I could see the corner from way out. A tight, right-hand hairpin, with a steep apex, the road on the outside of the bend plastered with the lethal combination of mud, moss and wet leaves that so often renders roads hazardous after sustained periods of heavy rainfall.
I opted for the tighter, inside line, only for my front wheel to slip into a deep rut on Ranmore Common Road in Surrey. And I went down. Rarely when you crash do have time to prepare for the meeting of body and Tarmac but sometimes, like on this occassion, you hit the ground like a proverbial sack of potatoes.
My elbow and hip combined to take the brunt of the fall. Arm warmers and shorts ripped; weezing, panting on the roadside, it took a few minutes to regain my composure and inspect the damage. Only road rash.
Cyclists aren’t designed to crash. Skin isn’t engineered to meet the Tarmac. And the results – raw skin exposed, heavy grazes revealed – are invariably painful.
Ironically, it’s not the slow clamber back on the bike which hurts most. Physically – unless serious damage is done – the act of turning the pedals again is somewhat soothing; the chance to keep battered limbs moving and blood flowing. Instead, it’s the mental damage inflicted by a fall which lingers for the rest of the ride, with every corner taken at half-pace on increasingly slippery roads swamped, on Monday at least, by yet another heavy rain shower.
Instead, that temporarily absent pain rears it’s head once home, when limbs seize up, swelling emerges, bruising comes out and it’s time to step into the shower to wash raw wounds, before a fitful night’s sleep.
Still, my road rash – restricted to elbow, hip and knee – paled into insignificance compared to that of Mark Cavendish, who I watched crash at 50mph having returning home from my ride out to Box Hill – the new road surface is silkly-smooth and super-fast, by the way – in time to catch the end of stage three of the Giro d’Italia.
The world champion, brought down by Roberto Ferrari’s reckless side-swipe, clambered back on his bike, jersey and shorts ripped, before riding gingerly across the finish line.
The Giro peloton enjoyed an early rest day today between stages three and four and that gave Cavendish (and everyone else caught in the pile-up, including race leader Taylor Phinney) the chance to recuperate. That meant a spin on the time trial bike before tomorrow’s TTT in Verona, and the daily agony of a shower which every road rash victim endures.
“What could be worse than getting in the shower with this?” tweeted Cavendish alongside a picture of his red-raw right leg, before following up with “Combining said shower with this!!!!” – and a picture of a bar of soap and a scrubbing brush.
His wounds might be more impressive, but it’s an experience almost every cyclist will go through at some point.