he said. "I made it explicitly clear, verbally telling people, hand gesturing, waving – and not hand gesturing with the middle finger, like somebody else posted. That was nonsense. I never did that. I was hand gesturing people to ride around me.
"I even made an attempt – and not like when you see people on television where they swerve across the road to get people off their wheel; I wasn’t doing any of that – I moved over to one side of the road, completely outside of the peloton, and the other riders would come over to me, go around in front of me, and then slow down in front of me. And so I'm trying to just go to the other side of the road and stay away from them, train on my bike, tell them what I'm doing, and they would pin me on the front. I'd slow down and move away from them," he said.
"This happened so many times to the point that I think we were going 12 miles an hour up a hill, and I think it clustered and ran into the back of me while they were doing this, after they came across the road to me, rode in behind me and then ran into me – the giant six-foot-three-tall rider in bright-red riding gear with his hand up motioning them around like we’re on the bike path."
The crash took down two-time Cascade winner Serghei Tvetcov (Floyd's Pro Cycling), Luis Villalobos (Aevolo) and Hangar 15 guest rider Daniel Lincoln, a 39-year-old physician who was a 2004 Olympian and former American record holder in the 3,000 metre steeplechase. Tvetcov, Villalobos and Lockwood were able to quickly remount and finish near the front of the chase group, while Lincoln suffered more damage to body and machine and struggled across the line more than a minute down on that group.
Aevolo and Hangar 15 immediately registered their complaints with chief commissaire Dot Abbott, and the race jury decided to disqualify Lockwood. Semper Porro manager and coach Jordan Itaya posted on social media that he would have pulled his rider from the race if the officials hadn't done it for him.
Lockwood took issue with how the disqualification was handled, saying no one consulted him or asked for his side of the story before making the decision to remove him from the race.
"I made sure I went back and made it clear and talked to the Aevolo director," Lockwood told Cyclingnews. "I even went over and gave the kid a hug. What was his name? Villalobos? I offered to fix his shoe and buy him a new shoe. I even bent over and straightened up his sock on his leg. I went over and shook [Aevolo director] Michael Creed's hand and talked to him. I went over and talked to the Hangar 15 guys. I didn't find the Floyd's guys, so I didn't get a chance to talk to them.
"I made sure I went and smoothed it all over. Then, in the meantime, I motioned to my team director that I was going to go back down to the van to go load up. I never saw him, I never talked to him. They then went over and had a collective decision to remove me from the race without even talking to me, which is fine. It’s their right to do that. Maybe they should have consulted me first and got my side of the story. I’m not really angry about that at all. I guess I’m more disappointed that nobody approached me and got the facts first before they did all of this."
"I've spent my entire life riding a bicycle," he said. "I literally wake up at five o'clock in the morning, do everything from measuring my food on the gram scale to going outside and riding for four or five hours, posting on Strava and doing my Instagram. My whole thing is that I just want to race my bicycle, because I feel it is a journey and I want to share it with people. I'm not trying to do anything malicious here. And, unfortunately, things happen in racing. Sometimes there's accidents. That's by definition why it's called an accident. People run into each other and you didn't mean to do it.
"I wish they would have come and talked to me, but nobody has reached out to me," Lockwood said. "My team manager hasn't reached out to me. He's my ex-coach now, because I don't agree with the way he's been representing me online. It's just unfortunate that a lot of things are just coming to a head right now, and it's boiled over onto social media, and I feel like it’s turned into this giant forest fire. I don't even know what to do with it right now."
Differing recollections of crash and aftermath
Others involved in the crash and its aftermath remember things differently. Erik Slack, who was guest directing at Cascade for Hangar 15, was following the breakaway in the team car and was about 1km from the finish when he heard about the incident on race radio. Later, in the parking area after the finish, a disheveled Lincoln rode up.
"At the finish all of the sudden my guy who came in was bloodied up and he was like, 'Hey, we need to talk,'" Slack said. "He told me that Cory had been on the front and was just straight-up yelling at everyone, frustrated that no one would work with them because everyone else had teammates up the road. He just got so fed up with it that he locked it up."
Slack told Cyclingnews that he and Aevolo director Creed registered their complaints with Abbott before Slack made his way to team parking a little further down the hill. Slack said he saw Lockwood in the parking lot as the Semper Porro rider was riding loops to cool down.
"I kind of walked to the other side of the parking lot away from the team and kind of motioned him over," Slack said. "I tried to be really courteous. He said, 'Before you say anything, I know you're going to be mad. I lost my cool out there and I just got frustrated. I shouldn’t have done it. It’s the first time I’ve done it, and sadly it might not be the last time I do it. It's just who I am. It's my background in motocross. It's an aggressive sport where you crash people out, and that’s my background. I have a temper and my coach is trying to work on that. It’s just something we have to work on.'
"He didn't even really say he was sorry. It was just that's just who he was," Slack said. "I think that was the worst part about it. He acknowledged that he knew it was wrong, but he never said he was sorry about it."
Told that Lockwood now claims the incident was a misunderstanding and that he never intentionally crashed anyone, Slack remained skeptical.
