It was inevitable. I knew that, but I had put it out of my mind and only fully realized it later. On August 6 I was out with Paul Moffat‘s Velosophy crew and we had just had a nice run from Vancouver up to Lions Bay and back. We were headed towards Cypress to do some intervals. Everything was going smoothly along the Upper Levels Highway, just east of the Westmount/Westridge exit. I was right behind the lead rider, maybe 30cm. I had a quick drink from my bottle, reached down to put it back, couldn’t find the cage. I looked down, put it back, looked up, and … overlap.
Down I went.
Paul flew over me—”Fuck!”—and the next thing I remember, I was regretting smashing my new Oakleys and screwing up the team’s ride. A good sign, in retrospect. I was very lucky. My black box … er, Garmin … registered a final speed of 39.6km/h. On a busy freeway. The shoulder was pretty wide, and we generally fell away from traffic. I was pretty scraped up on both arms and on my right leg, and later discovered a big bruise on my hip; my front tire was shredded and flat; my garments were torn, and there was possibly a crack in the frame of my 2014 Opus Allegro 1.0. (I ended up buying a new bike, but that’s a story for another post.)
The crew walked down to the exit, and I cleaned up a bit at the gas station there (several customers very kindly offered me bandages and antiseptic). I was high on adrenaline, feeling great: part of this was clearly relief at having escaped without any broken bones or worse. But also shock, probably.
Paul stayed with me until my girlfriend came to pick me up. I cleaned up at home, but had a fairly normal night, and I went out for dinner, while making sure to wear long sleeves to avoid shocking people too much! It wasn’t until the next day that the aching set in. Advil and rest did the trick. But I still feel fortunate, and three weeks later the scabs are almost gone.
So, what did I learn?
Focus. Every second is critical when you’re rolling along so quickly. This is my first serious year of cycling, and I’d obviously started to take some things for granted. By summer, we were cycling more quickly, and closer together, than we had been in early spring. The decreased margin for error had sneaked up. In future I’ll leave some room if I really need to drink or eat, or just wait until hills or more social parts of a ride.
Be at 100%. Preceding the ride I’d had a week of making up training sessions at the gym from a vacation. I was nursing a slightly sore knee. This kind of deficit may not even be entirely obvious, but it’s important to be aware of your condition and how it may affect your ride, and your team’s.
Recover. Take care of yourself following a crash, but make sure you get out on your bike again, re-acclimatize, and rebuild confidence; apply the lessons you’ve learned; and talk to your coach, if you have one, about the incident and how you can improve. You may crash again—arguably, you almost certainly will—but you can work to reduce the likelihood. You’ll re-learn to trust yourself, and your fellow riders; and you may have to do some work to regain their trust as well.
Thanks to Paul Moffat for reviewing a draft of this post.