Hard on the heels of my post about the death of Mike Hall comes word that Giro d’Italia winner Michele Scarponi was killed on training ride near his home in Italy. Apparently, from what I have read, the driver of a van failed to give way at an intersection, failed to see Scarponi coming along speed, and struck him, fatally.
It is one of those nightmare scenarios that crosses the mind of just about any cyclist when he or she goes out for a ride – the fact that there is this all chance that you might not be coming home. It doesn’t take much. A moment of inattention – a sneeze, a text, a daydream – by somebody in a vehicle whose mass and momentum far, far, far outweighs yours. And it is game over. No reset button.
I was struck by a truck once. By the sounds of what happened to Michele Scarponi, it was a fairly similar kind of accident. I was cruising along a country road in South Australia on a bright sunshiny morning – warm, clear, perfect visibility, an ideal day for riding.
As I approached an intersection I noticed a farm truck up ahead rolling towards a stop sign. I had right of way and every reason for expecting him to have seen me. There was no sun at my back that might have blinded the driver, I was wearing bright clothes and riding across wide open wine country; no tricky shadows. Just a thirteen stone cyclist in high visibility clothes spinning at a becoming pace along a dead straight bit of highway and only metres away from the intersection and farm truck – whose driver simply rolled through the stop sign, all the while looking straight at me. I simply couldn’t believe my eyes as I closed in on the truck, broadside, with no chance whatever of avoiding the collision. Bam! I went flying. I an still recall the violent slap of flesh on bitumen.
Considering the violence of the collision, I came off pretty well – just badly shaken up, my helmet a bit bashed and some minor damage to my brand new Cannondale tourer.
The truck driver stopped and was apologetic – at first. Once he realised I wasn’t going to sue him, he declined to pay for any of the damage and told me to go jump in the lake; it was all me fault because he didn’t seen me. Pretty much his exact words. When I heard that come out of his mouth I was sorely tempted to sue – but this was only a month or so before I was setting off my my round Australia trip and didn’t want to be involving myself with a lawsuit. I fixed up the bike, bought a new helmet and let the whole matter drop.
I had all but forgotten that episode until yesterday. Reading about what happened on that quiet road in the rolling wine country in Italy brought it back. I could visualise it all too easily. It served a grim reminder of the frailty of existence.