A shorter circuit this week with the back section of the oval chopped off. This was compensated for by upping the lap count from last week’s 8 to 15. The conditions were cool with a westerly wind as we reconnoitred the circuit. Tim and Ade’s 4th Cat group departed 2 minutes ahead of Justin and me. A select group of 4 2nd Cats waited to pounce from behind us.
No surprises with an immediately quick pace. Half way round the first lap and Justin and I had clawed our way to the front and started to share the work. Perhaps because of the twisting topography our group never seemed to gel. A few attempts were made at organisation. One or two would move through, then we would hit a bend and the assembly would fall apart. In the end you did a big turn on the front, then pulled off, or lost your place on the next bend.
Justin and I played along for a few circuits before taking a couple of laps out for a rest. Having passed a couple of stragglers, Ade included, we sighted the main body of the 4th Cat group. We searched the group ahead of us, but where was Tim? Justin and I exchanged looks. Had he slipped off the front trying to time trial himself to victory? Certainly he would be one of the stronger riders in the 4th Cat group, and knowing Tim he would have been working to keep their pace high.
As we crossed the start line I could see a small number of riders at the side of the oval’s first bend. Drawing closer I could see one man was down and in St Neots colours. Tim.
I pulled out of the race and drew up alongside. Tim was lying on the floor, bloodied on his face, knee and elbow. More worryingly, he was making less sense than usual and was on the verge of consciousness. A Kettering rider and one of the Rockingham Marshals were already with him and together we kept him talking while the first aiders ran over. Step by step, Tim became more coherent, and wanted to sit up. It then became clear his right collar bone was broken. The first aiders arrived, a paramedic was called, and all the while riders kept sweeping by. I can guess what they were thinking.
The foam in the back right of Tim’s helmet was compressed and cracked. Whatever the cause of his fall, it looked like he’d gone over the top landing heavily on his right shoulder and the back of his head. A good thing the race regulations require us to wear a helmet.
The paramedic arrived and gave Tim some Entonox to suck on while he attempted to apply an old school sling. Then he was off to Kettering A&E.
Meanwhile a race was still going on. I’d seen Justin still in our original group and Ade putting in some heroic solo efforts. I got back on the bike in time to hear the bell signalling the final lap, so accelerated out of the pit lanes onto the oval. The main field was a good 200m ahead. I rode flat out knowing I didn’t have a chance to catch them; still it felt good to release some energy.
Afterwards, I caught up with Justin and Ade to exchange news. Tim had given us our own Bradley Wiggins, but Justin was our Boasson Hagen. The sprint had started early and Justin had contested it. Approaching the finish line he was still in 3rd wheel, but then the rider in 2nd position sat up. A bad mistake against a racer of Justin’s experience. Quick to take advantage, he sneaked into 2nd place, winning 2 tickets for a race day at the speedway.
Back at the HQ we gathered together Tim’s equipment and agonised over what to do with his car. We decided to leave it at the security hut, then drove over to A&E.
A&E looked busy for a Thursday evening. Immediately my worst fears of A&E waiting rooms came to the fore. But I needn’t have worried. We queued behind a slightly bonkers woman telling the receptionist she thought she had split her head open. When it came to our turn we were efficiently ushered around to Tim’s cubicle. Of course, they may just have wanted us out of sight; Ade was still in his kit!
Despite his wounds Tim seemed quite content lying on his trolley bed. Then an attractive young nurse came in and started fussing around him. The recuperative powers of drugs and a trim nurse shouldn’t be underestimated. Happily, Tim was balancing back to his normal self.
A couple of X-rays later and the doctor confirmed Tim’s collar bone and two ribs were fractured. The ward matron quickly introduced himself as a keen cyclist, and seemed much more interested in our racing and discussing the Tour. A male nurse arrived next with a trolley full of dressings and iodine dowsed sponges. Unfortunately for Tim he wasn’t followed by another attractive female nurse to do the patching up. Bandaged up and given the spiel on head wounds and pain killers, Tim was given a clean bill of health and allowed to go. We cruised around looking for a drive-thru for a late night meal, then it was home and time for bed.
Tim has survived to fight another day. He will recover, the road rash will fade and his bones will heal quickly over the coming weeks. Injury and cycle racing are inextricably linked. When a bunch of men opt to race across tarmac at speed and in close formation, crashes will happen. Be it a touch of wheels, a misjudged over-steer, or just some grease on the road, sooner or later someone will connect with the ground. Whether as witness or participant, anyone who races will have their own back catalogue of crash stories to retell over a beer. We idolise a rider like Jens Voight as much for his resilience against the road as his prowess on the bike. He crashes, he picks himself up; he’s a hard man and every roadie aspires to be that. Tim has joined the hallowed ranks of the hard men.
Finally, thanks to the support from Rockingham Speedway and the Wheelers’ first aiders, but most of all to Kettering A&E and their fabulous nurses.