I felt it coming all day.
For some reason, on this particular ride, two images kept floating through my head…
NBC’s replays ad nauseam of Kristin Armstrong’s crash at the Exergy Tour TT in May. This was arguably the greatest female time trial rider on the planet and she crashed making a very simple maneuver she’s done ten thousand times.
The other image was Caleb Fairly’s crash during Stage 5 of the Tour oF Utah — when he was executing an absolutely average turn, with very little traffic, and he just face planted. The excuse was he lost his front wheel when he rolled over the paint – the painted traffic lines on the road. Yes, the old adage in cycling is “Stay off the paint!” — because it gets super slippery when wet, only there was no moisture anywhere on that day.
In both instances it was a seasoned pro making a maneuver they are capable of making with their eyes closed. And there was no rain, no wind, no chipseal, no opposing riders issues at all… and yet, both hit the pavement. Hard.
As I rolled out on Monday, I could still see remnants of wetness from the rains the night before. Maybe that’s what started my negative thoughts and images. Though, in all honesty, the roads were probably 90% dry.
I felt good. Felt strong. Everything was positive. Except… about every 15 minutes or so, the images of Armstrong’s or Fairly’s crashes would suddenly flash through my mind with a little crawl across the bottom that read something like:
They were seasoned professionals, and you’re just a tubby hill slug, there’s no way YOU can stay upright
And then it would be gone. But it got to me. It made me tentative. I descended slower than normal. I rolled through corners slower than normal. And what happens when you ride tight and fearful as opposed to relaxed and confident?
Only I didn’t crash. I was 30 miles in, then 35, then 40, and though I kept feeling like I was going to go down, I didn’t. I rode and climbed and descended and spun and TT’d, and the whole time I never came close to crashing.
Then I crashed.
I was trying out a new route – somewhere I’d never ridden – and according to my Google maps recon the night before, I knew that I would have to ride on this one particular road I have avoided ever since I began this project back in 2010.
It is actually a great road for cycling – smooth pavement, twisty curves and a couple of nice rollers. The only thing is — it is a very narrow two-lane road with no bike lane at all. And it is a very heavily trafficked road. And heavy traffic + no bike lane = Fizz don’t ride.
But if I wanted to tackle this new route I knew I was going to have to ride on that road for a tiny bit — maybe a few hundred yards (meters for our lads across the pond). No problem.
So I hit that road and actually got lucky in that the majority of traffic was going the other way and I had very few cars to deal with on my side. I rode quickly, wanting to get to the right turn that was “Carriage Crossing Lane” which would take me back over some new roads and then drop me on TRFKATP.
100 yards went by.
Then 200 yards.
After about a thousand yards, I knew something was wrong. I must have missed it. But how?
I pulled The Goat off the road and onto a sidewalk and checked my iPhone map app. Yep… I missed it. But how? I zoomed in on my map and realized Carriage Crossing Lane actually does NOT connect to the road I was on. It’s a cul-de-sac that butts up against it. You have to get off the bike, hop a small fence and then ride.
How did I miss this the night before? Laziness, I guess.
So now I had to ride back up the other side of this road — the side where there were cars whizzing by every two or three seconds… with no bike lane, and several blind turns. With the Speed Limit being 40mph, the thought of me cranking hard just to sustain 20mph while a line of angry motorists lines up behind me was something I did not want to experience.
So what to do? I know! I will ride back on this nice little sidewalk right here. It’s early Monday morning, there is probably no foot traffic. And it will take me right back to Carriage Crossing Lane and I will be on my way.
So I began riding on the sidewalk. I had to duck every so often due to the overhanging trees, and did notice at one point that there was a bit more standing water on the sidewalk than out on the road where the sun had dried it all.
I noticed the sidewalk ahead was winding through beautifully landscaped bushes and trees, and I thought about how it was far too elegant to be maintained by the city — it must be by the Homeowners Association of this gorgeous neighborhood next to me.
Big beautiful homes, with glistening swimming pools, and golf course like backyards, and…
Now, just like Smokin’ Joe, I was back up immediately, doing that thing all men do – where, no matter how injured you may be – you are looking around, nodding, saying something like, “Yep, no worries, meant to do that.”
I looked back at the sidewalk and saw this:
I had ridden straight into mud. In a turn. And when you ride straight into mud on 1-inch tires, AND THEN try to turn…
I hit the mud just as I was turning my bars into the turn that I felt was coming. I say felt because…
I was not looking where I was going. I was admiring the lovely homes on my left. I saw the mud about a nanosecond before impact with the concrete.
The Goat survived better than I did.
My shoulder looked similar.
Once I regained my faculties, I realized the cul-de-sac known as “Carriage Crossing Lane” was no more than about 40 yards from where I went down. So close.
I cleaned the mud from between my brake calipers and fork, then walked The Goat to the cul-de-sac, lifted it over the little 3-foot high fence, and continued on my ride… as blood ran down into my shoe.
It wasn’t Johnny Hoogerland type stuff, but as I pedaled passed a couple walking their dog, and saw their eyes bulge at my bloody leg, I thought, “That’s right. I’m a mother*#&@*%# cyclist, baby!”
It was about 7 or so miles to home, and I managed fine. Over the next few days the damage assessment came in:
One leg with severe road rash.
One shoulder with minor road rash and slight bruising.
One bruised tibia bone.
One bruised ankle bone.
The Goat was just muddy.
In the end, the crash images and all that negative thinking had nothing to do with my going down. It was me losing my concentration for just a few seconds. They call it “pilot error” in flying. In cycling it’s called “Being a doofus.”
Or is it dufus?
Here’s a couple of fairly interesting points… if any of you are even still reading this:
One of the absolute best things you can do for a post-crash leg injury is get back on the bike. If you have a bruised bone as I did, or severe road rash (as I do), getting back on and doing a light but high cadence spin for at least 45 minutes actually breaks up some sort of junk inside your injured leg and “cleanses it” so to speak. I’m too tired right now to look up the specifics, but take my word for it.
After three days of intense leg pain at times – to the point I had scheduled an appointment for an x-ray – going out and riding took away not only all the pain, but the swelling I had, too. Gotta love cycling.
The other thing is… my friend and writing/riding compadre – Little Joey Choo Choo – had been on me for a while to shave my legs. Like any “real” cyclist would do. But I have always refused for no other reason than I think those skinny, shaven, pro kit wearing, Cervelo riding serious cyclists would be the only folks who’d even notice if I shaved, and chances are they would laugh even harder at a big fat hill slug with shaved legs, than a just big fat hairy hill slug.
I let my ego get in the way — thinking that shaved legs were only for guys who race Cat 3 on weekends and weigh 160 pounds.
Nope. You shave your legs so when you do go down – AS WE ALL WILL – you heal up much quicker and cleaner.
Yes, my legs are now shaved. But you gotta wait for those pics. At least until after you’ve digested your meal.
Ride your bike.
Avoid the mud.
Watch out for the road idiots