Alright, my body was bruised, but actually I felt pretty okay during yesterday’s second – and epic – stage of Tour de Languedoc. A stage with over 3000 meters of climbing (don’t believe Strava, with it’s 4000 meters), and a massive headwind. If they ever tell you there’s no wind in the mountains: don’t believe it. The wind roared relentlessly.
The recoil from my crash into the car kicks in today, apparently. Man, I feel bad. But this is a stage where the riders who are not important for the general classification, like me, try to get into a breakaway. I want to be in that breakaway. So I try to get over my inertia and play my part in the game of attacking and getting caught back. The bunch is nervous. The wind blows hard, the roads are narrow and winding and we go up and down all the time.
After the gazillionth attack I’m exhausted, so I hide myself in the peloton for a short while to catch my breath. But of course, it’s always like that: at exactly this moment the breakaway goes. I grumble and try to ride to the front again. Maybe there are a couple of riders who want to bridge to the breakaway and I can join them. Suddenly, a crash at the right side of the road. I brake, pull my foot out of the pedal and have to chase back to the peloton. I struggle. I really don’t have a lot of energy today.
Back in the bunch, I see the breakaway has a gap of 45 seconds. There’s no rider from my team up there. If I want to cross – and I know I have to, because before the race we agreed there should be one of us in every breakaway – I’ve got to do it now. I wait till we’re past a small hill and attack. From the corner of my eye I see another rider doing the same. She passes me and I get into her wheel, gasping for air. Together we soar across a small bridge.
Corner to the left. Sharp corner to the left! The rider in front of me sees the corner too late. I am in her wheel still, seeing hardly anything but her back, trusting her judgement, like you have to in a bike race. The rider in front of me brakes too hard and too late and I react even later. My back wheel slips.
A moment of silence, lovely silence where I sink into, with just the soft sound of a bird singing. It’s a little pink bird.
Then my DS Dany and the race doctor, who try to help me upright. Nauseous. Djeez I feel nauseous. I can’t stand on my feet, I feel myself gliding back into the black silence time after time. I hardly hear Dany saying I’d rather not continue the race. He takes the helmet off my head. Totally broken, I hear him saying. Someone pulls my racenumber from my back, it seems. Hands hold me upright, yes please hold me, otherwise I’ll collapse, don’t you see I can’t stand on my feet right now? They help me into the ambulance.
The doctor investigates me and slowly my head gets clear again. I scour my bodyparts but I don’t see any roadrash. O wait, my right bum cheek hurts. I must have crashed on it. After a short while we pull over. The doors of the ambulance open and I see a bleeding rider, lying in the grass. The doctor motions at me, I have to get up. He conducts me into the broom wagon. The other rider gets my spot in the ambulance. O so slowly we follow the race. My buttocks get more painful by the minute, but I’ve got no choice to stay seated on them until we reach the finish line.
You were sitting on the road, upright, my teammates tell me. They passed me with the bunch right after I crashed. You sat there, looking at us. That’s why we thought you were okay. I even asked you if you were all right, adds one of my teammates. Really? I hardly believe my ears. I cannot remember a single
thing. You didn’t remember your name when I arrived, adds Dany. Were you there for a long time already when you started to help me on my feet, I ask him. Yes, we were there for several minutes. You had no idea of the day of the week, nor where you were.
I swallow once I realise that I miss a piece of memory. Five minutes, at least. Incredible. Dany shows my helmet. Almost in two pieces. I swallow again. I shouldn’t complain about bad luck, crashing twice in three days. No, on the contrary. I’ve been extremely lucky.
At night they made a brain scan in the hospital of Carcassonne, to make sure I had nothing serious. The results were okay: no damage to the brain. Just a minor concussion, but after two days of rest I hardly notice that anymore. My body though is bruised everywhere after the crashes. But I recover quickly. Being in shape has it’s advantages, not just on the bike. The other rider managed to stay upright, by the way.