It has been just over a week since my initial post where I promised to regale you with my experiences in the slums of McLean; where is that I hear you say? Before, we go there, a quick mention of the 2011 Tour De France is a must. It is hard to believe that it is possible to win Le Maillot Jeune without winning a single stage but that is just what Cadel Evans managed to achieve. I suspect that he will not be a popular winner amongst the French, or indeed the Europeans, because he carried on the stardom cult started by Lance Armstrong by reinforcing this perception of separation from the supporters using bodyguards. By contrast, Andy Shleck will come away from this year’s race with the lesson that you have to attack on more than a single stage. Such are the vagaries of bike racing. A good read on such vagaries is Tim Krabbe’s The Rider where he describes road racing as being the equivalent of “licking your opponent’s plate clean before beginning your own meal”.
So what of the slums of McLean? I was lucky enough to secure an overseas posting to Washington, DC in 2008 where my family and I would get the opportunity to live and work in the USA for 2 years. The price for such an opportunity: a 2nd tour in Afghanistan. So in February 2008 as I depart for Helmand province I am notified to say that when I return in August that I will be heading out to Washington, DC. I was incredibly fortunate to see the tour through unscathed and within 10 days of returning from the depths of Helmand, I was sitting at my desk and looking forward to 2 years of the American Dream. The fact that I had been in Helmand for the bulk of the Spring and Summer meant that my bike training had gone down the pan. Luckily, the austere conditions meant that my weight was well within range so I simply needed to get the miles in. So, when I got to DC, that is what I did. Contrary to some bad press, DC is not bad for cycling. There are plenty of trails and paths and I could ride the 20 km from McLean to Crystal City mostly on paths. There was a stretch of 5 km from our house to the trail but the rest was a pleasant ride along the Potomac river and under the flight path of the aircraft coming into land at Ronald Reagan airport.
About 4 weeks into our adventure, it was the 25 Sep to be exact. I was riding home and was almost there with about 800m to go and one more junction. There was a light drizzle and I was cruising along at about 38 kph when BOOM – I vaguely recall the lights of a car right in front of me and then it was over.
I awoke in the hospital as the CT-Scan was making a horrible sound and doing its thing whilst I slowly regained consciousness and caught my reflection in the polished white of this noise-making machine. What I saw was not a pretty sight. I could just make out puffed out eyes and lips and . . . . no front teeth. To add to my woes, I had 14 stitches across my temple and another 10 down the front of my shin. As it transpired a 16 year old female that “didn’t see me” was pulling into her drive without indicating and before I knew it I was part of the A-Frame of the car. I was incredibly lucky to have been wearing a helmet because that is what saved me from having much worse concussion. As it stands my balance is a little wonky in my left ear but I was thankful to survive.
The experience that I had at the hands of the US emergency services left a lot to be desired. Given that I was unconscious with no medical insurance (which was held as a group piece) I was provided with emergency cover only. So they stitched me up, put a few patches on there and sent me home. In fact, so cursory was the treatment, that a follow up session a fortnight later revealed that I also had suffered a fractured upper-arm. Suffice to say that I survived and managed to get back racing the following year.
The racing in DC and Northern Virginia was very good. Great teams, great weather and great support. So what of the slums of McLean. McLean is actually a very affluent area and we were very privileged to live there. A friend of mine nicknamed it the slums of McLean given the number of complaints that he heard from his neighbours on life, the universe and everything. Given that this friend had been born and bred in Limerick (think Angela’s Ashes) we used to laugh at the trials and tribulations of living in McLean and all those decisions that had to be made.
I will close by way of an excuse. I apologise for my tardy blog this week but this is due to the HDD on this laptop crashing earlier in the week which has caused a world of pain. I was tempted to forego my writing commitment and leave Richard to it but that would not have been the right thing to do. I will close for now. Next week, I return to good old Blighty before heading off to Ireland to see the folks and then the family holiday. This year we are going to France and, of course, we are bringing the bikes. That will be the next instalment of the Desert Roadie. Until then . . .