It seems to me that this year, in both the domestic and the European pro pelotons there have been more serious crashes than in years past. It just might be that the crashes are happening to high profile riders or guys and gals I know, but you name an important race on the pro calendar and this year, there was probably a serious crash.
By serious, I mean broken bones. To be sure, when you have 150+ riders on small roads somebody or a few somebody's will go down. However, they usually get up and finish the race albeit with some nasty road rash. What I am talking about is a big tumble where racer separates from machine and the only way the rider is going anywhere is in an ambulance.
For me, it all started in the Tour of California when Astana's Vladamir Gusev and one of my buddies, Jelly Belly's Bernard Van Ulden both went down on stage six. Gusev and Van Ulden broke their collarbones. Then there was Saunier Duval's Angel Gomez's altercation with a traffic island in the Tour of Flanders(AKA De Ronde). At the Tour de Georgia, three riders went down with Slipstream/Chipotle rider Tim Duggan carted off to the hospital with major head trauma.
At this year's Tour of Gila, the hero of the Tour of California's stage 7, Bissel rider Tom Zirbel went down hard on the final stage while wearing the leader's jersey and he, too, finished the race in the an ambulance. But, the worst crash at Gila involved Mexican rider Fausto Munoz who is now paralyzed from the waist down. In a great show of sportsmanship, Team Toyota United donated all the prize money they won at Gila to Munoz to aid his rehabilitation. Bravo!
That brings us to the Giro d'Italia where crashes to Dave Zabriskie (broken vertebrae), Stuart O'Grady(collarbone) and Brad McGee(collarbone) marred the initial stages. A couple of days ago, 2007 Tour de France winner hit the pavement for about the 5th time during the race, this time he fractured his elbow. On the women's professional side of things, Katheryn Mattis has broken her collarbone twice this season, once in Australia and just recently in Belgium. Ouch!
Obviously, crashing is a downer. However, the silver lining is that these pros are passionate about their craft and dedicated to the sport and they usually come back better than ever after a crash. It is sad to see Fausto Munoz as a paraplegic, but the cycling community showed its character by rallying behind the rider. Here's hoping that things settle down some. Knock on wood.
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