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by SS at 2:40 pm on Friday 5th March

(Or Ethiopian Roads, A Survival Story)

Friday, or stage 34 was another wet start. The roads were dry when we started riding and it was our last day of riding before our rest day here in Yabello. I started by myself, with the thought that I'd have slow legs - the previous day was slow and we hadn't had exactly had time to recover much. Luckily (or so I thought), the day involved an overall descent and I found my legs spinning up to speed quite nicely.

The road was bad pavement as before but we had a new challenge - large potholes. At first they came only every so often but with each passing tenth of a kilometre, they spread over more and more of the road before disappearing for a short while, only to return in stronger numbers further down. Feeling quick and overconfident in my technical ability, I was flying over the potholed downhills at 50 kmph, barely braking and steering through the obstacles like a commuter in London traffic.

Barely eight kilometres in the road got substantially worse. Unknowingly, I approached that downhill section of road with the same callous disregard that I had the previous eight thousand metres. I lost control. The potholes came fast and faster. I didn't brake, they came too fast. I cleared one, cleared two, cleared three, and then on the fourth the back wheel came down with a sickening 'crack'. On the fifth, the largest yet, my front wheel got 'stuck'. The hole was deeper than my wheel wanted to roll over and so all that forward momentum (at this point it felt about 60 kmph) that my body was carrying threw me over the handlebars and I rolled straight over, landing on my back.

Moments later, I stood up, shocked, slightly grazed but conscious and with a full memory of the reckless idiocy that had just preceded. Hardy, one of the German cyclists, was behind me when I fell and stopped immediately to help me. He described the accident as 'just horrible'. He took me by the shoulder and told me to take a seat. The locals started to gather. I looked around, my right shoe was missing, my glasses were on the ground, the bike was lying on its side several metres from the pothole and my drinks bottles were scattered around it. My MP3 player was still playing music. Shockingly, my shoulder was still in its socket.

Hardy brought my bike, glasses and shoe over. My wheels were severely buckled - we spent a good 15-20 minutes trying to get the bike to turn without the brakes rubbing on the rim. The crowd of locals grew stronger. Several other riders passed, some stopped but we motioned for them to continue and they did. The TDA truck stopped but again, we gave them the thumbs up and they continued. Once the wheels were spinning and everything looked like it was in working condition, I tried cycling again.

The right hand side crank is bent. This is supposedly almost impossible and for a while we suspected it was just he pedal but swapping it with another pedal didn't fix the feeling of lopsided pedalling. Now, when pedalling, the right hand side ellipse is smaller than the left hand side ellipse. My right hand side brake lever was completely loose - presumably as a result of bearing the full impact of the ground. The rear wheel is irreparably bent (Chris tried straightening it but there are clear signs of stress on the rim).

Riding for the rest of the morning, I paused a couple of times to check my injuries. I have some grazes on my leg, but nothing too deep. My ankle is grazed, presumably as a result of losing the shoe. The back of my right shoulder is also grazed. The worst injury appears to be a swelling just below my stomach where I made contact with the topcap of the fork assembly. My shorts were ripped. At first I thought this was just on the side but was informed at lunch that a small amount of my backside was also now visible - I guess that explains the giggles as I cycled up hills. My face was scraped around my right eye where the goggles cut into my face. My helmet is largely intact but about of half of the front half is scratched where it made contact with the ground.

The rest of the day was another stark change in scenery. The hills are omnipresent but the crowds subsided to give relatively peaceful, almost desert-like red soil. Termite mounds were scattered along the side of the road, some in early stages of construction while others towered above the road like nature's skyscrapers. My camera was broken by the crash, so I have no pictures of these strangely beautiful creations.

General consensus is that I got off lucky. At that speed, on that road, it could have been much worse. Calamity Jane took the brunt of the impact and while I might be pedalling lopsided this week until my spare parts come through, at least I'll be pedalling and still EFI.

We're in Yabello now and about to leave tomorrow. It's a really boring town and there's no internet cafe. It could be yet another week before anyone reads this. Kenya approaches in just two days and I'll be able to talk to relatives again. It's been an intense week. And with that, February is over.

2 comments posted so far
Anish wrote at 4:31 pm on Fri 5th Mar -
Moose wrote at 7:07 pm on Fri 5th Mar -
Bloody hell you CM, you realise that every racing sport relies upon the use of brakes for competitive advantage rather than acceleration right?

Also UL on SLR; but at least it wasnt khalased by water this time! A third water-incident and the insurance company would start getting a bit wary :P

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Riding Fast
Riding Fast
Just before a crash.
2:36 pm on Saturday 27th February by SS
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