Like I said before, you get the best headlines on crankpunk! Sarvesh, this one is for you…
Many thanks to my friend Michael Troy for this one. Classic.
The Clavicle Diaries, by Michael Troy
T’was the end of a long road season, 2009 to be exact. My coach, good friend and mountain bike nut Mark Fenner suggested for something different to come out and try the dirt. I consider myself a pure roadie, or definitely did back then, but jumped at the idea.
So using my collective resources as a bike mechanic, I borrowed a bike, got cheap shoes and pedals and threw myself at the world of dirt, suspension and knobbly tyres. No experience, hadn’t even done a lap of the course and was standing on the start line. Plenty of road fitness and no off road experience.
Gun goes off, straight up a fire road climb, I’m gunning it and loving it. Red mist descends. It’s a race!
Second into the turn, and oh wait, shit. Cornering. Rear wheel drift, lose surface. What am I supposed to do here! I’m a bit at sea here…
Ah well I’ll go full tilt in the straights and just hit the anchors and go around the corners slower than a granny with a Zimmer frame…
So three quarters of a lap around, maybe 10 minutes in, I’ve been passed by nearly everyone as there were many more corners the straights and I’ve been pin balling off trees and rocks and say to myself “right, time to slow down or you’ll hurt yourself”. So I slowed down, and came a cropper. Went straight over the handlebars through a little dip and laying on the ground with my borrowed bike somehow on top of me I knew straight away I’d done my collar bone.
No strength through the right arm, sore but not excruciating. Straight away in that tell-tale position of my right hand to my left shoulder nursing it. My friend drove me into town, he’s a physio, and has had more broken collar bones himself then fingers on one hand…
Go to the hospital, X-Ray (the most painful part of the ordeal – “Could you please just push your should back against the plate…” Grind, crunch – “Ouch!”). Yes, broken. Nothing too bad apparently according to the X-Ray.
See the orthapedic surgeon, and surgery booked for Monday (it was Saturday). Monday comes around, no sleep, difficult to wash, wipe my arse, or do anything really. Surgery in and out. Easy. Surgeon comes around later, explains that what looked like a simple fracture on the X-ray was instead 6 breaks and 7 pieces of collar bone floating around in my shoulder area.
So 2 inches of titanium and 10 screws are now holding it in position. 4 weeks minimum off the bike, he would prefer 6. No heavy lifting, actually no lifting at all. Sling for 4 weeks. Best to sleep in the sling too he says. Help keep it in place and stop you flapping about he says.
So now comes the bit where I go stir crazy. No exercise, no bike riding for six weeks!!! Like a caged lion, pacing in his den. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. I drive everyone around me around the twist with my craziness. It was close to turning me to drink. Only thing is back then I didn’t even drink (don’t worry I’ve seen the light now!). So sleep is pretty rubbish. Can never get properly comfortable. I do find out that the surgeons idea of sleeping in a sling is a good idea, I just wish I followed it.
I wake up one night after some bizarre dream with a jolt and am swinging my arm around. Jesus wept! The pain! So 3 weeks go past. I can’t lift any of my university text books, still can’t get enough movement to wipe my arse with my right hand, so I’ve had to learn to be ambidextrous for that and other tasks.
High with pain killers, which as a side effect of most of the good ones is constipation, makes me need to strain that bit harder which adds to the pain. Right, I’ve cracked it. 3 weeks, no riding. That’s enough. Let’s get on the trainer. More pain. Trying to lift and move a turbo trainer, then set a bike in. The agony. Sweet baby Jebus…
Finally on the bike, and the boredom! Not winning here at all. Right so 4 weeks (well nearly 4 weeks, more like 3 1/2 , or really just over 3 weeks post surgery), f&ck it. Getting back on the road.
I’ve had my arm out of the sling now a week (and a bit), ok 2 weeks (pharmacists [Michael is one of these] and all health care professionals make terrible patients). I think let’s be pro, so I double wrap my bars, thick and cushy. Get out on the road. Such a bad idea. Such a bad experience.
