Thursday, 10 September 2015

House Of Cycling Pain by Our Ancient Blogger Eltham John

Chris Froome’s recent achievement of losing only seven minutes to the best climbers on a mountainous stage in the Vuelta and then finding that he had broken a bone in his foot highlights how much pain some cyclists can take before accepting that there is such a thing as a pain threshold.

Over the many years that I have been riding, notwithstanding the well published events like Froome and Contador getting back on the bike following serious accidents, I have witnessed other less known riders who seemed to be able to suffer beyond what should be considered normal.

Back in the 1960’s a rider from the Sydenham Wheelers, Bill Best (known locally for the amount of suffering he could take) raced at Herne Hill in the N.C.U. London Centre 50 mile tandem paced championship, where teams of tandems provided the pacing ( a job later taken up by the Dernie motor bikes - when money became less of a problem). Bill Best rode to a great win but at the finish of the event went round in ever decreasing circles until he fell on the floor unconscious. This however was not the occasion where he demonstrated his disregard for pain...  This came later in his life when touring solo in Scandinavia, he fell and broke his leg but then without any medical attention he continued his ride back to the U.K. before thinking of consulting a doctor.

I am sure many cyclist could tell of lots of similar stories but I know of one rider who only within the last few weeks (and who is now in his eighties) after having been given permission from his heart specialist to start riding again, on his first trip out managed to overturn his trike knocking himself out and injuring his head, arm, leg and badly bruising his ribs. He was helped upright by a passing workman who had noticed that he had been lying upside down for some time and not moving. He told the man, who offered to phone for an ambulance that he would be fine as he only lived a few miles away and in any case had to get his trike home. He then rode home and on entering his house collapsed in front of his dismayed wife. Paramedics were called and he ended up in hospital but amazingly is now making a good recovery.

Again this is not the only occasion when this person demonstrated his disregard for pain. A few years ago he was in Belgium doing a charity ride on a tandem trike and on descending a steep hill “flat out” he was unable to stop, crashed and ended up with rather serious cuts and abrasions. He was taken to a local hospital and was patched up and given two pints of good Belgium blood. His tandem partner had been badly shaken by the accident and refused to go anywhere near the tandem returning home by train. My friend however, rode the tandem trike home on his own, (a task probably too difficult for most) despite his injuries, again because he had to!

Now you could be forgiven for thinking that this is enough madness for one persons lifetime, but no he has broken both collarbones on several occasions and once actually started and finished a 12 Hour time trial with a broken arm still in a plaster cast. This nearly caused him to lose his job as there was a report in the local paper, which was read by his boss who wanted to know how he could still ride his bike when he was unable to work. His answer would have been the same “because I had to”.

I am sure that cycling can help to raise an individuals pain threshold but I think there is a case to be made that some people should be sat down and told that pain is God's way of telling them to dismount and seek medical advice.