The Collarbone Club

Well, it had to happen sooner or later I guess.

I had 35 years of riding in a relative state of grace.  I could brag about decades of rides and racing on both sides of the Atlantic, and almost no huge crashes.  I knew my bike handling skills were in the top 1%.

No fear ragazzi...won't happen to me.   Eddy the magician.  Riding over piles of guys and bikes.  Rain, mud, cobbles.  Anything.  Look who's still upright.   Flying down mountains.  Crashes?  Count 'em on one hand.

Today was my day to pay the piper.
Somewhat poetically, it was at the end of the perfect ride.  A 5:30am start.  Coming off a maldetto weekend road race at Purgatory chasm when I'd made the early selection only to suddenly get dumped on a climb myself.  Like a pussy, I didn't fight to the death.  Shame.  Pissed at myself, and sick of getting dropped.

So this morning I did one of those tempo training rides you dream about.  50x16, 15 and 14.   Flying along, like a carpet unrolling.  Pulse?  Never over 148.  Snel en Sterk.  Strong and Fast.  Maybe almost 50, but riding like I was still 20.  Immortal.

Wailing along in the drops at the end of the effort, I entered the final mile warm down zone.  I lifted a sweaty, gloveless right hand up to shift down.  Like a million times before.

Only this time, that over-weighted hand slipped off a slippery brake lever, and into the void....

Cue the Stooges music.  Falling forward onto the bars.  Time to think, "This is gonna be bad."   Drunken swerve into the verge.  A 9.5 digger over the bars.  Full impact on left shoulder.  I felt my Giro Atmos hit with a thwack.  Right shoulder pops out of joint.  Sliding along the black wet shale.   Right shoulder pops back in.

Then silence.  The out-of-body experience.  A flashed image of Walter Planckaert lying on his back on the verge in "A Sunday in Hell".  Similarly slow to move, to get up.   The eternally reflexive inner voice that says.  "Get up!  Get back on the bike!  Chase back on!"... an instinct instilled by decades of heroes and examples and legends.

"Do you want me to call 911?"  A good samaritan commuter smiles, all buttoned-down mid-western friendliness, snapping me back to 'You're-in-new-england-moron-and-50-year-olds-should-be-more-responsible-with-early-morning-exercise' reality.

"Nah, I'm OK, and I'm only a mile from home."  I laugh it off so he takes his hand off a blackberry thumb hovering over the '9', feeling like a total idiot and not sure of my words.  For some reason, I tend to laugh when really, really bad, or terribly serious things happen.  Laughing in the face of scary moments, or seriously-bad events you can't control.  Maybe it's an Irish thing, dunno.  How serious should one take life really?  

There's no flippin' way I wasn't finishing this ride.  A slow wounded roll home.   Left shoulder sore as hell.   Bleeding knees.  Mental-video replaying a thousand TV clips of riders finishing after way worse crashes.   Hell, all I had to do was limp home to a dog and a worried wife.   No problem.   Un petit victoire pour un petit coureur. 

The X Ray confirmed a hairline fracture of the left clavicle... my first collarbone break.  I can't lift my arm over my head, it's in a sling right now.  I'm on Ice and Motrin.   And because I feel like it, a little Chianti.  Would Nencini or Bartali?  Probably.  Only their wine would probably be better.

So now I've joined the big club:  Cyclist's who've broken collarbones.  Notable members include Rolf Sorensen crashing out of the Tour in Yellow.  And Pascal Simon suffering to stay in Jaune in 1983.   Magni pulling on an inner tube with his teeth. Lance's break last year was much worse, and he was back pretty fast.  Tyler rode to 4th in the tour with his.  Nobody's paying me to ride, but 8 hours later I'm just as eager to get back on the bike.

How fast can I get back?  I'm hungry not to lose this hard won fitness, and emerging form.   Tomorrow I see the ortho doc who my pal Dr. Brad went to for his collarbone break last spring.  I'm confident I'm in good hands, and ready to fight the pain.  Brad - you're a godsend...I owe you buddy.

Hope that in your ride today, you kept it on the black stuff between the trees.


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