George Hincapie sits on the ground after crashing during Stage 1 of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California. He would finish the stage.
Photo: Jesse Hammond/Active.com
At one time or another, if you ride bikes long enough, you will crash.
If you're lucky, all you'll get is a little road rash and maybe minor equipment damage. If you're not as lucky, you might get a broken collarbone keeping you off the road for six weeks. During that six weeks you can still ride indoors, but what you can do is limited.
If you are even more unlucky, another rider will do something silly that makes both of you crash. You end up with a shattered bone in your arm. The ulna, broken near the elbow joint, requires surgery with new hardware installed to keep everything together.
An additional bonus, along with an overnight hospital stay, is a gigantic hematoma on your quad. The hematoma is so big and painful that you can barely move your leg. You need a cane to walk.
The doc decides not to drain the hematoma and tells you it will be four to six weeks before you can get on an indoor trainer. It takes that long for the hematoma to break up and absorb.
After you are allowed to begin indoor training, the doc says it will be another four to six weeks before you can ride outdoors. It will take that much time for the bone in your arm to heal enough to handle the road vibrations.
The incident occurs during the first part of February and you have a two-day stage race you want to do in mid-June. You also want to do another event in September, a 200-mile road race.
Argh!! Can your season be salvaged?
The story about the broken ulna and giant hematoma is true. We'll call the rider Ray.
After the crash, Ray called me to see if we could set up a post-crash, fast-track-back-to-fitness training plan. Though the crash didn't happen on my group ride, Ray does show up for many of my group rides and I have helped him with training plan strategies in the past.
I was interested in helping him get back to riding—and riding strong—as soon as possible. That written, the fast track should not compromise his health or crash recovery in any manner.
The challenge would not be easy; but after some initial planning, I was certain it would be possible for him to be ready for the first event. If he responded well to the training, I thought he could have a respectable race. If he didn't respond to training and he didn't heal well from the crash, the stage race would need to be scrapped.
Health First, Sport Performance Second
About four weeks after the crash, Ray tried doing some spinning on a recumbent bike, but his leg was not capable of making circular motions. He still gave it a shot, but said the motion was rather herky-jerky. It turned out to be a full six weeks before he could ride on an indoor bike. The work required to regain his cycling motion was slow and painful.
Before we launch into the details of Ray's training plan, know that he is a high-level masters rider. Though he is relatively new to racing, he is strong and stays fit year round. Before the crash, he was riding between nine and 14 hours per week on most weeks.
When I design a training plan for a cyclist returning to riding post-crash, I am careful to begin with mostly aerobic sessions to see how the rider handles endurance work, concurrent with the main job of healing from an injury. I give a range of training time and optional training sessions, so that if a rider feels good they can go longer or add the optional session.