Every ripple in the road feels like the Forrest of Arenberg and its cobbles. I’m super skittish around traffic, like a wayward mare, for fear of getting knocked off (never have been hit by a car, but the fear was there) and destroying my shoulder (since that plate, with 10 really small screws holding my jigsaw puzzle clavicle together goes right from the tip of my shoulder to my sternum. If I crashed I think my shoulder and it’s structure would be done and dusted!)
Anyway, so I have zero fitness. Can’t get out of the saddle (oh yeah that hurts too much too). It took ages for some resemblance of strength to return (as much strength as road cyclist can every say they have in their upper body). Range of movement was pretty bad too for a very long time. Lots of stretching kinda helped, my massage therapist gained lots of joy from poking and prodding to help free it up.
I think as a consequence of the plate in the shoulder and connective tissue running over it, it would tighten up and become all gnarly and nasty very quickly. Using ruck-sacks was never a joyful experience with the plate in place. The shoulder strap would rub right across the skin and the scar and the plate. So commuting to work was not enjoyable, the saving grace was that it wasn’t a long ride. Call it what you will. But I cannot clean anymore (with my right arm… and it isn’t something that I particularly want to become ambidextrous in…).
The circular scrubbing motion or vacuum cleaning is awful. So after gaining some resemblance of strength, and movement in the shoulder, (oh and bike fitness), there was always a nagging fear in my mind of crashing again on that right side. There would be nothing there for another plate or any room for my orthopaedic surgeon to fiddle with. So 2 and a bit years after getting the closest that I have come to owing a titanium bike, I went under the knife again, with the same surgeon who got the electric drill going and removed each of the ten screws and my titanium downtube from my shoulder.
Through some more rehab again, thankfully things improved much quicker than the first time around. I could wear ruck-sacks again (once the scar had healed). There wasn’t the grabbing catching sensation when I was moving my arm around like I used to get. Where I could feel it catch half way through a tennis swing, or when bowling a cricket ball. Unfortunately my ability to clean didn’t return (for good or for bad…) and I do actually mean that. It is a really uncomfortable, even slightly painful motion when you have the outward pressure of scrubbing or vacuuming.
My right shoulder sits quite a bit lower then my unbroken left shoulder. I have a really good scar running across my collarbone. They always say ‘Chicks dig scars’ – thank goodness as I make quiet a good patchwork quilt of scars.
I was always scared of returning to the scene of my accident, or really any non-paved riding adventures, but was finally convinced into re-trying the dirt. This time, no racing. Just riding in the forest. Learning to corner, brake (not break). Basically to re-learn to ride a bike. Actually I would consider myself more than a novice these days. Actually, while sick for over a year, mountain biking was a great escape.
At a time when I had zero fitness, I couldn’t pedal fast, and I learnt to go around a corner, had mounds of fun all while not putting much physical strain on my body. Going for a cruisy mountain bike ride is a lot more fun than a 30 minute road ride at 24km/h in boring countryside!
I still do dabble with it. It makes for a good adventure and even recovery ride.
I know, I have the best headlines huh! That’s one you won’t find on CyclingSnooze…
This week’s Lee’s Lowdown on PezCycling News looks at the opening classics of the season, this weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
It also features a former pro’s tale of getting pissed on by Il Campionissimo!
Click the image below to head to PEZ to read the article, thanks!
if you’re coming to find the original version of this article you are out of luck. it’s disappeared. here is the article as best as i can remember it.
Coppi and Bartali, Anquetil and Poulidor, Anquetil and the lock on his stepdaughter’s bedroom door, Hinault and Lemond, Lemond and Lance, Cipollini and Soul Glo, Lance and The Truth, Verbruggen & MacQuaid raging against common decency as ‘up to 100′ (Phil Liggett’s words) riders died in the first decade of EPO, cycling has seen some cracking rivalries over the years, epic battles that remain threaded through the tattered, grubby tapestry that is professional cycling and all its dystopian ‘glory’.
