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USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 2
Stage 2: Crash Day
It was his feet that I saw first. They were sticking out at a funny angle from just beyond the edge of the van. There was another vehicle, a sports car of some sort, that was parked a little further up the road. The sports car was parked at a funny angle, too, and in a way that told you something was amiss. I knew that they were Ryan's feet, maybe because in that instant I remember thinking that Sam and Nick were behind me and that James was wearing Sidis. That meant it could only either be Ryan or Greg. Greg usually wears black socks while Ryan sticks to mostly white.
The information becomes an overload because it all starts to happen so quickly. All kinds of emotions flood in and try to impede you from actually thinking in a way that’s helpful.
What do you do when someone crashes?
There were two riders ahead. Two riders behind.
My first reaction was to make sure that Ryan wasn't going to move. The blood that was running down his face and into his eyes was confusing him, but at least he was not trying to get up. Jake Stangel, our photographer, put a blanket under his head and for some reason I lay down next to him on the pavement. My thinking was along the lines of "If I can get down there next to him on the road he won't feel so alone." Not really sure how that worked out.
Jake wasn’t really saying anything and Gerben, our ride coordinator, was busy locating the others and filling in Sam and Nick who just rolled up. It is such a strange thing, to see someone in pain, your friend, next to you on the pavement.
At the top of Independence Pass we had shared a moment of elation. It had already been a long day and getting to the top of our second 12,000ft peak hadn’t been easy. When we finally did it was a cause for celebration. Or at least what little celebration you can manage at this altitude, shivering from the cold. We did our best, patting each other on the back and then slipping into warmer clothes as we started to think about the descent in front of us.
There had been this character at the top, the one who came running at us, stripping off his snow shoes off and shouting to Greg "Are you the Rapha Continental?" So maybe we took a little bit longer there, relishing the fact that someone knew who we were and what we were doing. Then we climbed back on our bikes and rocketed down the mountain. In a fraction of a second, we passed the same guy; he'd driven ahead so that he could shoot a few photos of us descending.
I was still next to Ryan when a mystery truck with two fantastical ladies rolled up. They both happened to be EMTs and took control of the situation with a speed that none of us could muster. One secured Ryan's head to prevent neck or spinal injuries, the other started checking him over to find out if he had broken any major bones. Even though he couldn’t remember his last name, the day of the week, or why we were in Colorado, he continued to make the EMTs laugh with his funny quips and attempts to dodge their questioning. I was aware that this could also be a sign of head trauma but the effect it had on the whole group was calming and much needed, taking the edge off what was actually happening.
"Hmmm, good question, I'm going to have to come back to that one." It was the one answer Ryan kept going back to and it worked for the majority of us. Still more questions: "What’s the name of your girlfriend?; Can you tell me your last name?" But it was our man Jake Stangel who finally snapped when the interrogation started one last time. "You know what, maybe you should try another question. We’ve all been traveling together for a little while now and no one is sure what day it is." Silently, I agreed and at the same time thought to myself that I was glad they weren’t asking me. I didn’t know what day of the week it was either.
Then, just as quickly as it all started I watched as Ryan was packaged into the back of an ambulance. I hopped in the front of the same vehicle and, even now, I can hear Ryan's voice from the back. He was complaining about the fact they were going to cut off his bib shorts.
At the hospital in Aspen I wandered around. I lay on the waiting room floor, I went outside for a walk. I stopped to check out the helicopter landing pad and witnessed one of the strangest, most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.
Any one of us could have hit that rock. When they finally let me into his room, however, I saw that it was not any one of us that hit the rock, it was Ryan. He was joking with the on-duty nurse, even though she had just pulled a huge chunk of his lip straight off. He was wearing nothing but one of those nightgown things that you see on the movies, the ones that will, at some point, expose your backside.
It was here that the events of the day started to catch up with me. Now I had seen first hand that our pal with the mullet was going to be alright, the bundle of nerves that I had been holding on to so tightly started to unravel. I wondered out loud "Can you bonk from an adrenaline rush like this?"
The next day, as everyone rubbed the sleep from their eyes, we saw firsthand what damage had been done to Ryan’s pretty face and what it was going to take to get him back on the bike. "Six weeks and I'll be as good as new." I couldn’t help but crack a smile.