I had a run of bad luck. A "série noire" like we say in French... Crashing is a bit like punctures. You have none for months, even for years, but somewhere deep in your mind you know that it won't last forever. You also know that once you have one it will probably not be the last but most certainly the start of a streak of bad luck.
It all started at the "Kom op tegen kanker" benefit ride. A very nice initiative to support a leading cancer association where cyclists ride 1000km per bike in 4 days. You sponsor the bike and can share the ride in up to 8 segments of 125km. The last two years I'm fit enough to take a full day at my account. 250km at 27km/h average isn't too hard, especially as you have a lead car, a technical support van, an ambulance, a police escort freeing all intersections and the peloton is lead by professionals. This year's edition was even honored by the presence of the Belgian Prime Minister who rode a segment with us.
All went very well, including a 30 min side-by-side ride with the PM, until we reached the last sanitary break. Every now and then we have a short stop to allow nature to do its work. It's usually on a parking lot of a school with sufficient toilets to reduce any queueing. Once we reached the place the peloton slowed down (it is announced well in advance) and we turned into the lot at almost zero speed. I expected the rider in front of me to turn right like all others were doing... Well, he turned left and my front wheel got stuck in his rear wheel. Strangely, when this happens, you don't react fast enough due to some brain delay coming from a couple of milliseconds you need to understand the unexpected! No hard crash of course. The very silly stand-still tipping over, feet still clicked in the pedals, and the fall you perceive in slow motion. My hand decided to break the fall, probably to make sure my bike didn't hit the ground, but my little pink got twisted in the course of action. Stupid little thing dislocated, adrenaline killing any pain. I wanted to ride on but the ambulance was already there to attend to me. Strangely the paramedics in Belgium aren't authorized to do certain actions like replacing an articulation into the joint, however they allowed me to do it myself. As said before I felt about nothing as the adrenaline was kicking in. I'm nowhere near of being a Rambo hero but relocating my pink was painless and easy. At least that's what I thought. We restarted and I reached the finish line exhausted and happy.
It's only the day after that I started to feel the pain. My wife advised me to go to medical urgencies of the AZ Zeno hospital to get it all checked. As always this happens on a Sunday and urgent medical care in Belgium is fantastic, working 7/7 24/24 for a ridiculously low price. Sometimes I feel very blessed to live here and not in the US...
The doctor quickly discovered I'm neither Rambo nor a trained orthopedic expert as my own intervention of the day before wasn't done correctly at all. She had to give me a very painful injection to induce a local anesthesia to do the job all over.
Two weeks later, with the pink bandages forgotten, I join a small pack of Beerschot's Cycling Club riders for a nice Sunday morning ride. Everything goes fine till km 57 when we're riding on a segment with worn out tarmac. I don't really remember what happened, did the driver in front of me brake, did he slip or did I just bumped into his rear wheel? Whatever the reason, there I crash! It's at pretty high speed and the contact with the road is rough. Everybody stops and a rider who's working at a bike shop fixes my twisted handle bars and other minor harm to my bike while I recover from the smack. We resume our ride and after a km or so I realize the speed is too high. I know the course, my Garmin will guide me home at a slower pace and I tell the pack to continue without me. I restart at a slow pace...
All of a sudden I'm in the middle of a small town riding in circles. I don't know what I do there and notice I have some bruises and scratches. I must have crashed. But what, when, how? I stumble into an open bar and tell the waitress that I'm lost, I don't know where my friends are, what day of the week it is. The good news is that I still know my own name and that I can phone home. I talk to my wife to tell her that the waitress called an ambulance and ask her if I left alone or with a club this morning. Trying to understand what happened and recover my memory I text a message to my usual friends in the club to ask where they are! On Strava you can see how I turned in disorientated way in the city and that I didn't fell a second time. It's just a concussion having a delayed effect on my short term memory. Very weird!
Being helped at AZ Elisabeth in Herenthals is my 2nd medical urgency in 2 weeks. I'm not totally blacked out because my main worry is about my bike, which the friendly waitress stored safely for me. While in the ambulance I repeated 7 times to my wife that she shouldn't worry because Sandy (the friendly waitress) would keep my bike till I would be discharged from hospital...
The radios at the hospital showed a concussion but no lasting injury and that was a relieve. I was clearly ready to continue riding after a short period of rest!
Three weeks later, with the scratches and bruises cured, I join a very small pack of Beerschot's Cycling Club riders for a nice Sunday morning ride (NB: I'm not repeating myself for those who wonder). Just three riders with one in bad condition who's calling it quits after 35km. As I brake to take a right turn the automatic accident detection from my Garmin pops up. The system call my wife as I don't notice the alert in time to cancel the call. She calls me back but I don't hear nor notice her call. She's naturally a bit upset when I call her back after a couple of minutes as it took me a while to notice the alerts and missed calls. I reassure her and we continue our ride with just two friends enjoying their Sunday morning ride. We lead alternatively to share the load and I just took over when we join a cycle path. The track is nice and clean and I start to gently speed up alongside a huge hedgerow. All of a sudden, an e-bike pops-up from a small opening in the hedge. The front wheel of the e-bike is just a few inches from my front wheel and the collision is unavoidable. I'm catapulted over the e-bike and land on my face a few yards further on the bicycle path. Unconscious. My friend fears the worst and is so shocked he doesn't remember the Belgian emergency number. After checking he finds out 112 is the number to dial and here comes my third ambulance. I remember from the moment I got seated in the ambulance. Some recollection came later and I now know that my friend cleaned the dust from my face with his water bottle. AZ Voorkempen is charged with my case this time. I wonder if I should start a guidebook on emergency care in Belgium and give ratings as I can really compare now ;-) If you want to see the Strava ride just click!
Again a concussion is diagnosed and this time I'm bandaged like a mummy. My spectacles crashed into my face and I'm lucky not to need stitches. However it took two weeks of video calls without camera before I was an acceptable sighting for my colleagues. Two days after this accident I returned to a medical urgency unit at home AZ St Augustinus as I was worried by the continuous dizziness I felt. Additional rest was prescribed and I could add a fourth emergency unit visit on my list.
The biggest challenge I had once everything was fixed was to convince my wife to allow me to resume biking. Luckily we both understand it's just a run of bad luck and that I can love her and my bike at the same time.
My conclusion of these adventures?
Always wear a helmet (I'm alive cause I always do)
112 is the emergency dial number
Never leave a rider alone after a crash even when he tells you he's ok
Ride on, a crash is just part of the "experience", like punctures
Understand your loved ones will try to refrain you from biking but "Ride On"