The race today was 2 laps of a 38km mile circuit. Or, for those in grade 4, only one lap. Since my aim was small, I decided to have a go at just one lap. This put me with the D grade riders.
This week, the group was not as well organised as last week. There was also a very different mix of people. It was hard to work out how the group was going to pan out. There were not roll throughs, they were not working together all of the time, and the pace was a little less consistent than before. I decided to sit in at the back somewhere to watch what happened and try and work out what was going on. I got a feel for who was the stronger riders, and so on. Some people seemed confident following a wheel, and others less so.
I was feeling OK. This pace was a good steady to easy pace for me. I was in no hurry, I had no grand plans or anything and was happy to sit in there for the time being at least. I had no idea what the course was like, apart from a short précis a friend had given me right before the race started. That’s OK. I wasn’t worried.
It seemed a lot more flat than last week, quiet lanes, no problem. We were still pretty much as a group, around half way round the course, about 30 minutes into the race. The group had broken a few times, but was for now, back together. I had tried to get them riding up and through, but they didn’t seem to want to do that and each time I rode up to the front I was left up there. I wasn’t playing this game, I thought. So, again, I sat back in to watch. The group began their rotations in the other direction, where the front rider peels off and drops back instead. That’s fine too I thought. I had grown to NOT always expect the elbow indication that would be normal when you are intending to move off the front. Perhaps these riders were not used to that, perhaps it was a track thing. I don’t know. On we went. We were on a nice straight stretch, and the rider in front (who I knew, from being at last week’s race was a new rider) began to slow down.
The average pace was dropping right back below what I would expect for a road race. I shouted for her to peel off, if she was tired. In almost one swift movement, she sat up on the hoods, braked then jerked off the front to the right. I HAD been following the wheel, but the sudden braking had caused me to catch and overlap, and before I knew it, she had hit the front wheel, and I was down on the deck, head, shoulder, knee and hip.
I was sat in the middle of the road, now facing the wrong way, absolutely fuming. A triathlete is not used to this, and I had been dreading this exact thing, from the moment I decided to give road racing a go. Never mind, I wasn’t fatally wounded, so I was considering getting up to see what state the bike was in, and whether I would be able to continue. Then someone showed me the helmet. A huge chunk was broken off. Jesus!! AGAIN?!?!?! I had done this once, I didn’t need it AGAIN!!
I knew right there and then that I had better stay right where I was, and wait for the nice lady who had stopped in a car to come check on me to call for an ambulance. So, I began to survey my wounds. Lots of gravel rash, a huge gouge out of my elbow with lots of stones in there for good measure. But its ok, the tattoo is still intact and not damaged! (which is more than I can say for the bike!)
The bike – two buckled wheels, very bent bars and brake / gear levers, and a buckled rear dérailleur. And some carbon damage. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
The nice man from the car (called Mark) went off in his car to get my husband (who was not answering his phone, dammit!) and I sat at the roadside waiting for the ambulance with Janine. Then the van rolled up. Yep, the same man in the same van as last week. ‘We have to stop meeting like this’ I told him! He put cones, flags and barriers up around me, made sure I was OK, then went off down the road.
When the ambulance arrived, another very nice man (also called Mark) hooked me up to all sorts of machines, and off we went on what seemed like a long scenic route to the hospital, wedged up in a huge neck brace, JUST IN CASE. He knew some of the staff at my work and told me to say hello next time I saw them! The hospital seemed VERY well equipped for a public hospital and on the surface seemed much more up market than your average NHS hospital. Another nice man – the doctor- (also called Mark – yes, it’s getting beyond a joke now!) checked me out, decided I had in fact bounced quite well, although my sliding down the tarmac skills weren’t as good! Several steri strips later he decided my elbow actually needed stitching. Dammit. 4 of them. From my angle I could see the needle and thread and it looked like he was sewing a hole in my sleeve!
(Did I mention I actually KNOW this doctor, We bought a bed off him a month or so ago, he is English!)
The thing I worried about most was the head. I KNOW what proper concussion is like from the last time I broke a helmet. I was relieved to find out, when I was eventually able to sit up, that the room wasn’t spinning half as much as I had feared.
Straight after the crash, there are a few moments when I don’t remember anything, but it is literally a few moments. When I was sat on the roadside, my memory of time was not quite right, the ambulance took longer to arrive than I thought. At the time of the crash I was very clear what had happened. When I was asked about it afterwards while still seated at the roadside, I was not quite as sure. Later this evening, I had forgotten some of the things that I had told Mark earlier today, about the crash. I clearly remember everything afterwards though.
I felt the need to eat something. When I did, I felt a bit yuk. I have been on light foods since, and feel sorta ok. I don’t feel sick, but I don’t feel like I want to rush off anywhere, tie my shoes in a hurry or spin in circles, if you know what I mean.
The hip hurts. It feels like I have run full pelt into a brick wall sideways! The gravel rash hurts too, specially in the places that there is no skin yet!
Let see what tomorrow brings.
Oh, and did I mention, helmets saved lives. AGAIN……! There’s another thing I need to go and buy….