As I was sat not riveted to the telly last week as Chris Froome and Alberto Contador smashed ten bells out of each other in the hills of Andalucia, I listened to the commentators gushing bukkake-like all over ‘this enthralling rivalry’ and I wondered if it was really that enthralling and even if it was a rivalry at all, and then concluded that I don’t care that much anymore anyway.
Contador has 6 Grand Tours under his belt and is hailed as the finest climber of his generation and one of the finest in the history of the sport. He took that natural climbing ability and then added to it a truckload of TT work to become one of the foremost riders against the clock in multi-day races, and he showed in the 2009 Tour that he has some serious mettle, as he withstood the barrage from the twin barrels of Bruyneel and Armstrong.
After that race, Contador said that “Armstrong is a great rider and did a great Tour, but on a personal level I have never admired him and never will”, with Armstrong responding that “a champion is also measured on how much he respects his teammates and opponents.”
So, Conty knows a thing or two about reading folk (though to be fair Armstrong is not exactly a book, more an ingredients list on the back of a packet of Fruit Loops – brief, uninspiring and full of chemicals), and Armstrong’s quote?
Well, another classic from the non-winner of 7 Tours.
But I’m wandering. Froome is not exactly a pushover, has to be said. He’s won one Tour and just about every other race he entered in 2013 and many feel he should have claimed the 2012 Tour also, had it not been for team orders and a certain Sir Wiggins being team leader.
Froome’s miraculous upturn in fortune seems to have coincided with the surgery to remove his biceps. I guess the loss of .00257 grams can make all the difference.
If you’d heard the commentators gushing and frothing all over their mics as Conty dropped Froomey and then the reverse happened that day after, you’d have thought that all the bad things that have happened in our sport just never did.
Now, I’m not saying Froome is not clean, nor that Conty isn’t either. Anything, as they say, is possible.
However as I sit there non-entranced to the screen listening to the gooiness oozing from these guys mouths, I’m reminded that we’ve heard it all before. Liggett was all over Lance back in the day, we heard it with Landis, Hamilton, Valverde, Basso, on and on and on.
Here we have a guy that was busted for Clenbuterol who carried on riding and bringing the sport into disrepute (a la Kreuziger) when he should have done the right thing and stepped away until his case was cleared being led out by a guy (Basso) who was himself suspended for dodginess on a team started by a confessed doper (Riis) and now run by one of the seediest guys in the sport (and that is saying something) and staffed by an LA apologist (Yates) and riding bikes supplied by a brand with a healthy record of sponsoring dopers competing against a guy from a team that empolyed Leinders even though the word was out that he was about as clean as a poodle’s arse hair and had a teammate (JTL) that half the world and my Gran suspected of doping way before Sky signed him, and STILL you ask me to stand and holler and whoop and get excited?
I feel sorry for the genuinely clean riders, I really do, because they have a crap time of it, but they have to take responsibility and stop letting riders like Mark Cavendish reinvigorate the Omerta once again. I’ve been saying this for years, they have got to unite and to find a voice to make the work of the authorities that really do want to beat back the dopers easier, to find a way to demand true transparency and to accept that yes, crap as it may be, the son bears the guilt of the father.
No longer can the excuse that they may lose their jobs for speaking out be valid as there are plenty of companies that would like to sponsor a truly clean team – and I don’t mean a Jonathan Vaughters-style clean team, a hey-we’re-clean-well-if-you’re-gonna-threaten-us-with-perjury-and-prison-then-ok-we’re-not-really-clean-but-we’re-sorry-we-had-to-cheat-our-way-to-wins-medals-cash-and-fame kind of clean, but seriously clean.
And not like a Sky ‘clean’ either, not with questionable staff and suddenly improved new signings and the like, with TUE kerfuffles and rumors of ‘special’ bidons containing opiates.
Magazines and websites continue to run endless articles on Armstrong, giving voice to his defenders, Astana continue to churn out a doper a month, the old boy network of former dopers still reigns, the guys commenting on TV continue to overflow with sycophantic adulation that spews out like bilge from a busted sceptic tank, and the fans, a huge chunk of them, still remain rapt.
