Car hits a cyclist from behind fracturing his spine, driver fleds away

I landed on the ground and slide a few feet. Between pain and shock, I got a glimpse of its tail lights and thought, it had to be a Ford Mustang.

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It seems ages ago that I posted a travelogue on my cycling trip in Utah. But this was only in June of this year. A lot has happened since then to make this a distant memory.

I did manage to go for another 100kms ride on the 1st of July to complete 12 months of doing at least one 100km ride each month. This ride was in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a fitting end to the series even though I was recovering from a hyperextended knee damage.

Around Mt Washington

A couple of pics from the ride:

With my riding partner for the day.

The beauty of this waterfall was that it was in the middle of a killer of a climb, giving a good enough reason to stop and catch your breath.

This was also going to be the year that I would try for the Super Randonneur award, which is given to riders who complete 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k rides in a year. I had all of them in the bag except the last one, the big 600K ride. I was building to it quite nicely too as I was at my lowest weight ever (86 kg for 6’2″), body fat was hovering around 17%-18%, my Heart Rate Variability was in the high 80s and resting heart rate was in the mid 40s which was not bad for a 45 year old. Thanks to regular sessions of weight training, I was also fitting into clothes that I had bought when I was in early 30s.

I had selected a 600k brevet in the western New York state which had the route in a clover leaf formation. This meant that the 600k was split into 2 rides, a 400K and a 200K both ending at the same place as the ride start. The ride was scheduled to start at 5AM on 15th. With hotel reservations done and the ride registration complete, I headed to the town of Ontario, 400 miles away in New York on the 14th.

The Main Event

For the first time ever, I was late to start the ride. My ride started 15 minutes late so I was mentally playing catch up even though I knew that given my pace, I had plenty of time. At the first checkpoint, I caught up with 2 riders and the three of us decided to ride together rest of the way.

Soon one rider started falling behind so he asked the two of us to carry on, as he was only doing the 400k ride whereas we were doing the 600k. So, it was important for both of us to have enough time in the bank at the end of 400k to get a few hours of sleep and then resume the remaining 200k. With that decided, the two of us carried on ahead.

We rode through Niagara falls just when it was at its peak tourist rush and the route required us to navigate through the hundreds of tourists out to have a nice day at the falls.

Somewhere along the way, it started to rain as well! And then I had a flat too! But among all this, it was going pretty well.

With all of that, we were still doing pretty good time. Soon we were on a nearly deserted stretch of road, which was still a 4 lane divided road. The time was around 8:30 PM. I saw a car approaching us in my helmet-mounted rear view mirror. I told my riding partner in front, “car back” and we moved to the right of the rightmost lane. Next thing I know is that my bike has been thrown forward from under me, I am airborne and my back hits something before I land on the ground and slide a few feet. Apparently, I have been hit by the car.

The driver stopped ahead, revved his engine and sped away. Between pain and shock I got a glimpse of its taillights and thought, had to be a Mustang. So there I was, lying on the road writhing in pain. My riding partner was in a bit of a shock too. My bike had hit his rear wheel but he managed to stay upright somehow. He urged me to move to the side of the road since there was a possibility that someone may run me over. I dont know how but I managed to crawl to the side of the road and lie there. My lower back was hurting real bad and there was some pain in my neck too.

My phone had flown out of my jersey back pocket but I was able to use my watch’s Find My Phone feature to ping it and my friend found it and brought the phone to me. I first called the ride organizer and left him a voicemail. Next, I realized that I had to call 911 because I surely needed to go to a hospital.

So, I called 911 and they were able to figure out what my location was. Soon there were half a dozen police cars and a fire truck at the location. They put a neck brace on me and put me on a stretcher. After some time an ambulance arrived and I was loaded into it and carried away.

The Night and Next Day

This ride was also the first time that I was able to get the live location sharing feature of my Wahoo GPS to work, so my kids back home were tracking my location every now and then and sending me best wishes for the ride. Knowing this, I was worried that they will be wondering what happened to me, so on the way to the hospital, I asked the nurse to call my wife and let her know what happened.

It was a long night as they took me for a CT Scan, and then waited for the images to be analyzed. Meanwhile, I was not given anything to drink or eat in case I needed a surgery. Note that I had been biking the whole day and although I was keeping myself well fueled, I was starting to get thirsty. On top of that, I was strapped to the bed to prevent any movement and being locked into that position, along with the pain from the injury was starting to get troublesome.

