Quite an exciting time these past weeks. Last week the Tour de France started, which meant not only did I have something good to watch on TV, but that my own attempt at an actual TdF mountain stage was creeping very close.
Weather has been great too. Exactly 2 weeks to the day of my Etape du tour, I was out riding a local sportive (Wolfe of Westerham) with a mate. Having abandoned a sportive a month ago due to a shoulder strain, I needed something to get me back into the right shape. Weather was great, Dame Kelly Homes officially started the race, and it included over 1700m of climbing over 75 miles so it was a decent challenge. Including a hill with a 20% gradient at the top of it (if you’re not familiar with a % gradient to describe steepness of a hill, 20% is getting close to being a wall). First 30 miles weren’t great but then I found my legs and by the end I was feeling very confident again. job done!
So, my remaining plans were: commute to work as much as possible during the week (10.5 mile there, 11 mile back) and at least 2 athlete lab classes, and then ideally a 4hr-ish ride at the weekend on my own with some tasty hills. The weather played ball, Monday my new team added almost £200 to my sponsorship target and I arrived home on Tuesday evening, feeling pretty good as I settled down to watch the highlights of the TdF stage that day. A major crash saw Brit Mark Cavendish break a shoulder and exit the race, with the current World Champion & world cycling pin up Peter Sagan expelled for his part in the crash. Pretty major news in any bike race but especially the TdF. As I watched I thought how gutting it must be to train specifically for one race of the year, and then see your hopes disappear in a split second like they did for both riders, for different reasons.
Wednesday then, I cycled in my 10.5 miles straight into Athlete-Lab for a 45 min endurance class and then to work. One of the advantages to my new role is I’m working on the trading floor, which as TV screens all over it. Bloomberg news and a couple of other financial channels, but generally whatever major sporting event is on, takes up a fair share of the screens! So I managed to catch that day’s stage which I figured would save me watching the highlights later, thereby giving me back an hour of my evening (which as a father of 2 is f**king priceless). 26 degrees at 6pm, so it would be a hot ride home. Best take it easy. 2 mins out of work, coming to lights near Bank of England I shift down the gears, just as I hit a bump….
Short version: chain jumps, catches pedal crank and my bike kicks me off like a paranoid horse who’s just seen the Tesco Lasagne Sourcing team jump out of an unmarked van. Before I’d even come to a halt I had folk around me, so it must have looked pretty dramatic. One chap straightened my handlebars, while another picked up my GPS and water bottle for me. Typical stand offish, unfriendly behaviour that you come to expect from Londoners (if you only deal in outdated stereotypes). I assure everyone I’m ok, despite pain in my wrist, knee, elbow, inner thigh and just a bit higher than inner thigh…
So I get back on, cycle the remaining 10.9 miles home, my gears sounding like their shouting at me in African click language that I’d just ruined them, blood dripping from various scratches, and my wrist slowly overtaking the adrenalin surge in my body to begin the doubts. “I’ve f**ked it haven’t I?”. Can’t believe I’m here again. Another big event, for charity, for SANDS and I’m looking at missing out through injury. By the time I got home I’m no longer holding the handlebars with both hands, just resting my left on top. I’ve had enough breaks & ligament issues in the past 5-10 years to have a good idea when it’s not just a wee bruise.
Thursday morning, I had booked an appointment with a physio recommended by a colleague. Just to ease out my shoulder with some massage, as a precaution. She’s previously worked with the South African rugby team & is currently official physio to the band Muse. Here I am, at her door 8:30am with a plea to get me out of a super massive black hole. (Sorry!) She tells me if it’s a fracture it’s bad news, if its ligaments, then she can maybe fit me with a special brace and get me a cortisone injection and still ride the etape. But we need to act fast, in fact Time is Running Out (Sorry, last one I promise!) She gives me 3 possible private consultants, but they’re all busy till next week. I try the guy that fixed my broken elbow, same story. I have to settle for an appointment with someone next Tuesday, which is 5 days pre-race. Then on Friday morning physio calls to say she’s got someone to see me who can x-ray me that day. She is still confident I have only ligament damage so I’m starting to believe. Get into see doctor at 4:10pm Friday, tell him about l’etape. he takes a look at the bruising pattern and says “hmmm, to me it looks like possible Scaphoid damage. If an x-ray shows that, then you’d be insane to ride a bike up a mountain. or down one for that matter” turns out the scaphoid is integral to opposable thumb use. If its not treated (a cast or in some cases an operation) then I could end up losing one of the main characteristics of being human. I really want to ride the Etape, and part of my admiration of cycling and cyclists is the incredible acts of bravery and suffering they endure in the name of their sport. But I’m also not a f**king idiot, so I’m now absolutely sh*tting myself as I sit awaiting the x-ray results. 10 mins later, results are back and doctor calls me in (this is private healthcare, remember!) In some kind of weird ‘anything can happen on live TV’ moment, the consultant tells me he’s not actually looked at them himself yet as he fires up his computer. Peers at one, two, four images in total. “I can’t see an obvious fracture, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there, I think given whats at stake we should go for an MRI scan for sure“. I feel like a Strike it Lucky contestant, who’s just got a ‘Q’ for question come up. It’s not the Hotspot of a fracture, but it’s not the prize of a free bike ride in France.
Doctor says to me as I leave “we’ll MRI on Monday, but until then, no cycling” I nod, and leave, heading straight to the bike shop where I’m due for a final bike fitting before next week’s race. I was hoping to get a new comfortable setup that would make my ride a bit less of a strain on the knees, and maybe make me look more like a pro on the bike. Much like my physio appointment, the needs have changed, now I need it setup to take pressure off of my wrist, so we end up making me more upright. This makes me look more like Johnny-part-timer on the saddle, than I’d ever have agreed to before, but needs must. As I ride home, folks pass me constantly and I have to fight the ridiculous competitive spirit inside me to not try catch them again. Telling myself over and over “just get home in one piece, its not a race“, letting each new cyclist pass by while feeling like an alcoholic walking past pubs. “Awww that one was happy hour…”. But I get there safely and after a weekend of no cycling here I am now.
So, this time next week, I’ll either have completed one of my life goals, or I’ll have spent 12 hours sitting by the pool of our hotel in France with my wife. I’m sure she’ll understand if I say now I’ll be gutted if its the latter! I’m not sure if it’s tomorrow or Tuesday I get the MRI results, but it’s gonna be a long 24-48 hours for me, so I guess I better get to bed now.
If you believe in Karma and positive energy and all that jazz, then how about you go here “I believe” and show me how confident you are in the robustness of my wrist bones.
My next update will be a shortish one with the MRI results.