Last week I heard someone saying how awesome the action was when EPO use was truly rampant in the peloton, and I just sighed.
Here’s an article from Outside Magazine about doping, featuring the former head of WADA, Dick Pound, and an epidemiologist and expert in sports doping from Penn State, Charles Yesalis:
It may be impossible to ever know the true pervasiveness of the problem, or the guilt or innocence of riders. Further, gene doping, a science that would render current tests irrelevant, looms on the horizon. Throw in an event like the Tour de France—and the dollars at stake—and an immensely challenging picture emerges.
“It’s an elephant,” sighs Dick Pound, president of WADA. “There are very heavily entrenched entities in this, and a lot of economics involved.”
The two realities of the Tour—its enormous popularity and the specter of corruption—persist side by side. “If there was a large boycott—no one watching on TV, no one cheering along the side of the road—then maybe things would change,” says Yesalis. “But I don’t think the fans really care.”
This is from an article from 2004.
Some things, it seems, never change.
Excellent film here on the bicycle’s history – possibly the best I have seen, it is so comprehensive and so obviously in love with the machine. Ignore the quality and settle in for a treat, really cool to actually see the old bone-shakers being ridden.
Especially likes the Scot who rode his invention to Glasgow from his home and was “arrested for knocking down a small child.”
Did you know cycling was banned in Central Park due to the mass of bikes flying about back in the late 1800s?
The section on the Keirin school in Japan at 55mins is also very good. When I lived there I once managed a time for the kilometer on the local track that would have gained me entry to the school if I was to become a naturalised Japanese and to laser off all my tattoos. The first wasn’t going to happen as my written Japanese wasn’t good enough to take the prerequisite test, and neither was the second because my Mum likes them.
The Keirin guys were pretty minted, all driving Beemers and Mercs, and most of them smoked like chimneys too.
Great section on the Tour and Tommy Simpson at 46:00, with a touching interview with Albert Beurick, the Belgian guy who looked after Tom when he was on the Continent. He talks about doping briefly also, and the video moves on to Greg Lemond saying how the sport has ‘really cleaned up’!
The joy of cycling is considered at about 1:15:00, with a cycling flautist saying “I find when I ride that my face opens up. It takes away the wrinkles in my mind and my face.”
Hmm, think I need to ride harder, these wrinkles might need intervals…
And the brilliant Beryl Burton pops up at 1:18:00.
This is cycling, if you ask me,. This is the sport I love.
And check out the cops on wheels at 1:47:00, proper Village People stuff!
This article originally appeared on PEZ
I’ve been sat here mulling over potential topics for this week’s Lowdown with my bike in the back yard looking at me like a jilted lover. She’s practically bleating at me like an orphaned lamb. Those hang dog eyes. She must have been a Labrador in a previous life.
“Sorry Eleanor, but I gotta get this thing in for PEZ. Forgive me baby!”
She’s having none of it. Says she’s gonna kick my ass later.
And she will. She’s awesome like that.
You’re reading this, I guess, most of you, at work or in the traffic jam on your way to work. Or sat in a toilet cubicle, trying to avoid work. If you’re not there you’re maybe at home, or sat waiting for the kids to get off the freaking swings at the playground. Or waiting for the judge to return from lunch. Wherever you are, whatever you should be doing, you’re definitely nor riding.
Hurts, don’t it? Most of us would rather be out there getting our butts kicked by our very own selves than doing much else. This is who we are. For a million and one reasons we need this. We need the comfort brought about by being uncomfortable. The solace of pain. The warmth that comes immediately once the suffering stops.
Whenever I interview professional cyclists, I always ask them the same question at the end. I rarely put the answer in the published interview, because I ask them out of my own curiosity, to see what they’ll say.
“Why do you ride?”
Simple enough right? I’ve had some decent answers, I’ve had some dull ones, but the best I ever received was from Andy Schleck (I know!).
Me: “Andy, last question: Why do you ride?”
AS: “Well, my uncle rode, my father rode too, and then my brother started, so I… [here he paused for a good ten seconds before starting again]. You know… I ride because if I don’t get out there and hurt myself for two or three days, I miss it.”
