Below is an excerpt of a story I wrote that appeared in issue 29 of Rouleur Magazine.
Road grit dug into my sweat-soaked face as my cheek pressed against the baking tarmac. Pinned like a wrestler to the canvas, I couldn’t get up. My legs kicked and my arms twisted in a fight for freedom. Turning my head, I could see the weight above. I don’t recall the screams and yells but the photographers’ images captured my fear. Like a claustrophobic trapped in a dark closet, the sight of the motorcycle wheel on my chest, crushing my ribs created panic. Everything sped back up. I was racing to get the motorcycle off of my chest. I had to cross the finish line. The damage to my body was secondary.
The heat of the motorcycle, the hot tarmac and the baking sun fueled an inferno around me. My shredded and burned skin was still too raw to hurt. The driver inched the motorcycle off of my torso, while the cameraman on the back balanced the video camera on his shoulder. I now realized I had been under its wheel as they skidded to a stop.
The road etched a smooth black line in the arid Spanish countryside. Beside the road, beige dirt and gravel slopes led to hundreds of kilometers of olive groves. There were no spectators at the roadside to help us up, hear our cries or stand with mouths open as they gawked at our wounds.
Before the crash, the peloton had become a long thin line on the sinuous, undulating roads under the pressure of the fierce tempo set by the leading team. On a short climb the peloton pooled and riders at the back of the bunch yelled ‘mercy’ to the leaders. Our directeur sportif, Johan Bruyneel, encouraged us to “hang on” and “move to the front.” Even from behind the peloton in the team car, he could sympathize with our effort. The subtle intonations in his voice that crackled over the radio expressed either sympathetic encouragement or a command.