The moments before and after the crash are a little fuzzy. I remember rounding a corner, and at the exit, the two riders in front of me split to the left and right. The car was immediately in front of me, and before I knew it, I had glass flying all around me. I bounced off the car and hit the ground. Then other riders hit me as they attempted to avoid the car.
It was scary, confusing, and frustrating all at once. I tried to get up and figure out what to do, but I was confused and couldn’t remember where we were in the stage or even what stage it was.
Before I knew it, the entire race caravan passed me, and I was being put into an ambulance. That’s when the anger started to kick in; I didn’t like that they put me in the ambulance before I agreed I wasn’t fit to continue. In hindsight, I’m very thankful for these first responders and doctors who could see it was in my best interest not to continue.
At the Hospital
I was fortunate to have a great crew of EMT’s and first responders. It also helped that I was in Great Britain and spoke the same language as the medics. They were all extremely friendly, compassionate, and helpful. Before leaving me at the hospital, the medics gave me some cash out of their own pockets so that I could get something to eat while I was waiting for the team staff to come pick me up.
Once I was released from the hospital, I went back to the team hotel with a team physician and one of the team’s directors/coaches. We immediately started discussing my next races. We all agreed racing the following week was probably too ambitious, but we still thought the World Championships were a realistic goal. At that point, I thought I’d be back on the bike in a day or two and not losing any of the solid late-season form I had built. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
I’m now nine weeks out from the crash. The recovery process and the slow progress has been a challenge. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer any major skeletal or joint damage, so my body was generally healthy. I’ve had my share of injuries throughout my career, and my normal coping strategy to work through an injury is to seek refuge in my mind, but in this case, that was the injured part. So I changed my approach and sought refuge in my body and went for a lot of walks and hikes.
I had a constant headache for weeks and really struggled to think clearly, but the fresh air was peaceful and helped me shut off my mind and focus on the simple things like my feet hitting the ground and the dirt beneath my shoes. More than anything, I was grateful that my knees and legs were strong and could carry me from one trail to another.
The most difficult part of my recovery was not knowing what would help improve my symptoms or how long it would take. I cannot express how thankful I am for Jamie’s love and patience over these months along with lots of friends and family who supported me and reminded me to be patient.
BMC has been supportive throughout the recovery and also have been patient with my missing some late-season races and objectives. The team physicians, some who’ve know me for nearly a decade, stayed in constant contact with me and the team helped me see some brain specialists.
Avoidable and Preventable
This crash was 100 percent preventable. That car was easily movable, and it always posed a serious and avoidable hazard. Even in the extreme case where it was not possible to move the car, a course marshal should have alerted us to the danger and location of the car. Unfortunately, the marshal was standing on the wrong side of the car in the opposite direction that we approached from and was outside of our field of vision.
The Tour of Britain has multiple race doctors following the race, so if an incident occurs, a doctor can stay with the rider and not worry about getting back in the race. This is a great practice by race organizers, and it truly made sure that I was properly cared for and treated following the crash. I believe this should become a new race standard for all races, regardless of level.
Head Injuries and Bike Racing
Before this injury, I would have said I wasn’t sure if I had ever suffered a concussion. After learning more about concussions, I now realize that this was not my first. Brain injuries are complex, and no one is exactly the same to another. Acute severity or symptoms don’t always correlate to recovery time frame. I’ve hit my head at other points in my life but never had any lingering symptoms past a day or two. This head injury has opened my mind to how complex the brain is and how absolutely vital in every single thing we do, think, and feel in life.
I’ve started easing back into riding. My 2017 season ended earlier than expected but I raced into September, so it wasn’t cut that short. Now I’m focused on regaining some form and fitness, but my top priority remains my health. My primary focus is on regaining the proper function of my neck and head along with having my brain back functioning optimally. These are all difficult areas to measure and I understand the best path is a slow and cautious one.
It’s a challenge to be patient, but I’m thankful for the progress I’ve already made. I’m optimistic that I’ll get back to full strength soon and I’ve definitely learned a lot through this experience. I’ve grown and matured throughout this challenge and I believe that will serve me well in the future.