Sharon Laws: Breaking a bone, getting up and finishing strong
Breaking a collarbone in professional cycling is almost as common as pinning on a race number. Not quite, but you get what we mean. It's not uncommon, but when it happens, it's still pretty disappointing. Sharon Laws had the misfortune of this happening to her in the recent Tour of Qatar. She takes us through what exactly it means to have this happen to you.
It all happened so quickly there wasn’t really time to think of much. It's the same in most crashes, you land, its painful, but you focus on getting up and back on the bike due to adrenalin. It’s when you can't get up that you know something is seriously wrong.
I hit one of the notorious Qatar cat eyes. Even though you know they are there they are hard to avoid when you are riding tightly in the peloton. My hands slipped from the handle bars and, although I managed to grab the right hand side and another rider tried to push me from the left to hold me up, my wheel caught some ones quick release, breaking the spokes in my front wheel. I then lost control of the bike. I crashed heavily on my left hand side. I had quite a bit of bruising and road rash on my hip, knee, shoulder and back. I have a non-displaced, oblique complete intraarticular fracture of the proximal clavicle. This is quite unusual as it’s more common to have a distal or central break but it’s probably a result of already having a plate in distal part of the collarbone. It isn’t possible to have an operation, to speed up the recovery process, because of the area of the break.
You can’t start the next stage of the road race if you haven’t completed the stage. I was pretty sure it was broken but I wanted to give myself the option of being able to start if it wasn’t. I just thought I would hold onto the peloton for as long as I could. Unfortunately there were still quite a few speed bumps, which were pretty painful, and I had to take quite slowly. I was able to get a pain killer from the race Doctor during the race, which helped, but by the time I crossed the line the effects had pretty much worn off!
It was a long, very miserable 50km and I counted down each km. I kept setting myself little targets like; try to stay with the bunch during the sprint, get through the next 10km and reassess, get within 10km of the finish and then you can make the time cut even if you are dropped, get to 5km from the finish with the bunch.
The next steps
I’m not the greatest fan of the indoor trainer as I always associate it with crashes and rehab particularly after the big crash I had in 2013. In November last year I invested in a Le Mond trainer (having used one in the winter in the US last year) and now I don’t regret spending so much money on it. It makes the sessions much more manageable. Although it is still quite cold in Girona it is sunny so I go for a long walk between trainer sessions to clear my head, get some vitamin D and fresh air. This really helps.
I work out a plan of manageable 3 days blocks with either a gym day or a complete rest day in between blocks, as doing 2 sessions a day on the trainer is mentally challenging. I find the 2nd session particularly hard but do the harder session in the morning and cadence work in the afternoon.
I’m really disappointed to be missing the team training camp at the moment as they are doing some local men’s races and, for me, that is the best training. I know I will be on the back foot now for the start of the season and I am hugely disappointed that I will miss Strade Bianche as that had been a priority race for me. The season is, however, still long and hopefully by mid season I will be back on track. I had a huge crash in 2013 and the pain and recovery process was on a completely different scale. In some ways it makes this broken collarbone seem more of a set back than the disaster it felt like when I first broke it in the Giro in 2010.