At the Commonwealth Games I met the cyclists. At the end of each day we grouped together in the television room to watch the edited highlights of the Tour de France. Towards the end of the Games, I went to watch the road race and was hooked. As the sun went down on my first sporting interest, I took up bike racing. It was fantastic. My learning curve climbed faster than my physiological decline and the racing was superb.
Later, a club mate training in the springtime evening was struck by car blinded by the low sun. His xrays were a radio opaque mechano set but when he was off crutches, we planned his comeback. One summer evening, two friends were riding side by side on the hard shoulder of a wide open road. The guy on the inside turned his head to say something to his pal only to see him catapulted 100 metres up the road on the bonnet of a passing car. He had a long and difficult recovery but is doing well now. Another friend, a former international cyclist and one of riders I first met at the Commonwealth Games, was struck by a car during a club race. The driver was rushing to the airport. He is dead. One beautiful sunny afternoon, while travelling down the coast, I passed a charity bike ride. Sunshine, a wide open road, and great support from passers by. It looked magical and I must admit that, as I drove along, I was tempted by the thought of getting back on the bike. Minutes later, coming through a small town where the road narrowed, a lorry caught a cyclist on the inside of a corner just in front of me. On the scene within moments but it was too late. She had already lost consciousness and died overnight leaving a young family.
Cycling is on the front page of the papers again this week. British cycling is on a high. A superb world cup season, medals at the world championships and high expectations for the Olympics. But, it’s not all fun. The Times is running a campaign on cycling safety after one of its journalists was critically injured in London. They have done a lot to highlight the risks and how we need to change the culture of driving. Cyclists deserve our support; we need to address the risks of riding on the road and make cycling safer.
Still, every time I see a group of cyclists, I look over enviously, jealous of their camaraderie, chat, and banter on the training runs and the buzz of racing. My heart aches. But my head rules.
Domhnall Macaulay is primary care editor, BMJ