Getting Back on the Iron Horse

News & Results

09/18/2003| 0 comments
by Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D.

Getting Back on the Iron Horse

Learn how to stay motivated after a crash.

The problem is that you can be wounded in your mind as well as your physique.

Marco Pantani.

Falling down is an inherent risk associated with the joy of riding. Sketchy packs, slippery road lines, suicidal squirrels, and gravity black holes all interfere with our best efforts to keep the rubber side down. While crashes give us bragging rights and fantastic footage, they can also result in road rash, broken things (both bike and people), and battle scars. Worse yet crashing can have lingering mental consequences that can interfere with your ability to ride well and even your ability to get back on the bike at all. Further, the amount of carnage to body and bike are not necessarily related to the impact the experience can have on your mental ability to ride with the intensity and confidence necessary to succeed. Even when you manage to remain upright in the chaos of a crash, witnessing other riders getting hurt or imagining what could have happened can leave you with nightmares and have a negative impact on your ability to ride.

Amazing and dread inspiring crashes like Rebecca Twigg's high speed velodrome collision a week prior to the 1996 Olympic Games, Johnny Waddell's downhill fall that resulted in a week long coma, and more recently the horrible impact of ONCE rider Joseba Beloki in the 9 th stage of this years Tour de France leave us wondering whether they can physically recover from their wounds let alone get back on the bike and compete with the same intensity. Some seem to be able to get back on the bike as if nothing happened, while others are never able to regain the fine edge of speed and nerves necessary for hairpin turns, tight packs, or knarly descents again. Crashing impacts different riders in different ways. The ability to overcome the trauma of a serious crash come more easily to some than to others, but the skills necessary to recovery can be practiced and utilized successfully by athletes of all levels and abilities. Knowing how to cope with crashing and how to manage the fear of crashing again will improve your confidence, handling skills, and even your performance. Moreover, confident riders react better in stressful situations and are less likely to make the mistakes or inappropriate reactions that lead to many crashes.

The Aftermath

The first thing to do after a crash comes naturally to most riders. You assess the damages. Blood? Broken bones? Bike ok? Many riders actually assess bike damage before they even turn their attention to themselves! Cyclists know that road rash needs to be scrubbed and that Neosporin and gauze are usually in order. For more serious wounds, a trip to the medical tent or the local ER may be necessary. We treat our equipment equally well after a crash. Helmets, frames, wheels, and forks are carefully inspected. We may even seek the outside expertise of a trusted mechanic. Unfortunately, physical and equipment damage are only part of the potential aftermath of a fall. Many riders are reluctant to acknowledge the

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