Day 14 – Good News, Bad News – Colico to Bergamo


A quick day with more climbing over the mountains between Colico and Bergamo. This was a hot demanding day with some dangerous descents. Beautiful lake-side riding, twisting climbs and a historic finishing section. It’s difficult to remember the riding because I was excited I would be in the paper for Cima Coppi and my design work, while the rest of the world was actively watching the paper for the status of Pedro Horillo.

Day of Journey:
Stage 11, Day 14, May 16th, 2009.

Time Traveled:
3h 12m (118km)
Distance Traveled:
Bike – 125 km
Travel Methods:
Bike – 125 km
Total Distance Biked:
1690km (11 stages, two rest days)

Twitter: “In Bergamo, Stage 8 was short for me, because I didn’t do the lake loop. 100km total (Actually 118), with another 1200m of climbing. The sun is back!”

“Yesterday, was the first day of some pain as opposed to fatigue. The back of my left knee was killing me the whole day… and I almost put my saddle through my chest on the descent.”

So What Happened?

The riding was quite routine today with few eventful happenings except for a figuartive and literal ‘major jolt’ during a descent. While tucked aggressively with my body off and behind the saddle, weight on my pedals and over my back wheel, I hit a big crack/hole in the road that came up very quickly. The jolt caused my full-carbon razor of a saddle to slam into my sternum/xiphoid process with a tear-inducing thud, and what felt like almost punching right through my chest. I was completely winded and a little dizzy after the impact from which I would be sore for three days. The pain came from the abrupt thump in the chest, but the difficulty came from stopping and controlling the bike immediately afterward while my head was spinning and eyes were tearing. Luckily I avoided a disastrous 70kmph fall, but afterward I, understandably, found it difficult to avoid thinking about the risks versus rewards of my descent techniques on my journey, a luxury the pros don’t have.

After the stage I went to Ambivere to meet up with my CS host who had informed me that the newspaper would like to interview me about my journey. This was very exciting for me and one of the highlights of my trip. However, the eerie similarities of the day turned into a spine-chilling lump in my throat as opposed to a bump on the chest when I also heard that the news reporting a disastrous fall on the stage I had just finished riding. On the same tricky descent, Pedro Horillo, a Spanish rider for the Rabobank team lost control of his bike, going over the barriers on the side of the road and fell an incredible 80 meters (30 storys) landing alive on a small rock ledge below. Again, here I was about to speak to the newspaper about my exploits on the bike, and my love for cycling, while not far away a professional rider with a similar passion, who had a similar mishap, with much more catastrophic results was in a medical induced-coma in serious condition.

I found the following article translated from the original in El Pais which details the Horillo crash and speaks of the rider himself.

“Me chiamo Pedro” (My name is Pedro)
By Carlos Arribas

Pedro Horrillo, a cyclist of 34 years, married with two young children, jumped on his bike in Morbegno, healthy and strong, a bull, at 12.08. At 14.08, he missed a left hand curve on the swift descent that finishes in di San Pietro and fell down a ravine, a vertical wall of 80 meters, at 15.45, he arrived by helicopter, body wrecked, casing, unconscious, immobilized, his head surrounded by a splint, at the hospital in Bergamo, where he was admitted, in a medically induced coma into intensive care with a tube in his lungs.

In his long, infinite fall -80 metres the equivalent to a 30-story building; slowed by tree branches, which continually beat him, he broke his femur and right knee. Horrillo received a strong blow to the head which left him stunned, he broke countless ribs which were nailed to his lungs, causing pneumothorax. At no time did he stop breathing. Nor did his heart stop, his heart is heavy and big. Nor did he lose consciousness. After making three Cat scans -head, thorax and abdomen, the director of the resuscitation unit, Mariano Marchesi reserved prognosis. “Fortunately,” he said, “the head injury is not as serious as we would have thought, there is no bruising or swelling, but the chest injury is very serious. He also has small fractures of vertebrae, but his is not much.”

“It’s a miracle,” said Sergio Levi, the doctor who led the rescue. When you wake up and recover, Horrillo, lover of mountain and adventure, you will enjoy the story of Levi, “From the road we didn’t see anything, but we knew someone had fallen because a bike was up against the guard rail. I tied a rope around my waist and I dropped 10 meters. We still do not see anything. Shortly afterwards came the five-member rescue team Alpine Val Brembo, with longer harnesses and ropes. we went down 60 meters, to a small sloping platform. Nothing, no trace, “Come on, it is impossible to have fallen here,” I said to the rescue team, but one insisted on a going further and we descended 20 meters more. And they found him. On a small ridge two meters long and very narrow, lying, supine on the rocks, the cyclist. He was conscious, with neurological reflexes working, but confused and disoriented. “What is your name?” I asked.’ Me chiamo Peter. He responded in Italian ! A miracle! I do not understand how he did not stop falling earlier. He asked us to take him up, to to remove his helmet, it was suffocating him and he could not breathe. I did my resuscitation job and I waited for the arrival of the helicopter to take him out of there. Otherwise it was impossible. A few weeks ago I spoke in a rescue at Bardonecchia of a climber falling by 200 meters. It was much simpler than that. ”

The doctors worked 27 minutes with Horrillo. They stabilized him, placed a tube in his lungs and opened up the pathways and induced a coma. They saved him.

On the road, the police found a long straight skid mark in the middle of the curve, the signal of his desperate braking. The director of career Babini Raffaele, who came to the hospital even before the one that won the stage, the Belarusian Siutsu, raised his arms and ordered that the music be stopped on the podium. “It is critical to the team,” said his roommate, Colombian Mauricio Ardila as he held back tears. “Not only for his work on the bike but to help Menchov to make sure he is in the right group.”

A writer as well as a cyclist, and habitual collaborator of the newspaper El Pais (and to this blog), Horrillo, a philosophy graduate, recently completed an autobiographical story for a book on cycling. In it he tells of a crisis of conscience, a few months in London with his friend Bruno, a start: “But I found that nothing gives me more pleasure in life than riding a bicycle. In that old steel bike that I rented from Bruno’s brother I re-found the pleasure of pedaling aimlessly. No limits, no schedules, no one path to follow. That was freedom, and I am convinced that I never would have tasted it without that old bike. That old steel bike brought me back to cycling, it is true, but ironically I have never felt so full as a cyclist and in those days. Being a cyclist has little to do with it what you make of it as a profession. To be a cyclist is to find harmony between you, your bike and all that surrounds them. I found that in London, and in the years since then, only a few times have I tasted it with the same intensity.”

Picture(s) of the Day:

Bergamo Newspaper720 My article, in Italian, from a day and a ride I will never forget.


One thought on “Day 14 – Good News, Bad News – Colico to Bergamo

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