June 14th 2013 – The day of the accident.

Thanks you all so much for your support over the last few weeks and for ‘tuning’ into the Blog.  We are all hugely buoyed up by the lovely messages you have posted and knowing that you are all out there willing Russ on keeps everyone strong and focussed.  Tonight we have had nearly 17000 views!….Maybe we will be voted into next years BAFTA awards!

It is over four weeks ago since this horrible accident happened and not a waking minute of the day goes by without friends and family thinking about poor Russ and willing him to keep finding that famous inner strength of his to keep fighting and making progress.

You are all now up to speed with where he is, what has happened and how he is progressing but you may not be aware about HOW it happened.

Russ and Dani’s very good mate Roy has very kindly written an account:

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the day of Russ’s accident as many of you don’t know the details of what happened.  That includes Russ himself as he doesn’t appear to have any memory of the accident.  Apparently this is perfectly normal - the body uses loss of memory as a shock absorber for traumatic incidents.

For the last five years Russ has been cycling in late spring together with a group of friends, known to themselves as Team WDF. After a dismal rainy trip to Brittany last year, it was decided that this time we would go to the sunny Riviera, and a route was devised by Russ and Alastair to combine the beautiful Gorges du Verdon with plenty of climbing opportunities. Russ did quite a good job of keeping the route secret so that the full scale of the challenge would come as a nice surprise.
This year there were thirteen cyclists taking part.  After a late arrival the night before, on Friday 14th June Team WDF gathered for breakfast on a sunny terrace near Grasse before setting off on the first and hardest day of the trip - 120 km with 2,200m of climbing.    Russ was in his element as he alternated between encouraging the less proficient members of the group such as me up the steep hills, then speeding off to test his mettle against the more competent riders.   After a coffee stop in a small ski station called Andon, we followed the Route Napoleon and then broke for lunch at Comps-sur-Artuby, a small town full of cyclists enjoying the scenery.

Setting off again in the heat of the early afternoon, the group entered the spectacular Gorges du Verdon, eventually climbing up a long and steep hill to the Col d’Illoire at nearly 1000m.  Russ was in the front group, which gathered together at the top to rehydrate and admire the view down over the Lac de Sainte-Croix far below.  It was 5pm in the afternoon.

Russ always regards a good descent as a reward for the climb that preceded it, and in perfect conditions he launched off downhill for the last leg of the trip.  The road was an average width D-road, pretty steep, and with several hairpin bends on the first section but the sort of road that Russ has descended many times before.  After sweeping through the first few bends, he was out on his own going fast, so nobody in our group saw the moment of his crash.  It seems that his luck deserted him, and as he approached a right-hand bend at speed, a convoy of Swiss motorcyclists came uphill around the corner in the other direction.

There has been a lot of debate about what exactly happened and we will probably never know. The collision seems to have been a slight one as Russ’s bike was not badly damaged and ended up in the hedge at the roadside. After being thrown off the bike Russ ended up face down on the road after a heavy impact. It appears he did not roll, but landed heavily in the flatter lee of the bend. Dickon was the first to arrive on the scene and together with Quentin did an amazing job tending to Russ. He was clearly very badly hurt and in extreme pain, though he was quite conscious and lucid, and understood that the accident was severe.

The road was quickly closed and cars and coaches backed up as we all awaited the arrival of the emergency services. But this was a remote place, and it took a long 60 minutes and several calls for the emergency services to finally arrive. Very carefully, Russ was turned, strapped to a mobile stretcher, and taken to the ambulance to be examined. Russ was still conscious at this point and was able to give his date of birth immediately when asked. The two emergency personnel were not specialists, and shortly afterwards a red helicopter arrived overhead, circled awhile trying to find somewhere suitable to land, and then lowered a medic down a rope with some of his equipment. He spent some time examining Russ inside the ambulance and thereafter things seemed to move a lot faster. Russ was taken lower down the hill to a place where the helicopter could land, then he was gently transferred inside and the helicopter lifted off above the watching cyclists to Toulon where he is now.

After joining the shocked motorcyclists in helping the police with statements at 7.30pm I rejoined the rest of our sombre group at the hotel where we tried to take in what had happened

A huge thanks to Roy, Dickin, Quintin and the other chaps. This would have been a horrendous experience for you all too. Thanks for staying with Russ and doing all that you did xxx

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