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13-05-2021 | Luc Nouwen

Ups and downs, lessons learned from crashing

I have smashed into the asphalt several times over the past few years. It's best to avoid it! Each crash is followed by a short or long recovery, your condition will deteriorate and it can cost a lot of money in equipment and clothes.

It was my own fault each time and I'm glad I didn't harm others. What did I learn?

1. Taking a turn quickly on wet cobblestones is not a good idea!

If it's raining or the road surface is still wet, it's best to squeeze the brakes tightly before the turn and be very respectful of wet cobblestones. These things are slippery, you have no recourse, they don't slide well once you crash into them and your bike can come out very battered. A bruised shoulder, by the way, hurts a lot....

2. Training in freezing weather on January 1 can end badly!

No matter the width or profile on your tires, you are powerless against ice patches. Your front wheel slides away and you're lucky if there's no traffic around. It's also a sight not to be seen when your face is already scraped on the first day of the year... (This is also a disservice on those other freezing days, by the way).

3. Don't look back when others are driving in front of you!

While you are looking behind you, a person in front of you swerves and before you know it, you tap your front wheel against a rear wheel. Falling like that is very unpleasant because it is totally unexpected. If the cramps then shoot into your calves and thighs, it's a real treat! You don't feel the abrasions at first, but when you take a shower at the latest, you're whistling again...

4. Don't get in the wheel of someone who is descending fast, but not following the right lines!

Whether someone is following the right lines on a descent, you know quickly. You feel it: the flow is right, you don't need to adjust. If you are in the wheel of someone who needs to adjust his steering, there is a good chance that you will have to pull the emergency brake at the wrong moment: braking when you should not. Let's hope the ravine is not too deep! "C'est brulé", I heard the doctor say after my fall in the gran fondo of Albi. I fainted at night from the pain and the return trip alone in the car was a nightmare.

Photo: My custom-made time trial suit after it was cut loose (photo Luc Nouwen).

5. In competition it goes faster than in training!

Trento: the time trial of La Leggendaria Charly Gaul. Beautiful course; perfect for me. I explored the course five times and got a nice result the year before. This time I was going for the podium. Before that turn, I pulled up again; no time to lose ... And then that little wall comes closer and closer. I catch it with my shoulder, but the thing doesn't budge. There you are. Can't get up anymore. Let's feel that collarbone. Oh dear, there's a hole... You don't want to wait half an hour for an ambulance. I was in an Italian hospital for four days without proper treatment. Then I was transported 1000 km in an ambulance from Italy back home. There I was again given a wrong diagnosis by a university hospital. After a month I was operated anyway  (it did grow back 'by itself'). Four months of not being able to work and then having to go on withdrawal of painkillers. Then I was confronted with a blocked shoulder and had to do a year of physiotherapy to get that thing back into the fold. And I didn't feel like my old self until the plate and the wrong screws were out of my body.

You really don't want to go through it, believe me! He who mirrors sight to another, mirrors himself gently..

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