I don’t know what I hit, but I lost control and fell hard
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche reacts as he crosses the finish line on the eighth day of the 68th edition of La Vuelta. Photograph: Getty Images
Saturday was a real up and down day for Irish cycling; Nicolas Roche took the red jersey as race leader in the Vuelta a España, while at the same time the race left Jerez de la Frontera without me. I crashed heavily at the end of Friday’s stage and in the end, unfortunately, it became clear that I couldn’t remain in the race.
What happened was that with just over 10km to go in the stage, I was following Rigoberto Uran up on the left of the bunch. I was pretty close to the front, probably in 30th or 40th position, and I just hit something on the road. I don’t know what it was, probably either a hole or a rock, but the impact wrenched the bars out of my hands and I lost complete control of the bike.
It is not often you go down without having a bit of warning, a bit of time to brake or to prepare yourself. But with this I had no time to react. It was like I had fallen out of a tree . . . I went down pretty hard.
I got up slowly and the team put me back on the bike. Two guys waited for me and we chased, somehow only losing a minute and a half.
I was in a whole lot of pain on the way back and once we got to the finish, there was just one thing on my mind: getting to the shelter of the team bus.
I basically just collapsed on my seat in the bus. I was saying random things, I was taking my ripped clothes off as fast as I could. I was in complete shock and they ended up having to get ambulance for me…I was shaking pretty violently and hyperventilating. I was in a pretty bad way for a bit there.
I knew I hit my head; I was a bit fuzzy-headed. But it was more the pain in my hip that I was worried about. When I was in the hospital I was pretty sure that I had broken my pelvis or something, so when the X-rays came back all clear, it was very positive.
There was another bonus: Seville seems to have the hottest nurse population in the world. I had a couple of cute nurses cleaning out my wounds and helping to get me patched me up. That was a bit of a silver lining!
As regards the concussion, the doctor had his suspicions immediately at the finish. We decided to wait and see how I was on Saturday – there is no point in saying the night before the race that you can’t start the next day. We are always optimistic. Who knows how you are going to wake up after a good night’s sleep?
However, while my balance was fine after the race, when I tried standing on one leg the next morning, I pretty much fell over. So that confirmed I had a bit of a concussion.