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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

T of C Accident Report

I would much rather be writing a ride report of a successful 1200K, but things did not turn out as planned and therefore I put together an accident report of my recent Taste of Carolina experience.  Quick summary - I completed the first 300K before hitting an unseen pothole at around 2300 Wednesday night near Stuart VA.  I was on the ground before I knew what happened.  Injuries were too serious to proceed further.  Thus my second attempt at a 1200 also ended in a DNF.

A couple days after the accident, I went back to the scene to get a better look at the pothole.  I carefully checked my mileage from the last turn I made on the cue sheet, so I am fully confident that the culprit is shown below.  Needless to say, while I was riding this particular section of US58, it was late at night and dark.  I have a good headlight (Lumotech IQ Cyo), but visibility and peripheral vision are seriously compromised at night.

After refueling at the Willis VA control (169 miles), I departed solo around 2050 on 8/29 for what was supposed to be a reasonable 82 mile trek back to Greensboro, to finish the first third of the event.  Most of the heavy duty climbing was behind me.  I arrived at the T intersection of Cloudbreak (610) with US58 (Jeb Stuart Highway) and turned left.  A wonderful 6 miles of downhill followed, and as it was dark I held my speed back with generous use of the brakes.  About 3 miles west of Stuart, the shoulder disappears and the road just has some minor undulations as it curves around.  While pedaling up a very minor upslope, I felt the impact of the front wheel on something and the next thing I remember was picking myself up off the pavement.  I asked myself if this was a dream, and realized it wasn't when I put my hand on my forehead and came back with blood.  My handlebars were twisted to the side, so I pulled them back in position and walked over to the grass and sat on the guard rail.  I knew I needed help and waved at a couple of cars that went by.  No one stopped, so I retrieved my phone from my trunk bag and flipped it open to dial 911.  Apparently one of the passing motorists must have already called 911, because I looked down the road and saw some blue lights coming up the hill from the direction of Stuart.  A couple of police cars arrived, followed shortly by a fire truck.  Everyone was helpful and said an ambulance was on the way.  The EMTs in the ambulance worked to stop the bleeding and stabilized me for the ride to the hospital in Stuart.  Either the police or firefighters transported my bike to the hospital.

What followed was a set of X rays (no broken bones or dislocated shoulder, but some heavily bruised ribs), a CT scan, and several stitches to close up the gash above my left eye (possibly caused by my mirror).  My wife Deane was pretty upset to hear from the hospital, but kept her cool and called Tony (RBA) to let him know my status.  Tony wouldn't let Deane make the trip to Stuart VA and arranged for another volunteer (Paul R) to bring a van from Greensboro.  Much thanks to both of them, and to the hospital staff.

Paul arrived in Stuart to pick me up along with my bike, and we got back to the Greensboro Best Western just in time to see Jerry, Ed, and Geof as they were about to start the next leg of the 1200.

Anytime there is an accident serious enough to require 911 services, there is inevitably some analysis that follows.  I have already submitted my report to the voluntary RUSA online reporting mechanism that is now set up.  Would wider, lower pressure tires (and a bike designed around them) such as 650B x 42 have helped avoid this accident?  Would a handlebar mounted mirror have left a gash in my head, like the eyeglass mirror did?  If I had mounted my headlight on the fork, or even down at the hub level (instead of a couple inches below the handlebar), would I have seen that pothole in time to manuever around it?  Or were my general fatigue and lack of attentiveness the main factors?  There are so many variables that cannot be isolated from each other, making quick answers impossible.  The fact that approximately 50 other riders made it past this point safely using similar equipment (and in some cases, even narrower tires than 700 X 25) kind of rules out equipment as a major contributor.  We can't eliminate risks from life, especially if we want to enjoy some activities that involve endurance.  I am thankful that the injuries were not any more serious.