Words: Ian Cleverly
Animals seem to have featured highly in the news this week one way or another. Former editor of The Sun Rebekah Brooks and her loan of a police horse by the Met was obviously the big one, but what went on in the lanes of Kent last Sunday was, whilst small fry in comparison, far more puzzling.
I had donned a hi-vis jacket to point riders in the right direction for a few hours at the Hell of the Ashdown but was not aware of one rider having fallen and broken his collarbone – not an uncommon occurrence, although the circumstances were pretty unique. He had struck part of a cow’s carcass in the road, a rib cage according to witnesses.
You may wonder how hundreds of cyclists could have missed seeing a big chunk of animal like that. Splattered badgers, rabbits and foxes are a common and gruesome sight round those parts, but half a heifer? Conspiracy theories abound. Disgruntled local resident or fell off the back of a lorry? Call for Inspector Knacker of The Yard.
I was reminded (thank you, Sarah) of a crash at the old Eastway circuit in Stratford a few years back, when a speeding rabbit tore into the middle of the bunch. It ended badly for several riders – and the rabbit, obviously. The fallen picked themselves up and dusted themselves down by the side of the track. The peloton tore round again, only to discover that a spread of entrails is trickier to negotiate than a live lupine. Down they came again…
There have been plenty of instances of dogs and horses causing chaos in major races over the years. This one is my current favourite, for the way this thoroughbred doesn’t just settle at the back of the bunch, but works its way through to the head of affairs, no wingman (or wing horse) necessary. Just brute strength and an ability to strike the fear of God into the hearts of the riders. You might want to try pulling out a pair of coconut shells from your jersey the next time you need to move up…
The consistently excellent Michael Barry has written a fine feature on crashing for the upcoming Rouleur 29 to accompany Olaf Unverzart’s images. No animals were harmed in the making of this article, you’ll be glad to hear – although Mr Barry gets his share of bangs and scrapes.