Slick paving stones and torrential rain should have been enough of a warning. But no, I chose the shortcut anyway - and now have a bent brake lever and a bruised hip to show for it. My tumble was nothing compared to that of Discovery Channel's George Hincapie in the Paris Roubaix race this afternoon. One minute he was riding along, tucked in near the nose of the peleton, the next his hands were loose and his bike veered off the pave, as if possessed, into the grass verge and George hit the deck heavily. The slow motion replay on TV showed that his handle bar stem had snapped somehow leaving him completely at the mercy of momentum and gravity. He looked in bad shape - possibly a broken collar bone. Tough chips for the classics specialist hoping to shine at the end of his career, now that he doesn't have to slave away for his old boss, Lance Armstrong.

My own 'crash' came not in a race, but during the self-imposed, time trial-like spin, I try to put in on the way home from work. I picked myself up and kept going. Hincapie has to wait until his next race to get another stab at it. And I always win a prize when I get to the end of my race home - a bottle of beer from the fridge.


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