The resident nurse who was assigned to me did his best to make sure I was comfortable. He chatted with me, assured me that I am in good hands and encouraged me to hang tight. Some time during the night, his shift got over and another nurse took over, and another patient came in on the bed next to me. That patient was not being very cooperative so the nurses were dealing with that patient way differently than they were dealing with me. That made me marvel at the people skills that they have and deploy. Truly amazing!

Anyway, long story short, I had a burst fracture of L2 vertebrae and a fracture in the sacrum. The spine specialist team came to see me, did some tests to see whether there was any numbness or tingling in my extremities. This was followed by a visit from a physiotherapist who assessed whether I could walk and climb a couple of stairs. Meanwhile, they were saying that I will need to go for an MRI as well. However, after the visits from the spine team and the physiotherapist, they concluded that my fracture did not require surgery, so they canceled the MRI. The injuries will heal on their own in 6-8 weeks. I was given a temporary back brace and discharged with painkillers.

Remember the two riders I met at the start of the ride and we decided to ride together? They came to the hospital the next day and took me back to my hotel room and also brought the car from the ride start location to the hotel.

Meanwhile, back home, which was 400 miles away, my wife reached out to our friends and told them what had happened. Immediately they got into action and put together a plan to bring me and my car back home. The doctors had cleared me to travel. The accident happened on Saturday night, I was discharged on Sunday morning, and my wife and friends arrived later that night.

2 of my friends headed back right away in my car while one stayed back. The three of us drove back on Monday. The nearly 8 hour drive back home was not the most comfortable one but then again, it was not as bad as I feared. Some painkillers, ice packs, Biofreeze spray and last but not the least, deep breathing exercises helped me get through the journey. Never had I been so glad to be back home.

As for my bike, it was totally wrecked. You can see the cracked frame circled in yellow.

The Recovery

Believe it or not, in my 45+ years of existence, this was the first time I had ever broken a bone. And it brought me a better understanding of what others go through when they are injured and recovering.

Diagnosis was that I had a couple of broken bones. Prognosis was that they would heal on their own. I scheduled a follow-up with an Orthopedic close to my house, who also specialized in spine injuries. I was to wear a custom brace for the next 2 months in order to prevent the broken vertebrae from getting worse and to let it heal as is.


This would be followed by physiotherapy to strengthen the muscles around the spine, because wearing this brace meant that all of those muscles will start to whither away and will need to be retrained and rebuilt.

For the next few weeks, moving around was painful. I remained mostly on the upper floor of the house and avoided stairs. Turning over in bed was painful, getting out of bed was painful, and forget about trying to pick something up from the floor. Lot of friends came over to check on me and wish me well. My wife made sure that I drank at least one cup of “kharode ka soup”, which is bone broth made from goat trotters (paya) and is known to help heal broken bones.

I resumed working the week after the accident. I was allowed to work from home full time which was a boon because initially, I could not sit for more than 30-45 minutes without having the need to go lie down. Almost 2 weeks later, I started going out for walks. Exactly 2 months later, I put my other road bike on the indoor trainer and did a small indoor ride of 10 miles. 2.5 months later, physiotherapy started.

According to the physiotherapist, the plan was to retrain the transverse abdominal muscles (TVAs for short) and hip flexors, both of which support the lower back and because of the brace I had been wearing for 2.5 months, had lost some strength in them. incidentally, I felt more comfortable driving than being a passenger. Holding the steering wheel with both hands allowed me to keep my torso stable.

Now it has been 3 months since the accident. According to the local Ortho’s playbook, my injury has healed and there are no restrictions any more. I am going for physiotherapy twice a week. While there is no pain from the injury any more, my lower back gets tired before the day is over. Still, some normalcy has been restored. I have been doing Zwift rides for almost a month now.

Last weekend, the weather was nice so I even went for an outdoor ride as well, exactly 3 months after being hit. I could barely ride for an hour though. And I felt each bump in the road on my back. So, there is still a long way to go as far as building the endurance back up is concerned. But all said and done, I am thankful to whoever was watching over me that night and ensured that I am still here.

I am thankful to all of my friends here who really came together and supported the whole family as we went through this ordeal. It would not have been easy without them.

I am thankful for the outpouring of support from my connections on Strava. One gentleman whom I have never met, offered me a lot of support and guidance on what to expect, who to see along with a lot of encouragement. One day I will go for a ride with him probably.

Last but not the least, I am grateful for my wife who has been like a rock through all this. I cannot imagine what she went through that night of the accident and since then. To top it all, she still supports my biking.

I feel truly blessed.

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