Know When To Stay Down

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Getty Images

Yesterday I watched stage 2 of the Mens Tour of California from the finish line. It was pretty exciting, there was a 5 man breakaway and they were minutes from a super exciting conclusion. They'd done most of the climbing and proceeded to descend full steam ahead down some curvy but open road. Then it happened. 25 year old Tom Skujins went down. And that poor man went down hard. He scrambled to get back up and onto his bike. He fell again. He'd hit his head and it was clear to all who watched that this human was in no condition to keep racing. Adrenaline is a very powerful force, it can hide the full impact of our current situation from us until it goes away leaving us in intense amounts of pain. 

Luckily the spills I've taken while racing so far have been nothing like this. It does go to show the intense focus involved with racing. Tom could barely get his leg over his bike, but he was dead set on getting going. There were collective gasps and protests from the finish line watchers as he went down, and repeatedly tried to get going. Even when he finally did start rolling we were all confident he was going to run into the curb and fall again.

Cycling has had some pretty bad crashes in the recent past with one resulting in the untimely death of Chad Young. It's pretty scary stuff to see a report that says "Not expected to recover". I wasn't sure what it meant, but I knew it wasn't good, and a few days later, "not expected to recover" became, "passed away".

Whenever I go into a race I ask y'all for fast safe vibes, I know what can happen, and I am constantly working on my handling skills and making a concious effort to be safe within the peloton. NOBODY WANTS TO GO DOWN.

But again, it happens, and when it does, sometimes you gotta just take the L and stay down. Don't get back on your bike, don't try and cross the finish.

When I crashed at the Bariani Road race in March, the decision was easy. I hit my head, and when I was done tumbling I was sitting upright on my butt. My body felt okay, but my head hurt a little. I looked around, the other women were scrambling in an attempt to keep going. The girl next to me was wailing, she'd fallen on her face. I located my bike, it was missing both wheels. My race was over. And that was okay. 

Like Tom, I was doing well in that race, it was the best I'd felt all season after several setbacks. It was nice to be moving and shaking in the front again. Well, the universe thought I need to get dropped on my butt again and take another few steps back, and the universe is in control y'all. So I sat my behind down for a few days and worked my way back into enough fitness to race Redlands.

I don't know why I'm writing this. I guess I saw Tom go down and it hit me with a bunch of feels. I also saw him at the finish, he's pretty beat up, road rash all over, a concussion, and a broken collarbone, but he's going to be okay. He smiled as we (everyone still there) applauded for him. We'd all seen him fall so it was good to see him walking around and relatively okay. 

Crashing is a part of bike racing, it's not a fun part, but it's a real part. We can only hope that like Tom, we'll be relatively okay when it inevitably happens. 

Ayesha McGowanComment