Alberto Contador, leader of this year’s Giro d’ Italia, crashed five days ago because of a spectator leaning over the barrier and holding a video camera as the racers were sprinting by at 50 Kph to the finish. The spectator effectively clothes-lined the rider ahead of Contador, causing both to go down – and causing a double dislocation of Contador’s left shoulder. You heard that right: it popped back in when he got up from the pavement, and then went out a second time as he reached for his bicycle.
An injury of this severity in any other sport would have the competitor carried off the field, followed by an extended time of recovery. Everyone knows you can’t carry on with that kind of pain. Contador apparently didn’t get that memo. He carried on racing with the team doctor’s assurance that the worst of the pain should subside after a few days. On the second day he still needed to be helped into his racing jersey, but carry on he did. As of today he still can’t lift his left arm over his head.
Pro cyclists are a tough lot. A 21 day Grand Tour exacts a huge toll of physical suffering and mental strain, all with only two or three rest days. This year’s Giro has more than 43, 000 meters, or 176,000 feet of climbing. Under the best of circumstances it’s a race of attrition. Under normal circumstances, bad days must be overcome with harder work on the next day – while surrounded by hungry competitors at the top of their game.
We’ll be hearing the media drone on about under-inflated footballs, but we won’t be hearing about the top sports story of the year. Guts, courage and determination have come together in a special way for Contador during this year’s Giro. It’s what makes cycling a great sport.