The 70.3 World Championships in Nice provided some spectacular racing and a host of excellent personal performances from the Purple Patch team. It truly was a wonderful sporting event and, I believe, the best venue and race I have seen for a World Championships so far. At the pro level, it is also clear that this has become an amazingly competitive event that truly brings the best out of the top athletes in the world.
There was another side of the event with numerous crashes occurring on the descent of the Col de Vence 20+ km drop back to sea level. Some of this occurred due to a lack of riding skills among the athletes who simply were not experienced or equipped to navigate the terrain, but other contributions were the density of the number of racers on the descent and simple speed of descent among the more competitive racers. One casualty was Purple Patch Pro, Kevin Collington, who lost control going quite fast, ending up hitting a guard rail and getting catapulted over the rail and down the bank. Amazingly, he walked around with just a bruised knee and some scrapes from the thorny bushes he landed in. He could not have been luckier.
Kevin is a good bike rider, but crashes happen. The key for him, and any athlete who experiences an event like this, is the approach following the crash. Let’s outline the path Kevin took following a spill, which is exactly the correct course of action:
Step One: Heal
For Kevin, there were no major injuries, but he still gave himself a few days to marinate and let it settle. On the day there was no visible pain, but unsurprisingly, he was a little sore following. It is important to appreciate the overall stress and let the body and mind ‘just be’ for 48 to 72 hours. Crashes often lead to whiplash-type sensations that creep up some time after the event, and rushing these can be catastrophic.
Step Two: Return to Easy Activity
It is good to get the body moving, and the easy thing to do is to execute what feels right. Don’t just go back to training. Instead, move the body with light exercise and easier training anchored in what feels best for the body and doesn’t cause tightness.
Step Three: Get Riding
The most critical phase. As soon as you are able physically, emotionally and practically, get outside! Ride your bike. It is the only way to diffuse potential fear and regain comfort. For Kevin, back in Boulder, it was to ride on his road bike (more intuitive handling) and integrate plenty of climbing and descending. It rebuilds the realization that, yes, the crash happened, but no, it doesn’t mean he will fall off his bike every time he rides. I cannot overstate how important it is to get back on the bike as soon as practically possible post-crash. You might be fearful, but your confidence will grow out of the experience.
Step Four: (Upcoming)
The best route to limit chances of it occurring again is not to skip riding outside anymore, but to become a master of the machine. Ken has a winter of riding skills and descending work ahead! The only want to improve — and reduce fear — is to tackle the problem head-on.
I will say — I get it! We hear more and more stories of crashes, mostly due to the enhanced ability to discuss and share online. I also appreciate the worry and craziness of cars, and so many people not appreciating that under the bike helmet is a person. Unfortunately, we are faced with a paradox. Many choose to ride inside exclusively, but this creates a hazard when they race. They are not equipped to execute many bike courses. On the flip side, life is chaotic and it is tough to find time to ride outside, but also to choose a great sport for riding that doesn’t elicit fear. We know it is a challenge and you must do what’s right for you, but equipping yourself with skills and awareness on the road is the surest path to lessen the chances of you losing any bark.