Fatty Goes to France, Part VII: Disaster On the Way to La Berarde

10.5.2011 | 9:45 am

A “Go Big” Note from Fatty: In yesterday’s post, I asked you to help me help my friend Dustin keep a promise, by donating to my fundraising page for the Young Survival Coalition Tour de Pink. Click here for more details on that. Or just click here to donate.

Today, I’ve got an awesome additional way you can help me help Dustin get to his $20,000 goal. And this time, you’ll get some great gear out of the deal.

It’s what I’m calling the “Go Big” event at Twin Six. Specifically: today only, Twin Six will donate 50% of its gross for all size XL and larger (both mens and womens) t-shirts, jerseys, and shorts to the Team Fatty fundraising page for the Tour de Pink.

Yep, Twin Six is putting both the “Team” and “Fatty” in “Team Fatty:” half of what they take in, they donate. For size XL and bigger.

So, if you’re size XL or bigger — or you know someone who is — today’s the day to go shopping. You’re going to get awesome stuff, and half your money will go to an outstanding cause.

201110041945.jpg Allow me to make a few recommendations for items I consider worth taking a good hard look at:

  • The Argyle (Yellow): It’s on sale for $46, which means if you buy an XL or XXL, you’re getting a great deal and making a $23 donation. Nice.
  • The Masher (Womens): On sale, $46, and available in XL. A steal of a deal with a side benefit of making a great donation.
  • Cars R Coffins: I love this jersey. $75 means you’re paying normal price, and you’re also making a sizeable donation: $37.50. Wow. XL available. Or how about a Cars R Coffins t-shirt? $12 of your $24 goes to the Young Survival Coalition. Sweet! Available in XL and XXL.
  • Greaser Tech T: I love the Twin Six Tech-T’s, but they’re usually a little pricey. But this one’s on sale for $26, making it a great deal on a shirt that’s awesome for MTBing or running or nacho-eating. And $13 gets donated. XXL and XXXL available.
  • CX T-shirt. Already on sale for $16, this beautiful t-shirt’s a no-brainer if you wear an XL or XXL. And the fact that $8 of your $16 goes toward fighting cancer makes it even less than a no-brainer. An anti-brainer, if you will.

I guarantee you, I’ll be buying a few things myself.

A “Hey, That Bottle’s Not So Ugly Anymore, Is It” Note from Fatty: Last week, I wrote a post describing how I was unhappy with the look of this year’s FatCyclist.com bottles. Well, since then the fact that these are the best bottles I have ever owned (brilliant valve, easy lock, easy-to squeeze bottle) has kind of warmed me up to them, and I have no intention of returning or giving away any of the ten I got for myself.

That said, these are not exactly what they should be, and so here is what you should do if you bought one or more of these bottles:

  • If you just don’t want it: Send an email to service@twinsix.com and they’ll work with you to return the bottle and get a full refund.
  • If you’re OK with keeping it but would like a little something special from Twin Six to put them back on the top of your favorite companies ever: Use the coupon code teamfatty when purchasing any full-price item (or multiple full-price items) at TwinSix between now and the end of the year. You’ll get 30% off on that purchase. You can buy multiple full-price things and get all of them at 30% off, but you only get to use this code once, so use it wisely.

I’m pretty sure that between these two options, we’ve got everyone covered.

Disaster On the Way to La Berarde

The day started with an interesting lesson. Before we began our 2000-foot descent to The Bourg, from which we’d be climbing 4500 feet up to La Berarde, Andy Hampsten did a little seminar several of us had been asking about.

He talked about how to descend faster.

It was all useful info, but Andy predicated it with, “Don’t try anything I’m talking about today. Practice on the roads you know best; the one’s you’re most comfortable on.”

Fair enough.

We begin the ride down the mountain road from La Grave. I am in no hurry, and plan to be in no hurry the entire day; I am saving myself for the following day — our final day of the tour — when we’ll be climbing the Col du Galibier. Both sides of it.

Yeah. Really.

So when we catch up with a garbage truck also going down the mountain road, I ask The Hammer if it’s OK for us to just slow down; there’s no way we’re going to get around that truck on this road, and I’d rather cruise down this beautiful mountain without the sight and smell of a garbage truck right there.

We ride downhill nice and easy, turning on our lights when we go through tunnels.

Then, coming out of a tunnel and around a corner, we see it: a bunch of cyclists crowded around another cyclist, who is laying on the ground.

Even before we get close enough to tell who it is, we can tell from the Cinghiale jersey that It’s someone from our group.

Oh no.

We quickly dismount and walk over. It’s one of the guides.

Then I see his leg. And I realize that I can see into it. All the way to bone.

“I think I’m OK,” said the guide. “I don’t think anything’s broken. I think I can move.”

No!” say several of us, at the same time. Carlos, a heart surgeon, explains further, “Trust me on this. Your leg’s broken.” He doesn’t tell the guide what all of the rest of us can see: that it’s a textbook compound fracture.

