Symphony of pain, scored for clavicle

The Mighty Dog, circa 1990, riding for the Sangre de Cristo Cycling Club in Santa Fe, NM.

The Mighty Dog, circa 1990, riding for the Sangre de Cristos Cycling Club in Santa Fe, NM.

Lance Armstrong and I have something in common, in addition to brains, good looks and wealth — we both waited until our 30s to break a collarbone.

I was 35 and getting set to start my first real season as a bicycle racer when I laid it down on March 7, 1989, on the road to the Puye Cliff Dwellings on Santa Clara Pueblo near Española, N.M. I don’t remember the crash because in addition to snapping my left clavicle I coldcocked myself, totaling my beer-cooler helmet. I decided afterward that I’d probably let my Look cleats wear down a bit too far and unclipped while sprinting up a short rise, going over the bars and then landing on same. I took note of the calamity in my training diary:

“Tore off a hunk of scalp, raspberried both knees and elbows and picked up a Technicolor bruise from left thigh to waist. Doc says I can’t ride the road for a month but can do the trainer if I can stand the pain.”

I could and did, getting on the trainer for a 20-minute spin two days later. Oh, Lord, did that hurt. My heart rate was in six figures, and simply getting out of bed was an exercise in pain management; I had a water bed, and the one quick situp required to get out of the sonofabitch was no fun at all.

But I was religious about a daily trainer workout, and finally got outdoors for a road ride — on a mountain bike — three weeks later. Two months from the crash I rode the Santa Fe Century in under five hours, and on Memorial Day weekend I raced the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, albeit without distinction.

So I wouldn’t bet against Armstrong being able to bounce back in time for the Tour. It isn’t exactly the Iron Horse, true, but a guy needs a goal, no matter how modest.

Late update: The Armstrong kerfuffle sent me to rooting through the cerebral attic, trying to find a tantalizing bit of data I’d misplaced, when all of a sudden it came to me: In 1995, at age 32, Rebecca Twigg won a sixth world title and set a world record for the individual pursuit despite breaking a collarbone less than two weeks earlier. Oh, yeah — she had a cold, too.

8 Responses to “Symphony of pain, scored for clavicle”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Interesting. They have since closed most of that road, Patrick. Perhaps it was closed after the 2000 Cerro Grande fire. Looks like it would be a spectacular climb up to the Puye Cliff Dwellings.

    Broke mine in ’89 or 90 too, as it happens. I had chased down the team rabbit on a training ride and was so proud of myself that I lost my concentration and overlapped wheels with him. Next thing I knew I was prying my elbow out of my ribs and half the team had pretzeled wheels. Thought from the pain that I had broken some ribs, but then my collarbone ends started trying to kick through the skin. Oh, shit, did that hurt. So did the Tour de Wind Trainer for the next few weeks, etc., etc.

    Funny part was my then-girlfriend, now wife found out about my acrobatics because I managed, through rubberneckers and the meat wagon, to close down the traffic coming into town and her students were all late for class that day. One said “yeah, traffic is backed up all the way to Hawaii Kai because of some guy on a bicycle splattered all over the road”. Hah. Then her phone rang…

    First day back on the road was scary, as I was weak and feeling extremely vulnerable. I took the laid-back touring bike out on the emptiest road I could find, which in Honolulu takes some finding. Took a little while to recover upper body strength and confidence. Life goes on.

  2. md anders Says:

    The Puye Cliff Road is reopening this spring. Talking with the counter lady at the new “visitor center” aka gas station at the junction, it probably won’t be open to bikes. Wouldn’t want someone pulling and “O’Grady” and suing the pueblo after all.

    Since we are listing injuries. Short version; 2004, separated shoulder (hearafter known as a “Lauer”) and surgery one week after the Santa Fe Century. Five weeks later rode the Bicycle Tour of CO, the Trail Ridge Road route. Yeah, it hurt.

  3. lisafw Says:

    Must tell my broken collarbone story – it was the Pagosa Springs stage race crit & I hit a bad patch of pavement & tried to defy gravity but lost & took it all in the collarbone. I also hit my head. As I was coming to, Susan DeMattei, who is a nurse & who went on to get a bronze medal that year in Mtn Bike Worlds (which I attribute to good karma), was holding my head saying that I probably broke my collarbone. A fellow was also there who said that he was a doctor & he didn’t think that my collarbone was broken. He then went on to say he was a gynecologist. Needless to say, the collarbone was broken. Needless to say that I didn’t look this guy up for additional medical services.

  4. James Says:

    That’s why they call it “practicing medicine.” :b

  5. Khal Spencer Says:

    Would be surprised if Puye Cliffs Rd. is not open to bikes if open to MVs, but depends on who owns the road. Banning bikes would be highly irregular. I suppose the Pueblo could do it but would be worth talking to them or to BIA depending on who has ultimate jurisdiction.

  6. md anders Says:

    The road blongs to Santa Clara Pueblo. It will be gated (you can see the contruction now) and everyone who wants access has to by a pass from the visitor center at the gas station. Don’t know is they will offer some sort of “season pass” to locals or not.

  7. James Says:

    I had the chance to meet Rebecca Twigg back in the 90’s. Really down to earth and a fierce competitor. Something that is lacking in today’s crowd IMHO. It is missed….as apparently is the chance to ride free on a paved road. On one hand paying to ride a road seems to be silly, but then again considering what has been perpetrated upon the Native Americans, seems about right really.

  8. md anders Says:

    James, Not so sure the road fee is about “payback” as much as controlling the numbers of feet stoppin’ all over the ruins and avoiding jacktards dumping trash in illegal places. The road is a dead end so it’s not like folks need it to get from here to there.

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