Rather than doing the full 100 miles in one day we decided to do it over 2 with an overnight stop booked at a pub in Steyning - roughly halfway, to break-up the journey and not put too much pressure on ourselves.
Convening stupidly early on the platform of Basingstoke station, we headed to Winchester for the start… As we left Basingstoke, the clouds began to darken and by the time we hit Winchester the rain had started… Freewheeling down the hill we stopped in a McDonalds, introducing Dean to the delights of the only thing worth eating on their menu: a sausage & egg McMuffin, which he had somehow avoided tasting in his 40 years on the planet.
|Show us the way Alfred!|
|Grim grey drizzle.|
|The view would be improved without the clouds!|
After seeming like an eternity, although most likely only a couple of hours, the rain eased-off as the cloud began to lift and the humidity rose as lunchtime beckoned and we approached Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
Bouncing down the side of Butser Hill, at its foot we weaved through ranks of parked cars for a cycling event (how ironic) we stopped for a bite to eat on the other side of the A3 in the park’s visitor centre cafe.
|Lunch in the sun and drying off.|
|Following up the hill on to the down.|
|Posing on the top of the down.|
|Following Rob... A minute or 2 after this and it happened!|
|Blood, blood, plenty of blood.|
|Plenty of claret spilt!|
|The cap was originally yellow!|
|The score marks of my tyres scratching for grip as they went sideways.|
|About 30 seconds after I regained consciousness.|
|The Air Ambulance cometh.|
|No sense no feeling.|
|About to be chauffeured away.|
We gathered our stuff and began the descent off the down… The pain was starting to build now, from the battering of my shoulder and wrist and the throbbing sensation of the wounds on my head. I necked a couple of ibuprofen and paracetamol to reduce inflammation and dull the pain. Making our way we could hear the helicopter still flying, then the sound of the engine slowing as it must have found a place to land a little way away, before the engines were killed and the tranquility of the area was restored.
Coming off the down there was a couple of ambulances waiting at the end of a farm track for us, so I clambered aboard the nearest one to be assessed by the paramedics. Pretty soon another ambulance car pulled-up with the crew from the air ambulance.
I could see outside that Dean, Rob & Stu were chatting with all the paramedics carefully out of ear-shot from me as they obviously did not want me listening in to any of the gory details.
The doctor from the air ambulance came over and gave me an examination and agreed with me that I was essentially fine, just a bit banged-up… Because I had been recovered conscious and coherent it was decided not to send me to the QE in Portsmouth or to Southampton with its head trauma specialist unit, the nearest hospital in Chichester was going to be the one of choice.
With that I said goodbye to the guys who were in two minds about continuing, telling them just to carry on as there’s no point in ruining the rest of their ride because of my misfortune! And then the doors were shut and off we drove.
I was cleaned-up as we went by the paramedic, where it was realised with all the excitement I had also put a really good hole in my right forearm right between the bones where I must have landed on a rock that pierced the skin about an inch in length and about half an inch deep!
|Courtesy of the nurse!|
The consultant mentioned that when they get the call for an MTB accident on the South Downs Way they fear the worse - most times aside from tearing of the flesh its missing teeth, broken limbs, jaw, rib injuries and a lack of consciousness. He said the unit had been put on stand-by as all they had heard was an MTB crash, loss of consciousness, head injury and the air ambulance was needed, so this set-off a lot of red flags and he was being pressured from his boss to ensure a ‘satisfactory outcome’, so he was pleased to see that I wasn’t as bad as it could have been… I could see on the whiteboard in big red writing detailing all the patients which one was me…
|Bruising starting after only a couple of hours.|
With the extent of my facial injuries they decided they would not risk stitching them up in the A&E as they wanted my ‘good looks’ to be restored as much as possible and the A&E doctors skill levels were good for stitching a sack of spuds together, not something as fine or intricate as a face, so they wanted to wait for a maxillofacial surgeon to become available to do the work.
Now the wait began… The nurse on duty loved a bit of gore and came up to me asking if I had a camera and was I on Facebook as my face was ‘proper messed-up’ so she could memorialise it for me before she cleaned it up.
As she tried to remove all the dried blood that was caking it, she was having to pull-out bits of grass and grit that had congealed in to the wounds. Unfortunately some of it was a bit stubborn so she had to get the scissors and cut away some grass and flaps of skin that were hanging-off that had been identified as unable to be saved by stitching back in place - I sat there and took it all, all the pokes and prods without flinching. She kept asking if it hurt and I kept saying ‘no’ before she told me to stop being macho and say if it hurts, so I told her about my old footy injury on my forehead that had split down to the skull and had wrecked my nerve endings so I don’t really feel pain around there through not having functioning nerves, not through any perverse form of bravado!
|Up close & personal!|
|Cleaned-up well after all!|
There’s a post script to all this as well:
Just after leaving me the guys continued on to Steyning for the evening along the road for the most path… Just as they approached the first road they heard the sound of an almighty bang and found when they reached the road a car had just crashed at speed into trees, the elderly driver slumped bloodied and moaning in the driver’s seat. The car behind had stopped to see what they could do but did not know where they were, so the guys had to phone for ANOTHER ambulance as they had a GPS location! The 3 cyclists of the apocalypse!
On the train back to London after finishing his ride on the Sunday, Stu got chatting to a couple of guys travelling with their MTB’s - it turned-out they were half an hour behind us on the Saturday and the lead rider of their pack fell at the same spot I did. When he picked himself off the floor he saw the blood everywhere around him, panicked as he checked himself all over for injuries but could find none - asking his compadres then they arrived o see where he was cut and they confirmed he was fine, much to their bemusement over how so much fresh blood was on the floor! So maybe it wasn't crap bike handling skills if others found issue on the same part of the trail.
Simply put with this accident. If I was not wearing a helmet I would have been dead and if I had not been wearing a £10 pair of sunnies that took the impact of my face then I would have had to have had my face re-built with having fractured eye sockets and cheek bones - yes the impact of the glasses nearly severed my nose, splitting the skin all the way down to the bone (although not breaking the bone) but I’ll take this for a spectacular wipe-out over what could have been any day - I’m pretty lucky it seems with crashes at speed having walked away from this and having flown & barrel rolling a car off a motorway at 70 with just cuts and bruises… Combine this with having been in earshot of 3 terrorist bombs in my life I’ll probably go in a very mundane manner such as being hit by a bus!
|Impact damage on the glasses!|
|A bit of scuffing.|