You'll remember from your youth the anecdotal story of the drunk guy who got hit by a car (every town had one), but was so drunk he didn’t realise, just bounced and got back up again and carried on walking, While this story is clearly a slight exaggeration it’s founded in truth, in that a person whose sense are impaired (and alcohol will do that folks) will be unable to react as quickly to impending danger as a fully functioning person. What this means is that the sober person would tense up prior to impact and would take the impact harder, and come off worse than the drunken chap.
Why do I start this piece by telling a story of alcohol and science? Well the logic also holds true that when about to crash a bike to go loose, just roll with it - literally - and don’t (whatever you do) put that arm down to cushion the blow of a high-speed impact. However, whilst this logic sounds good in theory, and we all know it in our heart of hearts, in reality it is a totally different kettle of fish!
But rewind, start a little earlier.
My daily commute takes me through Thursley, a quiet village complete with obligatory pub, a handful of roads and a cricket square. Like many villages near main roads it has suffered from its exploitation in the past as a rat-run, with speed-bumps being the logical conclusion. As you exit the village you head toward the cover of trees as the road twists its way downhill.
The slope is nothing too extreme, the Garmin tells me everyday that its around 8-10%, but coming as it does with its twists, and after a downhill through the village, there’s normally a number beginning with either a 3 or a 4 on the km/hr screen.
I do, rather, I did, the hill twice a day, once in the morning on the commute and once in the evening to give me extra climbing practise, so I feel like I’m fairly comfortable with it, I’m aware of its nuances and bends, knowing as I do that I can take those initial turns with a 3 or 4 as the starting number.
Except. Not this time.
There’s no warning, nothing sets off the spider-sense, there’s no giveaway sign. Then time does this funny trick.
It speeds up, the senses heighten, and time seems to slow down at the same time.
It starts with the realisation that your front tyre has slipped out from in front of you, and you are heading towards the ground at a speed you would REALLY rather not be.
And for some reason, despite everything you know about the drunken man, everything you’ve ever heard on Eurosport, all that damn common sense you normally apply to every part of your life it’s all out the window and instinct kicks in and you stick your arm down, to cushion the fall - cushion. the . fall…. at 35km/hr
It’s the wrong decision.
You know this within a fraction of a second, something seems wrong in your shoulder. But you are too busy with the very conscious thought that you are super glad you’re wearing your helmet as first it strikes on the left, then you find yourself hitting the other side of your head on the ground (there’s an actual moment of cognition that you’ve turn a full spin as part of the impact “cool”). You feel the ground brush your face, nothing too severe, but enough to know that you’ve definitely lost a tooth!
And then comes the slide to a halt, metres from where you started.
First thing is to check your bike, it’s there, nothing having snapped off - thats good - closer inspection reveals many bad things, but that’s for later. Then clothing, oh dammit, you’ve shredded your new (3 rides old) Gabba jacket, and your tights, and your gloves, in fact the only thing that will survive the day will be the shoes and socks you are wearing #sadtimes. Then, and only then does the pain begin to register. But first you crawl to the side of the road, almost bouncing in shock. Then the realisation that you are totally winded as you fight for breath, the shock of the crack hitting you.
Once the breathing has returned you sit to the side of the road, helped there by the really helpful white-van-man who was first on-scene.
The pain is acute now, there is a good measure of road rash on the hip, the knees, the elbows are bleeding, but first there’s that shoulder again, and now the immediate shock of what has happened is over the body starts to shout, SHOUT, at you. Your tongue checks the mouth, there’s 2 teeth missing significant chunks - wifey is going to be very unhappy (and she was indeed!)
That shouting again, oh bugger, your arm has gone to feel the source of the pain, and it’s that collarbone that bore the brunt of the first impact, and it’s clearly not in the right position. It’s snapped like a crumpled chain stay, as your hand runs its way over it the fingers reveal a sorry story, and the very first thought is a bad one - tomorrow’s holiday ( a trip to Mt Ventoux no-less) is going to be cancelled, wifey is going to be really unhappy, and the kids will take it badly.
The ambulance soon arrives, and as soon as you start to move ou realise there’s more bad news, but it’s news you’ve had before; you’ve broken a rib - that explains why breathing is so painfull. This compounds the hospital ride gloom further, Dowsett was back on his turbo with 3 days of breaking his collarbone, but a broken rib will mean a much bigger lay-off than that. Transcontinental training, which started so well with a successful Rapha Festive 500, has come to a very abrupt pause, certainly less than ideal.
Hospital X-rays reveal 2 broken bones, it’s funny how the body knows these things already, the prescription is painkillers and rest. No riding on the road for 6 weeks - #supersadtimes
Conversations are had, kids are told - there are tears - but plans are made to get back on the bike asap, despite the pain, it’s absolutely worth the sleepless nights and the cracking coughs
p.s - bit of a plug here….further inspection revealed significant damage to frame, components, and attire. My insurers BikmoPlus sorted it and the cash to cover it all was with me within 6 days from crash! Thanks guys.