Have you ever been in a bike crash? I hope you haven’t, but if you have, as you read this, it will probably bring back some bad memories. If you haven’t it should give you a glimpse of what it feels like.
It was a normal 3+ hour ride, I had spent most of the ride with Kenny Withrow. As we usually do, we took pictures, we talked about racing, we made fun of people, made fun of each other, very normal day. At the end of the ride he rode home and I started heading home myself, I was about 2 miles from being home when I had my little incident. If you know the area, I was riding on 73rd street going north just passed Niwot, going towards Longmont, CO .
As I was riding, I saw another cyclist in front of me. That part of the road is very fast, I had a little bit of a tail wind and I was tucked in my aero position. I noticed that I was catching up to his very quickly and I knew I was going to have to pass him at some point. Since I was somewhat cooling down, I didn’t push it, although I knew a little hill was coming up. I just let my momentum carry me until I was a couple of bike lengths behind him. As I was getting closer to him, I looked back to my left to make sure that there were no cars coming behind us, so I could pass him. As I passed him, I waved, waited about 3 more seconds and started to merge over, I looked back again, this time to my right, to make sure that my back wheel was going to clear him and as I was bringing my head back, everything went black.
OK, so I’ve crashed before, I have also gone endo, a couple of times on my mountain bike. I’ve also crashed during a race, my tire slid out because of debris on the road. I had never crashed like this before though, it is completely different, going over 25 miles per hour changes things. Everything happens faster and there is really nothing that can be done. Below you can see in purple how I went from 25 mph to 0 very quickly.
First, I’ll recount what I remember and felt as I was coming down and right after I stopped moving, then I’ll recount what the other people told me they saw.
As I was passing the other cyclist I looked back to make sure that I was going to clear him with my back wheel. As I was turning my head back, my front tire hit a piece of 2×2 board that was in the middle of the shoulder, immediately I felt a jerk on my aero bars. At the time I had no idea what I had hit. I was in aero position, so I was holding on to my aero bars. When I realized that I was flying in the air, I tried to hold on tighter thinking I could maybe regain control, but by the time I tried to do anything, it was already too late. I remember feeling like someone had grabbed my aero bars and yanked them quickly to one side. I was still unaware that I had gone over my handle bars. It all happened so fast that by the time I realized I was falling/crashing I had already felt my shoulder hit the pavement and the next thing I heard, was the sound of my helmet skidding and rubbing against the pavement. At this exact moment for some reason everything finally slowed down. I can vividly remember the sound that the helmet made as it slid on the pavement, it was the screeching sound a piece of plastic makes when you step on it and rub it over a rough surface. I can also recall thinking: “Oh no, this is not good, why is my head in this position? What happened? Just relax, don’t fight it.” I relaxed as much as I could and just let my body tumble on the ground. Finally I came to a stop and I found myself laying on the floor, facing down. The next thing I remember someone was asking me if I was “OK”. The cyclist I had passed was immediately over me telling me to stay still. I don’t know how much time passed from the time I fell to the time he was talking to me, but it seemed to be very soon afterwards. As I opened my eyes I could see I was laying in the middle of the road, my whole body ached, but mostly my left side. I tried to push myself up with my arms, almost as if I’m doing a pushup, but even though I thought my brain was sending the signals to my arms and legs, nothing happened. I laid there for another minute or so, by this time 3 other cyclist had gathered around me and were asking me if I needed an ambulance, if I could feel my legs and move them. I could hear cars driving by, very slowly. Finally, I was told that we needed to get off the road, so a couple of them helped me to get up. As I stood there, still confused, and my body was in pain, I looked around to see where my bike had ended up. I noticed that my sunglasses were about 10 feet from me and my bike was in the side ditch. I’ve had this bike since February, so it’s fairly new. I was terrified that I was going to see it completely destroyed. I knew I hadn’t broken anything as I was standing and moving around, I wanted to know if my bike had survived. My first question was: “How’s my bike?” Hoping that someone would say that it was OK. The response was “It looks OK”. Then I turned to the cyclist that had seen everything and I asked him: “What happened?” I still had no idea, I was so confused. How could I have crashed so hard and not know what had happened? I’ve ridden on that road hundreds of times and I knew there wasn’t a hole in the road, it is such a smooth stretch of pavement, I couldn’t believe what had happened. I started moving my legs and arms to make sure that I hadn’t broken anything, everything seemed fine, although I felt like I had been hit with a bat, almost like a piñata. Once I started listening to what had happened I started feeling a burning sensation on my left side of my body and my hands, even though I wasn’t bleeding through the clothing.
