Carmen Small Journal: Another scar, another memory

Carmen Small recounts an ill-fated day at the Thuringen Rundfahrt women's race last July.

I knew when I hit the brakes I would go down — with a lot of force. Yelling, “inside, inside, inside” didn’t seem to change the trajectory of the girl to my right. It had been raining, and we were coming fast into a decent with a cobbled corner. I knew this could be a dangerous section where crashes could potentially happen, even more so because of the rain.

Before I could react, I was hitting the ground … hard. As a racer should, I got up quickly and back on the bike. I noticed the chain was off, so I shifted it back on as people passed me like I was standing still. I looked down — both brakes were rubbing! I reached down to open the quick releases but no luck, still rubbing. I did everything possible to try to straighten them while on the bike, but I was quickly getting dropped by group after group.

My awesome teammate, Iris, caught me and said, “Come on, let’s go.” I got on her wheel, but she quickly opened up a gap, and I yelled her name. She convinced me to stop to adjust my brakes; she adjusted the rear, and I put my front wheel in straight. Hastily, we jumped back on the bikes and were off, passing people and quickly gaining ground on the front group. With five kilometers to go, I was hopeful there was still time to catch. We could see the first and second group in front of us, but I realized there was no chance to catch them with only 3km to go.

During the chase, my body was hurting. Every time I got out of the saddle to accelerate there was sharp pain in my hip. I tried to ignore the pain, push on, and limit our losses. We fought hard that day, but luck wasn’t on our side. As I crossed the finish line, I thanked Iris for all her work with my head low and body aching. I didn’t understand the extent of my injury and was worried as we finally came to a stop.

I knew my hip hurt where I landed, but there seemed to be minimal road rash. I thought to myself … I will just be a little sore. Then, I noticed there seemed to be a lot of blood seeping through my jersey, but I couldn’t see where was it coming from. I lifted up my unscathed jersey and found a lot of blood on my bib shorts. So I gently pulled them away from the area and found the cut. I decided to take a closer look and moved the skin a bit to reveal a pretty big hole. I looked at my soigneur and his face went white and his eyes widened. Iris said, in her nice Dutch accent, “Yeah Carmen, why don’t you put your jersey down.” I sufficiently scared everyone and headed straight for the ambulance.

So often, riders write about the great things in cycling; the winning, the funny stories, the good times. Not so often do we write about the crashes, pain, getting misdirected during the race, the often sub-par accommodations, or bad food. We live a very nice life, don’t get me wrong, but it is a very dangerous sport and we don’t often talk about that, or the risks we are taking even getting on the bike.

Crashing, injuries, and pain are a very real part of our sport. I love cycling, so I continue on and try not to think about what accident might happen. I was very lucky with this crash, it could have been a lot worse. I’ll have another scar, another memory, but for now its time to heal up and push for the next goal!

Editor’s note: Small withdrew from Thuringen Rundfahrt der Frauen after stage 3a due to the crash she recounted in this column. Since then, she has raced La Course by Le Tour de France the Sparkassen Giro World Cup.