Booyakasha, baby. There it was, he nailed it – as least for me.
Not everyone will have that slightly unhinged motivation for getting out there and thrashing up the hills and through the valleys, with rednecks aiming their three-ton killing machines towards your back wheel, but for many of us it is a hugely compelling force, that need to hurt.
I used to ask myself, quite seriously, why I need this. I quickly realised that there was something deep inside my psyche that responded to the suffering, that actually embraced it, that found release through it. I never wanted to go sit on a mountain in the Lotus position to find peace. Too boring. Too pointless.
No, give me a bike. Let me sweat, let me swear, let me hate all of them for thinking they can beat me and let me ride myself into the road and then let me get off that bike beaten, cleansed and – whisper it – content.
The bike offers you the opportunity to become noble, no matter how fleetingly. This, after all, is how it all began, bike racing at least. The first races were gatherings of farm hands and coal miners from northern France and Belgium, young men who dreamed of escape much like too many African Americans and other disenfranchised folk do still today, seeking a way out of an impoverished life through sport.
Those guys became kings on those roads. Released. The new nobility.
This is essentially the bicycle as a means of expression, of making the universe sit up and hear the noise coming from that little tiny dot that is you.
The road the canvas, the wheels the brush, the will the ink.
Write that story. Write your story.
Is it still a madness, though, the need to hurt?
Heck yeah. Here’s the definition of insanity by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as:
1: a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia)
2: such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility
3a : extreme folly or unreasonableness
3b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable
Unfortunately we are all too aware of the tragic stories of some riders that have experienced #1. It happens all over in our society for sure, but in sport, and cycling I would say in particular, the environment is so skewed as to accelerate this kind of illness.
For #2, I have just two words: ‘Lance’ and ‘Armstrong’. Say no more.
For 3.a and 3.b, well, we do this every day. Most ‘normal people’ would not head out to do ten hill repeats, or a 5 hour ride on a perfectly good and otherwise pleasant Sunday.
Of course it’s not just the madness that drives us, it’s what comes with it – the transcendence. Now bear with me here, I’m going to quote Ian Curtis of Joy Division to get where I want to go with this:
But if you could just see the beauty,
These things I could never describe,
These pleasures a wayward distraction,
This is my one lucky prize. Isolation, Joy Division
That’s the bike. When people ask me ‘So why do you do it?’ with that scoffing tone – you know the kind, it forces an involuntary clenching of the fist, that kind.
Ian knew the score. There’s the answer. If you aren’t out with me on that five hour ride up those nasty hills, if you’re never going to be perched on three inches of leather for a long 80km/hr descent, if you’re never gonna find anything – be it cycling, running, fire juggling, whatever – that demands sacrifice and an unflinching embrace of your inner nuttiness, you’re not going to get it.
I’ll leave you with this from Oliver Sacks. He probably wasn’t talking specifically about the bike, but then again, maybe he was…
“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology, or in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings.
“We may seek, too, a relaxing of inhibitions that makes it easier to bond with each other, or transports that make our consciousness of time and mortality easier to bear. We seek a holiday from our inner and outer restrictions, a more intense sense of the here and now, the beauty and value of the world we live in.”
Right, I’m gonna go ride, and so should you…
Yes, seriously, and it’s a cracker.
This is the 7-11 Philippines UCI Continental team kit, not the old classic 7-11 kit from the 80s. That was one of my all time favorite kits and indeed my first ever pro replica kit, I loved that thing even though my skinny Froomey arms didn’t fill the sleeves!
When I saw this team on the UCI Asia circuit in the pack alongside me I knew I had to have one. John Brady, Nathan Dahlberg and the rest of you old 7-11 salty dogs, if you fancy one let me know. Indeed if anyone wants to order a jersey or the whole kit, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with the team manager Ric Rodriguez.
Right, I’m off for a Slurpee…
re-published by request!
