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Cyclist rides through the pain barrier
10:41am Tuesday 15th October 2013 in Sport
HOW do you fancy cycling up three of the highest peaks in Yorkshire in one of the toughest two-wheel races in the world? How about doing it with a sprained wrist, split eyebrow and cracked ribs – oh, and a punctured and collapsed lung?
That’s what Pete Smith from Princes Risborough did last month, before being rushed into surgery the moment doctors got their hands on him.
The 56-year-old was taking part in the Three Peaks Cyclocross race in the Yorkshire Dales, which sends riders up Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-Y-Ghent.
It’s billed as the toughest Cyclocross event in the world and takes riders three times as long as other races of similar distance.
Smith said: “It’s so steep at time you’re carrying your bike over your shoulders and pulling on clumps of grass to pull yourself up.”
It’s not easy at the best of times, and Smith felt ill even before he started.
He considered withdrawing, but the competitor spirit won out and on a cold Sunday morning he found himself saddled up on the start line.
He said: “I didn’t feel great but I started the race and within 15-20 minutes forgot about feeling ill and got stuck into it.
“I was really tired by the time I got to the bottom of the third hill and was deep into my reserves.
“But I was determined to finish. I came off once at the top when I was going over some rocks, but that wasn’t too bad and I got back on and carried on.”
That’s when the trouble started, as he tried to make up time on the fast descent.
He said: “As I got towards the bottom I started picking up speed, but then the front wheel went into a loose stone.
“It went sideways and threw me over the top. I landed on my face, broke my front teeth and cut my head.
“My chest must have landed on a rock too. I guessed I’d cracked some ribs and there was a lot of blood in my eyes.
“I’d hurt my hand too and it was difficult to hold onto the handlebars.
“But I only had another two and a half miles to the finish. I was feeling sore but the adrenaline was still pumping so I got back on.”
Incredibly, Smith came in sixth in his age group and 65th out of more than 600 starters.
But that wasn’t the end of the ordeal. He still had to cycle nine miles back to his hotel, load up the car and then drive the 250 miles to Bucks.
His wife promptly told him to go to hospital, and by the following morning he had no choice.
He said: “I felt really rough on Monday morning and went to A&E at Stoke Mandeville.
“They took an x-ray and then basically operated on my there and then.
“I’ve found out since that if the lung totally collapses you can go into cardiac arrest. I didn’t realise how serious it was.”
Not surprisingly, Smith has had to pull out of a week’s racing in Belgium – although he’s gone to watch – and a holiday in Majorca has also been scrapped.
He said: “This has ruined my winter so I probably won’t do the Three Peaks next year, but I’ve done it five times and will go back one day.”
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