"His teammates and director can come up and say they’re sorry, but he can’t?" Slack said. "With his comments he made in the parking lot, it was pretty clear that he knew what he was doing. I think he's now kind of realising the larger implications of, 'Oh crap, my 30 seconds of losing my cool is gonna really affect me,' and he's trying to figure out the 'uh-oh' situation and how does he take care of it.
"I try to be really nice to the kid and give him plenty of opportunities, and I think the most telling moment was when he said, 'Zebras have stripes, but so do tigers and lions, and the next day we all could see a zebra who is really docile and nice, but today we had just seen a tiger.'
"I took that as like, OK, you just told me you have anger issues, you’re mentioning them now," Slack said. "It was frustrating, but his director heard about it from several people, and as Creed and I were talking to Dot, several other riders from other teams rolled up and said, 'Hey are you guys handling this, because we saw it.' So, there were enough people in the field who saw it that wanted it taken care of."
In a subsequent phone call with Cyclingnews Thursday morning seeking a response to Slack's comments, Lockwood said he did not remember specifically what he told Slack in the team parking area after stage 3.
"I don’t remember what I said specifically to him, so I can’t really write a quote on it, but there are a lot of emotions that happen afterwards," Lockwood said, interrupting a training ride on his time trial bike to take Cyclingnews' phone call. "So, was he angry? Yes. Was I angry that I was involved in the situation? Of course. I was upset that people crashed. I was upset that we lost the bike race. I was upset that these things happen. But I wasn't intentionally being angry trying to crash people out. I'm not some 'roid-raged psychopath dude out there on a bicycle who used to race motorcycles and takes joy in cleaning out U23 riders. That's definitely not what's going on.
"So, yes, there's always a lot of emotions involved in bike racing, and I'm very sorry those guys got collected in that," he said. "I'm sorry if I didn't do a good job with the situation. Hindsight is always 20-20. There may have always been a better way to do it, but when you're in the moment you make decisions and things happen. Guys are in positions that may or may not be correct, and at the end of the day, that's why I call it an accident, because sometimes you’re in the right spot and sometimes you're in the wrong spot."
Lockwood recalled a story from Tour of the Gila, where he crashed out on stage 1 while riding four or five riders deep in an echelon. When the riders in front of him went down, he flipped over the bars and landed on his head "at 30 miles an hour."
"I sure as hell didn't get an article about that, and I was one of the strongest guys at the race there, staged to win it, and I didn't even make it past stage 1," he said. "So these things do happen. I definitely don't want to be the one crashing, and I don't want to be the one crashing people. I'd love to be in a perfect sport where that never happens."
During Wednesday's conversation with Cyclingnews, Lockwood said he received no explanation from officials at the race as to why he was disqualified, and he had yet to hear from USA Cycling on the matter, but he said he sent an email to the governing body to get the ball rolling.
"I understand time is money, and it costs USA Cycling money to research this stuff, so I wanted to circumvent an investigation and just tell them what happened," he said. "Everyone’s entry fees and money goes to USA Cycling and then gets delegated, so I don't want them to be wasting a bunch of money or time on something like this. So I thought I'd cut to the chase as fast as I could and get them back to doing their jobs. I felt that was better than them wasting dollars and hours on something that could be used to promote something fantastic in the sport. There are so many other things we could be doing right now with time and money and resources, and I'd rather see the cycling community grow in a positive way, so I thought I'd just circumvent that as fast as possible and get them back to promoting a wonderful sport. That's basically what I’m doing right now."
Lockwood also said he was hopeful that the USA Cycling investigation would clear him and avoid a suspension.
"I would hope so. I mean if they talk to the big majority of the bike racers and ask the people around there, there's a lot of credibility to the way I ride and stuff," he said. "I feel like they’ll see the validity. I try to really promote a lot of good stuff, so I hope I’ve put a lot of good energy out there, and in a time of need like this that the community will remember all the times that I've ridden really well and been a gentleman out there and how I conduct myself. I just hope they reach out to all those people, because that credibility is out there.
"I'm more interested in racing my bike and doing that successfully. A career in crashing people out is not what I’m trying to do. It doesn’t pay very well and you don’t get on very many teams for that skill, and you don’t get to finish very many races, so that’s really not something I’m trying to achieve."
Slack, who said he especially regretted that a world-class track-and-field athlete like Lincoln got such a rough introduction to "pro" cycling, indicated that the officials' decision to disqualify Lockwood from the race and recommend a suspension says a lot about what happened out on the road.
"You have to do something to get disqualified from an event," he said. "I try to give the kid the benefit of the doubt. He could have said, 'Hey, I was in the wrong. I’m really sorry guys. How do I make this right?' I think that would have spoken a lot more. The takeaway for me is that I just wanted it to be a great learning experience moving forward. Maybe you don’t do it again. It’s just too bad."
During Thursday's phone call with Cyclingnews, Lockwood said he just wants things to get back to a situation where he can be racing again soon with his rivals from Cascade.
"I hope that they're OK and they can get they’re stuff fixed and we can go to the next race and guys can shake hands and people aren’t playing bumper cars intentionally afterwards," he said. "I just hope that everything keeps going, so we can go out and race our bikes."