We all know that feeling, I’m sure, of beating ourselves up a little because of lost days of riding due to a loss of motivation, of life getting in the way of our first true love, or just a general disinterest in the goings on of the universe because every once in a while the entropy that defines this world seeps in to your soul and just makes you go ‘blah’.
Thing is, we really shouldn’t be berating ourselves when we experience these kind of dips, as they are perfectly natural and, if harnessed correctly, can prove to be great sources of motivation in themselves. There are few better feelings on the bike than getting over one of these ‘humps’ and coming back raging and ready to crush it on the trails, after all.
There are though a couple of ‘philosophies’ that can help a cyclist to minimize these dips, to stay focused and to crank on.
One is from Japan, known as ‘Kaizen’, which very simply means ‘good change’, the other is the idea of The Anchor, an idea that came to me that I personally use to keep on the straight and narrow.
It might sound a little daft, saying that cyclists need an ‘anchor,’ as surely this would slow you down. But I’m not talking about a literal lump of metal that is designed to keep you held fast in one place, but a mental ‘trick’ that can help you stay focused, motivated and keep your training on track.
In essence, the idea is to ask yourself, whenever you are doing anything, either off-bike or on, this question:
‘Is what I’m doing now going to help me in the race?’
If the answer is an honest ‘yes’ then great, carry on and be glorious. If not, then perhaps an adjustment has to be made to turn that answer around.
Of course, this question may pop into your head when you’re sat eating a Double Whopper and large fries with a chocolate milkshake in hand, and that may not be the greatest thing to happen!
We all need to cheat from time to time though, to feel like the rest of the human population (ie not like a bike obsessed geek whose idea of fun is 7 hours riding over frozen tundra), but ‘The Anchor’ can serve to pull us back into the place we actually want to be when behavior like this, or skipping training, or riding too easily and not challenging ourselves might be occurring too often.
The GENCO Mongolia Bike Challenge was thus named because a) it is in Mongolia, b) there are bicycles involved and c) it is one heck of a bloody challenge, make no mistake about that.
When creating the race a few years ago, Willy Mulonia wanted to create an event where the participants emerged from it having gained something tangible. Not just harder legs and a few kilograms lighter, but a feeling that they were more resolute, more focused and feeling proud of themselves that they’d got through it all.
Something, indeed, that they could carry into other areas of their life. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?
It’s not just the challenge of the event itself but also the challenge to prepare well for it that makes it all so rewarding. So, if you find your attention wandering, try The Anchor.
Or, try Kaizen. I first heard about Kaizen when the English rugby player, Johnny Wilkinson, said that he walks around imagining that a video camera is watching his every move.
Sounds kinda… creepy right? I agree, but on further investigation I learnt that the basic tenet of Kaizen is of striving to make continuous improvements, whether it be in business, government or, as in Wlikinson’s case, an individual’s personal life.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all ‘How To’ on you, and I personally run a mile from self-improvement books and gurus and the like, but there is nothing wrong in adapting ideas if they can make you faster and stronger on the bike.
Kaizen may just be the name for the process but besides that, the idea of stepping back and analyzing your riding, training, diet and rest, looking back to the previous week’s training to discover why you were flying on a certain day or flagging on another and generally seeking to make continuous improvements, is no bad thing.
I always encourage my clients to analyse themselves why we are doing a certain kind of training and to see the reasons behind the suffering! Then, perhaps the next time they ride at 95% of their capacity for 30 minutes up a 10km hill, they may curse me a little less than usual…
There’s another flipside of this process of analysis and anchoring: it actually makes the riding and training more enjoyable as you are constantly learning and discovering new things, and that, when the winds are a-blowing and the sky is the color of concrete, can kick your backside to get off the sofa and out into the wilds.
As ever folks, crank on…!
Wilkinson wins the 2003 Rugby World Cup
I hate the word c-r-a-s-h. I generally spell it out when I am talking and this makes me wonder why I am posting the second c-r-a-s-h video in two days but this is a great one, a proper 9.5 for both technique and execution. And he didn’t hurt himself. And he is a cyclocrosser, which makes it all ok.