The Star Late Edition
Crashing ain’t fun, it hurts, it’s daft - but it’s part of the game
ON A TRAIL called the Zombie Birdhouse, I had my first crash on a mountain bike in 2011. Five minutes later, on a trail called The Green Mile, I had my second and last crash of 2011. Twenty-five minutes later and the KTM Lycan had been packed up and put in the back of my car as I licked my wounds and wondered at the silliness and fun that is mountain biking.
They say that you are not a proper cyclist unless you have crashed. They can go and get knotted. I’d rather not be a cyclist who has crashed. It’s not fun. It hurts. It leaves marks. It feels daft. People laugh at you. It makes you dirty. And it can break things. Like your dignity. Oh, and collar bones.
My crash at the Zombie Birdhouse trail at the Toyota Bike Park last week, was all my own fault. A drop-off that led to a difficult section had me all of aquiver. I grabbed a little front brake when I shouldn’t have and ate a lot more dirt than I wanted to, flipping over the top of the handlebars and landing in a heap on the deck. Absa Cape Epic training the hard way.
The second crash happened because I was going too quickly around a berm, tried to brake and ended up in a little ditch, and landed head first. By the logic of those who feel that you are not a true cyclist until you have crashed, that must mean I am twice the cyclist I used to be.
Crashing is a fact of cycling. You will fall and you will get scratches or broken bones. A crash can kill you or leave you unable to ride again. In May at the Giro d’italia, Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian on the Leopard-trek team, crashed on a descent on the third stage. He had been travelling at around 80km/h when he turned to look over his left shoulder before a left bend, according to Manuel Cardoso the Team Radioshack rider who was behind Weylandt.
“While looking behind, he hit with his left pedal or the left side of his handlebars on a small wall and was catapulted to the other side of the road when he hit again something. It must have been terrible.”
The medical staff at the Giro were close by and reached Weylandt 20 seconds after he crashed, but the medical chief Giovanni Tredici said he was “was already and clearly dead upon impact. I had never seen such a thing before, such a sudden death.” Tredici described how because of the se- vere injuries he suffered his left leg may have been amputated. “They worked on him for over 40 minutes, trying to resuscitate him, but he was gone.”
In the Tour of Switzerland in June Mauricio Soler crashed on the sixth stage, also on a descent at around 80km/h, hitting a pavement, crashing into a spectator and then a fence. The Movistar rider suffered “cranioencephalic trauma with cerebral edema [in layman’s terms, a severe head injury accompanied by excess fluid in the brain – ed.]. He also had multiple fractures and hematomas, and was placed in a medically induced coma,” according to velonews.com. He has undergone some 20 surgeries since the crash and is now able to speak, and has been moved back to Colombia, his homeland. Soler was riding for the South African Barloworld team when he won the King of the Mountains competition in 2007.
Four years ago Scot Gordon Dickson, an amateur mountain biker, crashed so hard that his left eye was turned the wrong way round.
“Gordon, 43, has been a cycle adventurer most of his life and has competed in mountain bike competitions all over Europe,” reported the Daily Record. “In his many years of taking part in the sport, however, he had never sustained any serious injuries – until he smashed his head on a rock in Glentress four years ago.
“He broke bones all over his face and flat-lined twice. ‘All I know is I was out to do some racing that day and warming up, so did a practice run down the course with my mates,’ said Dickson. ‘To this day I have no memory of what happened next. It’s all come from friends who were there, doctors and my wife. I just remember setting off and then it’s two weeks later and I’m wondering what I’m doing and where I am. The first I realised how bad the accident had been was when I looked in the mirror and saw my bruising and scarring. It was a scary reflection’.
“Doctors believe Dickson must have taken a firm impact to the side of his head, with only his helmet saving his life. ‘Around the eye socket was all smashed. They were worried I was going to lose it because it was so out of position. The eye was reversed when I got to hospital – it wasn’t looking out, it was looking in – and I had bit of a scare with it. But it came back around and it’s fine… The doctors said there was technically brain damage, but nothing lasting or anything to worry about long term.’ Within six months, Gordon was back on a bike.”
You can keep an eye on my training programme for the Absa Cape Epic on fittrack.co.za or by following me on Twitter (@Kevinmccallum