The other cyclist started telling me what he had seen. As I passed him and waved, he said that I looked back and didn’t see the piece of wood. I did go over my handle bars, the first thing that hit the pavement was my aero bars, then my head and shoulders. The force of the impact made the bike separate from me, un-clipping and going into the ditch, I kept tumbling until I finally stopped. He barely missed me, as he was pretty close behind me, but I had rolled so far that he was still able to stop. He thought I had messed up my back as apparently it turned in ways it shouldn’t have. He had told me to stay on my stomach as he wanted to make sure I could move my legs. As I got up, he looked at me and told me I was very lucky, I had been wearing so much clothing. I was wearing 3 layers on top and I went through all 3, I had bib tights, those were also done. Even my booties got destroyed. I didn’t want to take any of my clothing off as everything burned and I figured I was going to have to do it in the shower anyway. I kept my gloves and helmet on although I could see the holes in my gloves and my hands were burning. One of the cyclists asked me if I wanted to try to get on my bike again, but before I could answer everyone else said, “NO, he needs to get a ride”. A couple of cars had stopped and one of them even saw what had happened. He offered me to take me home. While all of this was still happening, they had grabbed my bike taken both tires off and put it in the back of the car. By the time I noticed, my bike was already in the car and they were helping me get across the street to get in the car.
The car ride home, even though it was only 2 miles, felt like it took forever. I wanted to see how my bike was, I wanted to see how bad the road rash was. The guy, who took me home was so nice, kept trying to talk to me and tell me how “light” my bike was, I guess to take my mind away from what had happened. When I got home my wife was outside, she looked surprised I was in the car and as soon as I got out, her face turned blue, I guess I looked pretty bad. She asked me what had happened and helped me get my bike out of the car and get upstairs to clean me up. I was so mad at myself, I knew my bike was probably not going to survive as I had inspected it a little more before I went in the house and it didn’t look good. I had gone through several layers of carbon on the bull horns and it looked like the frame was cracked from both sides. Every single piece of clothing I was wearing that day was destroyed, except for my shoes, which I can still use but got scratched up. I took my bike to Colorado Multisport later that day and they confirmed that my frame was done.
What does that mean? It meant that I needed to get a new frame, sounds easy enough right? Well, the problem is that Felt ran out of frames for 2016 already and they told me that the next available date I could get one, was in August. Why didn’t I just buy a new bike? Well most bike manufacturers offer a crash replacement program. Felt, in my opinion has the best program in the industry. If you crash your bike within the first year, you get 50% off the cost of a new frame, second year 40%, third 30%, etc. I definitely couldn’t afford a brand new bike or a brand new frame for that matter. So my only option was to wait but that option was the worst case scenario, my nightmare. Not having a bike for 4 months? I hadn’t broken anything in my body, but I was still not going to be able to train or maybe even compete with my bike for Ironman Boulder. I had left the bike at the shop as they needed to consult with Felt on what to do, maybe the frame could be salvaged somehow. During this time, I was on a work trip and was thinking about what I was going to do, the couple of days I waited for the answer were very long and I imagined the worse. Finally 1 day before I flew back home, the shop called me again and they told me they were able to find a frame and that I would be able to pick up the bike when I got back. As soon as I hung up the phone, I was so relieved, a huge weight had been lifted. For the 2 days I had been waiting for a decision, I thinking of a solution, what I was going to do? Could I borrow a bike? Could I get a used one and still have the same performance I could have with the Felt? Luckily, now, I won’t have to find out.
I am so glad and thankful that I didn’t really lose any training days either, other than swim days, as I couldn’t get in the pool with my wounds being so fresh. I was so mad at myself when I had gotten home after the crash, but my wife made me feel so much better by saying: “Bike and gear we can replace, YOU we can’t”. She always knows what to say. She is definitely my rock and has been throughout this whole process.
Here you can see that unfortunately, my daughter, has inherited the talent of falling down, picture shows both of us with band aids.
I want to thank Colorado Multiport for getting me a replacement bike so quickly, as well as Felt as they approved the frame replacement. In times like these is when you really appreciate how your partners/sponsors react to certain situations. I want to really thank Rudy Project, not only for saving my life as I was wearing their helmet. Without it, I have no doubt, I would not be here telling the story. Rudy went one step further and is sending me a new helmet. Last but not least I want to thank Castelli Triathlon as they too, will replace all the pieces of clothing I lost in the crash. I have some bad road rashes, but I would have lost a lot more skin if the quality of the materials of the apparel wasn’t such good quality. I’d like to end with a quote someone said to me after I told them my story: “Live to Ride another day.”