Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much you know or how hard you train. Mistakes happen. Mistakes happen with the experts, the people at the very spearhead of their professions. It takes just a split second or one bad decision or just dumb luck. We are lucky if we get to learn from this.
In 1967, on stage 13 of the Tour de France, the rider who was then the very best ever to come out of Great Britain, Tom Simpson, collapsed and died during an ascent of Mont Ventoux. He was 29. He had made the decision to take an amphetamine and alcohol, with or without the knowledge of the combinations diuretic effect. In the heat of the climb, Simpson began cramping, but by the time he stopped, it was too late.
Fabio Casartelli was an Italian cyclist riding for Motorola in 1995. He was the defending Olympic road race champion. He had won stages in several major and minor stage races. On July 18, stage 15 of the Tour, Casartelli and several other riders crashed on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet in the Pyrenees. Casartelli’s head hit a rock on the side of the road the serves as a guard rail and died. He was just shy of 25. The next day, the entire peloton road behind Motorola, as they led the stage start to finish. Lance Armstrong won the following stage in a long breakaway, dedicating the win to his fallen friend. Every time the Tour passed the memorial for the rest of the Texan’s career, he payed homage.
Wouter Weylandt was young and improving. The Belgian was riding for the premier team from his country, Quick Step, with several stage wins and some impressive placings within the stage races. In 2011, Weylandt was riding for Trek/Leopard on the descent of the Passo Bocco during stage 3 of that year’s Giro d’Italia. He was near the end of the stage, but trailing off the back of the main peloton, as sprinters often do on climbing stages. He was trying to bridge up while on a switchback section. While checking behind him, over his right shoulder, to see who might join him, he clipped the guard rail on his left. He was thrown over and landed on the road below. Weylandt was 26 when he died. His girlfriend, An-Sophie, was pregnant with the couple’s daughter, born September 1, named Alizee.
Why am I going on about this? It’s more than the recent climbing tragedy in the national park. Things happen. We enjoy a different sort of inherently dangerous sport. Things can go horribly wrong in a fraction of a second. That is the nature of cycling. The best way we can ensure maximum survivability is to wear a helmet.
Pay attention. Don’t take silly risks. Most of us do not get payed for our cycling results. We have families who want to see us come home. Know the traffic. Assume that the driver either doesn’t see you or doesn’t care. And again, wear a helmet.
Carry some kind of ID. I carry my drivers license, my insurance card and my Road ID. If you crash and can’t communicate, you want whoever finds you to be able to tell your loved-ones whats going on.
Don’t let love of the sport interfere with family. No one ever gets to the end of this life and says, “I wish I’d spent less time with my family.”
Next time you head out, be sure to kiss your spouse. Hug your kids. Make sure everyone you care for knows how you feel. Things happen and you don’t want to leave something like that hanging.
For training, we are now 11 weeks away from the Ride the Rockies. Our total miles should be up to 70 with three rides equalling 50 miles during the week and one more of 20 mile on the weekend. Keep it up. As we are expecting snow and cold all the way through the weekend, the typical spring pattern, I’ll be inside again. It may also be an opportunity to do some maintenance on the bike, or maybe just stay home and watch movies with my wife and daughter.
I’m not just saying this. I mean it. Have fun, be safe. I’m going to hang out with my family.
I like to write “Have fun, be safe” when I finish my column. I’m serious when I write this. Cyclists, even casual cyclists, wear little more than a covering of cotton or polyester. This is not much to protect a person. The one thing any cyclist can wear to improve his or her chances of surviving an accident is a helmet.
I’ve ranted about this before, and I know even my most liberal friends have the “You can’t make me” attitude. Well, no, I suppose I can’t. Let’s look at this from an economic standpoint, however.
I crashed a few months back, I had a little crash. I broke my collarbone. It cost, in total, just under $500 with the visits to the doctor, follow-up visits and three rounds of x-rays. This is still only what one might be charged for visiting an emergency room.
One of our locals who happens to be a bike commuter got to spend a lot of time in intensive care. One day in an ICU without a ventilator can run as much as $6,000. On a ventilator, this will run in the neighborhood of $10,000. An expensive bike helmet runs $300.
Your chances of surviving a crash, even one involving a car, double just by wearing a helmet.
I’ve heard people say, “Well, it screws up my hair.” Any idea how surgical scars affect your hairline? How about your ability to take care of your hair?
I have a friend who told me, “Well, we don’t go as fast as you do.” Cars don’t care how fast you are going. If a motorist is not paying attention, they can clip you and it won’t matter if you were screaming down the street or tooling along on a bike path. What will make the biggest difference, make your survival, or that of your children, more likely is weather or not you are wearing a helmet.
Dumbest argument ever; I’d rather die than be paralyzed. Your chances of paralysis and death both are a great deal higher without a helmet. Your chances of surviving without either is much better if you just wear a helmet. I’d rather not die or be paralysed.
I’ve been hit by a car. The motorist was paying more attention to the McDonald’s drive through than whether I happened to be in the on-coming traffic lane. I minimized my injuries because I saw the car and assumed he didn’t see me and I wore my helmet. I bounced across the hood of the car and skidded across the sidewalk. I got a few bandages from the emergency room and was a little beat up.
When I came across the accident last week, it was at an intersection along South St. Vrain. It was at a point where an inattentive motorist might clip or cut off a cyclist, either on the street or coming down the trail. I saw the bike on the side of the road. I didn’t yet know who had taken the hit, but it didn’t take much imagination to put together what likely happened.
If you are a motorist, please look for these folks. Yes, you will survive the run in, but you will live with the feeling that you hit someone with your car. Please pay attention.
If you are a cyclist, assume the cars don’t see you. Assume that they are on a cell phone or paying attention to kids in the car, or just in a big hurry. Be defensive. Be extra careful. Wear a helmet.
Not wearing a helmet doesn’t hurt “The Man.” Not wearing a helmet doesn’t make you look cool. Not wearing a helmet is not economically smart, not quicker, not smarter. I will tell you it will make the difference between a 35-cent bandage and $10,000 medical bill.
If you are making a vigorous argument to not wear a helmet, you are just being dumb.
Have fun, be safe. Please wear a helmet. I’m going riding.