Hit the Road

There are two types of cyclists: Those Who Have Crashed, and Those Who Will Crash. A year ago I joined the unfortunate ranks of the former.

It was a beautiful June morning, and I had been invited by a friend to join an early morning group ride to Headlingly. I knew some of the riders and had been riding with them fairly regularly as an add on to my triathlon training. I had done some group riding, but was a little surprised when I arrived to see such a large group. There were 18 riders out that morning.

It was a strange ride right from the start. Early on when we were still in the city a pair of deer leaped out of the bushes and ran right in front of us, causing one rider to fall (thankfully with only minor scrapes and bruises). This put everyone a bit on edge, including me since I had never seen someone fall like that right in front of me.

On our way back, close to the edge of the city, the double paceline we were in started to splinter as the riders in front moved to the back at the same time an acceleration happened. Or something like that. To tell you the truth, I am still a bit hazy on the details, but the next thing I knew I looked down to see my front wheel dangerously sandwiched between two rear wheels. Next thing I knew I was falling. I hit the ground hard on my left side, with my shoulder, hip and knee taking most of the impact. Then I slid along the pavement, leaving a healthy amount of skin behind. I felt a second impact as the rider behind me hit my back and launched over me. At that point all I remember was searing pain and the sound of bike clattering on pavement. Slowly people turned around and came back to where I was. I saw shoes and heard voices and needed to know who else had fallen. Someone told me Scott Taylor had gone down too, but I didn’t know who that was, or how badly he was hurt. I found out later he is a triathlete I recognized from the local races, who had recently moved out to Kelona with his wife. I tried to get up, to find my bike, to go see if Scott was ok, but was told to lie back down. That turned out to be good advice as shortly after I felt light headed, likely from a good dose of shock. My left arm was in extreme pain, I thought it might be broken. I was bleeding and my whole body hurt and burned.

There was all sorts of activity after that, plans being made to transport bodies and bikes. Jim raced to get his car to bring Scott and I to the hospital. We found out later he flatted on the way. A guy in a truck stopped to help and we were stuffed into his car and he brought us to emergency. It was in the back of the truck that I met Scott Taylor. Despite an obviously badly broken collarbone, he was smiling and positive. I didn’t even know what to say, except how sorry I was that this had happened. We walked into emergency in our cycling shoes and gear, and waited in the waiting room while they decided where to put us. Scott was shaking uncontrollably as he bled right through the thick blanket he was wrapped in. Michael and Jim came to wait with us, and Jim even pulled some strings with his sister who worked at the hospital to get us in quickly.

The rest of the day was spent getting x-ray’d from head to toe, and having my road rash scrubbed down three agonizing times. Scott was put in the hallway while he waited to see a surgeon about his break. This made me so upset, since he was hurt far worse than I was. I suspect I was put in a room because my injuries went so far up it would have been difficult to have any “modesty” while I was being treated. When I was released around dinnertime he was still waiting in the hall. He was admitted to a room later that evening and spent the next 3 or 4 days waiting for a surgeon he trusted to fix his collarbone. Scott is a very accomplished triathlete and wanted to make sure the surgeon understood the kind of mobility he would still require in order to compete. After he finally had his surgery and made the painful journey back to Kelona we kept in touch via phone and email. There were really no words to express how I felt. The pain and discomfort of my injuries were nothing compared to how I felt about Scott getting hurt too. I was depressed and embarrassed, and was sure I could never show my face in the cycling or triathlon community again.

And then the phone started ringing, and the emails started coming from the cyclists that had been out that day. It was an outpouring of concern, support and encouragement from Jason, Scott, Michelle, Jim, Michael, Ester, Ben and countless others who talked me through it, told me it wasn’t my fault, and asked when I would be well enough to ride again. It meant so much and a year later I consider these people some of my closest friends.

Some people weren’t so kind. The accident happened about 5 days before the St. Malo triathlon, one of the key races I had focused the entire winter training for. There was no way I could race it so I decided to volunteer to help out. When I arrived, one of the first people I saw came up to me and said “Did you hear some amateur took Scottie Taylor down in a bad crash?” Uh, yah. That was me. Then my coach’s words of encouragement “Your season is done.” The other stares and whispers told me that people who were not there had chosen to gossip and judge. I knew then and there I would never do triathlons here again. This was not something I wanted to be part of.

There were many lessons learned in the experience. Instead of it turning me against cycling, in particular group cycling, it did quite the opposite. It made me realize how much I love this sport, and how great the people are that I do it with.