In the moment of the unfolding the brain’s most primitive, most knowing, self registers a change which radiates out as instantly as light, and our stomachs confuse with the drop of an elevator: Something is wrong.
Whether the event is a yard sale of our cycling self strewn with the force of a wet dog shaking itself dry or the seemingly accelerated zoom view of the single fence post growing as we slide toward it, our first real thought is: I can get up, get back in the race. It’s not so bad.
What defines this event as either comedy or tragedy is the very nature of PRO. When a mortal crashes, the race is almost always over. Give up any more than a thimble-full of blood—the proverbial pound of flesh—and witnesses will do whatever is necessary to prevent us getting back on the bicycle. Quitting a race for any injury that can be addressed with Bactine is comic. However, the very nature of PRO, what it means to be PRO is to get back up and get on the bike. For a guy, there is nothing more PRO than dripping blood and being fast at the same time.
For a PRO, there are no choices. When a PRO doesn’t get up it’s because getting up simply isn’t possible. When they pedal away in pain so obvious we turn away from the sight, we know the meaning of tragic.
In the knowledge that we are crashing, the reptilian brain takes over. Glands fire and a hormone simple as sugar and effective as gasoline takes over. Time slows down and we have time to think: I just bought this jacket. I knew he couldn’t hold his line. I’m going to shred my skinsuit. I have a presentation on Monday. I promised to anchor the leadout.
The world stops moving, seconds pass and then reality takes over. I need some help. Oh wow, this means a trip to the hospital. If the crash isn’t too serious, you make the call to your significant other yourself. If someone else calls, well, that’s more stress than they deserve.
Through the process we have but one choice to consider: Do I fill the prescription for painkillers? Gritting it out with Ibehurtin is PRO, and we all want to be PRO. But the simple fact is we each have our price, the point at which we say, Drugs? Yeah, give me the drugs. Now!
The lifestyle of the crash victim is unlike that of the cyclist. We discuss the merits of Tegaderm, how we sit when we drive, which parts we need to replace. The bottom line on the cost.
The first ride back is a contradiction of experience. Riding is both familiar and somehow alien. The legs rarely enjoy the first full revolution of the pedals. And yet being in the saddle, feeling the air pass is a sign that the world is improving and that familiarity is comforting despite being the cause of so much pain. The physical exertion reminds us of that pain and we often cut that first ride short. How often we overestimate our post-crash capability.
We measure our progress in increasing flexibility, pink skin, disappearing scabs. Gradually, rear wheels lose their power to inflict claustrophobia, turns seem less like hidden skating rinks.
There comes a moment in a ride, sometimes weeks or even months after the crash. It may pass unnoticed at the time and is only recognized hours later. In that moment we push; it is a push, a dig, an effort that we do not temper in the knowledge that going hard hurts, hurts at the site of the injury. No, there comes a day when we forget the pain, forget the injury and instead what our body remembers is the former self, the cyclist we have worked so hard to achieve, the person we’re meant to be.