A Day At The Races

Saturday we woke up to a cool Michigan morning just a bit south of Grand Haven ready to ride the final stretch of our route into Grand Rapids. The day was to be a short 75kms with no elevation gain worth noting, a couple stops at CRC churches and the home of Tyler Buitenwerf. We were anticipating riding past 11 different CRC church buildings during the day. In addition to our contingent of 150 cyclists 130 others were joining us “officially” for the day and numerous others “unofficially”. Considering the fact that I met 3 of the bandit riders and- never figured out who was riding along as part of the “official” ride-along there could have been many more than 300 of us on the road. Leaving camp in the morning at around 8:05 we were of course taking up the tail end of the group and had approximately 300 people ahead of us to pass during the day. Riding with me were John Vanderveen, Brad Geerlinks, and Marc Vanotteren. This was a group of guys included all of the perpetual City-Line-Sprinters and we were excited to compete in what we’ve been calling the second biggest sprint race of the summer. The race into Grand Rapids, Jersey city being the other big one we were looking forward to. (The Canadian border sprint will happen on a Ferry and therefore doesn’t exactly count because we couldn’t race it).

The day started out with us riding along hovering just below 40kph keeping a running tally of how many people we had passed so we could gauge how many were on the road. We were all the way up to 126 riders within the first hour of riding and everyone had smiles from ear to ear. After rounding a bend we saw in the distance a town line sign for Lemont Michigan, a little race to scope out the strategies of the other guys we were riding with. It was a long gradual downhill followed by maybe 100 yards of flat to the finish. I was up front and could see John Vanderveen was perched just over my right shoulder. We were heading north and the sun was still low in the sky so I decided I’d try to lour him around me on the downhill hoping to make my move at the bottom of the hill. I looked left and watched his shadow and could see him move further to my right and come up alongside me. Exactly as I had hoped I felt confident I was positioned correctly as we neared the bottom of the hill. I quickly glanced down at my speedometer and noted we were traveling at 54 kph. I was going to need every gear I had if I was to get ready and stand to sprint this line against John who is geared faster than me. At this point my chain skipped and I lost tension in my chain and my pedals went for a whirl. If you’ve ever been walking up the stairs and expected there to be one more step before the top you’ve felt the same feeling. You try and place your foot somewhere and there’s nowhere for you to put it. My left foot made that attempt and landed nowhere, it came unclipped from my pedal and my bike veered sharply to the left. I wasn’t about to make any sharp corners as I was now moving faster than 54 kph so I continued in a straight line. I tucked in my arm and went for a slide down the road on my right shoulder and then on my back. I saw Marc ride by while sliding on down the road and began to scramble to my feet so I wouldn’t be hit by any one of the other riders coming behind me. Marc told me later I was on my feet before I had stopped moving. A quick couple steps and I was in the ditch and made my way to a patch of grass in the shade where I parked myself.

It was about here that the serious praying began and group at the side of the road in the ditch began to grow. John who had dislocated his shoulder numerous times before started to feel things and get the lay of the land. His initial reaction was that it was dislocated and asked if I could move it. I moved it up from by my side to above my head without much trouble and it just felt better there so that’s where I kept it. Soon enough Betsy, a nurse, rode up to the scene and did her version of the little diagnosis. Hers sounded like 50% dislocation and 50% broken collarbone and the prospect of the end of my tour loomed large. The other guys were all rather sobered by the situation and did what they could to help out and throw in a few words of encouragement. My new camera which had taken a grand total of one photograph was absolutely destroyed so Brad snapped a few photos of the wreckage on my behalf. Art Smit pulled up in one of our 10 passenger vans and my bike made its way in between the seats. Soon enough we were headed for the hospital Art driving and Betsy along as my hospital tour guide.

The hospital visit included a few Xrays which seemed to be “Let’s put this arm in the 4 most painful positions I can think of and then take photographs of it” and some rather suspenseful moments waiting to hear what the news would be regarding my prognosis. Betsy was great to have along and even though we never really did discuss the fact that my tour might very well be done her comments did help to bring peace to what was far from a peaceful situation. When the doctor eventually arrived back with the news the results were good, or great, or fantastic. I had no breaks in my shoulder and by his physical exam my shoulder was no longer dislocated and the X-ray did confirm that fact. He commented that I had done a number to my AC joint and he was going to call it a shoulder contusion. Later on a physiotherapist checked it out at camp and said that the AC joint was most likely separated. For all the non anatomy majors out there that is the bit of your body that holds your collar bone “down” and I would have to agree that mine is more likely described as “up”.

So basically from the time my foot came unclipped everything went in the best possible direction it could have. There is no question that I had God looking out for me. The road was smooth and I slid a long ways rather than grinding to a halt. I also was fortunate to have been able to tuck myself in before sliding and did so in a more elegant way resulting in less road rash than any other sprawl on the pavement would have. My head never smacked into the ground but my helmet does suggest it would like to be replaced so I will do so as to not suffer any consequences at a later date. I had people with me who knew what to do and insurance to make treatment and a full diagnosis available. The doctor’s orders included no mandatory rest and he told me that if I could ride there from Seattle he figured I was able to attempt continuing on Monday. My front wheel ended up in the shape of a pringle and while my bar tape, seat and derailleur are scraped up they are not broken. I had access to a new front wheel which has replaced mine now and should treat me well for the rest of the summer. I also was notified lated that I was named the honorary winner of the sprint into Lemont. John Vanderveen did end up winning the big race into GR for those of you who are interested.

My arrival into camp was a bit overwhelming to say the least. I had just been sitting for a while in the van and just wanted to lay down in the shade and get some food. I had 4 complete discussions after opening the door before I could even get out of the vehicle. I then proceeded to do the awkward left handed handshake with all sorts of people who I would have loved meeting and talking with under almost any other circumstances. If you’re reading (and I know a few of you are) I apologize for lousy first go of things. I didn’t catch a single name in the whole process but did figure out that I had an hour before someone was coming to pick me up to shower in her house, to let me do my laundry and have a real bed for me to sleep in. I finally got on my back in the grass and put a few drugs in me and that’s where I stayed for the entire hour letting everyone who asked know that I was allowed to ride on Monday and would be making an attempt to do so. The conversation repeated itself all weekend long and I’ll have to admit I am a bit sheepish telling people that we were racing when I crashed.

My host for the weekend was Cobi Hofman, the wife of the pastor who way back more than 50 years ago baptized my Dad. She had been a part of the CRC that I was riding as a representative of during its very early years meaning even though I’d never met her before we did have an endless supply of topics for discussion. We did watch a bit of the Olympics, which I haven’t otherwise had an opportunity to do and I was fed well. I also had a good bed to sleep in for the weekend and got a ride to check out Neland Ave CRC on Sunday morning.

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