And I’m suddenly really glad that, among our tour group, we have an EMT — Shawn — and a doctor. (It would have also been awesome to have the trip winner, Laura, with us, because she’s an orthopedic surgeon; she had gone ahead with an earlier group, though.) They get the guide covered and comfortable as possible.


I keep thinking how good it is that there are people around who know what they’re doing, because I certainly don’t.

Then we stand around and wait for the ambulance.

Meanwhile, the guide seems pretty amazingly lucid and happy, though we have to keep telling him that no, it is not okay for him to try to get up.

And a good thing, too, because once at the hospital, he’d find that he had a broken tibula and fibula, a broken clavicle, and a broken hip. Which is to say, for the next little while, he’ll have the unhindered use of one of his limbs.

We try to piece together what happened. Nobody really knows exactly, but it seems that as the guide came around a bend, he saw traffic ahead was stopped. He grabbed his brakes and went down, probably bouncing or slamming against those concrete barrier blocks you see in the picture above.

It seems weird and wrong to call anything about this kind of accident “lucky,” but there was definitely at least some good luck in how he crashed. Because he at least crashed and slid, staying on the road.

His bike, on the other hand, must’ve taken one good bounce, because it was not on the road anymore.

Nope, it had gone over that concrete barrier and continued on its own:


I know, at first that photo just looks like a shot of trees and bushes down below. But if you’ll look a little closer, you’ll see the bike, which had free-fallen for at least 50 feet. Probably closer to 60.

A couple of people went and recovered the bike. The titanium frame looked surprisingly good (I wouldn’t swear to its rideability, though). The fork, on the other hand, was a different matter:


Did that happen on initial impact, or after the fall? No way to know, really.

It seems like it takes forever for the ambulance to arrive. Eventually, though, it does.


What Now?

With the morning’s disaster over with, we’re confronted with a question: what do we do now? Continue with the ride as planned, or call it a day?

Some people want to keep riding, some want to head back to the hotel.

In a low voice, I tell The Hammer I don’t understand why the question is even being asked. Of course we should keep riding, I say. It’s not like our odds of getting hurt go up because someone else got hurt today. And it’s not like our going back to the hotel is going to help the guide get better any more quickly.

The Hammer tells me not to be stupid. Yes, I’m pretty sure she said — and I’m using the quote marks here because I’m quoting her — “Don’t be stupid.” And then she explains that not everybody reacts to trauma the same as I do. And my way of dealing with stuff isn’t the only right way to deal with stuff.

Imagine that.

On to La Berarde

In the end, some of us continue on the ride, some of us don’t. Shawn, Laura , Carlos and I head up in a group.

And I’m so glad we did, because I’m pretty sure it’s the most beautiful ride of the trip so far. The climb is steep and loaded with switchbacks, and the river is an astonishing turquoise color:


There are dozens of small-but-beautiful waterfalls on the opposite side of the canyon from us (you can see them if you click the image below for the larger version):


And we come across a church with what has to be the most incredible view in the world.


I just can’t get over how these little villages are built right against cliffs like this:


4500 feet of climbing later, we make it to the town of La Berarde, where the van is waiting for us, with a picnic in place. A good thing too, because by the time we got there, I was a whole new kind of hungry. Here’s The Hammer, drinking an Orangina and eating the only pastry I did not eat:


In fact, I got so into the groove of eating that I didn’t stop until well after I should have.

You know what doesn’t feel great? Knowing you’re going to have to get back on your bike when you’re overstuffed, that’s what.

We descend back to the Bourg, then start our almost-daily climb of 2000 feet back to La Grave. “I feel like Wonder Woman,” says The Hammer, right about at the moment I am about to ask her to maybe slow down a little. She is riding so incredibly strong.

Somehow, by the time we get to La Grave, I am hungry again. Our daily total? 64 miles and 6473 feet of climbing. About normal for this trip.

The Hammer and I stop at a roadside cafe and get ice cream and a Coke.


As we sat there, I remember asking myself, “Could I possibly be happier than I am at this moment?”

And I don’t think I could have been.


  1. Comment by Mark in Ottawa | 10.5.2011 | 10:00 am

    That is one amazing view! I’m happy to see you continued on after the horrific crash – the show (and ride) must go on…I learned that the hard way through racing as a youth.

    That crash does put into perspective how lucky we are, and how close we all are to the edge…one wrong move and that could be the end – but it’s a calculated risk, and while riding, you really can’t think of that.

    I’m so envious of this trip! I know you and the Hammer have soaked it all in and am incredibly grateful that you’re letting us ride along with you vicariously.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Mark (in Ottawa, Canada)

  2. Comment by don mueller | 10.5.2011 | 10:06 am

    fantastic experience; love reading the accounts of your trip.

    can’t read it without some envy: my heart stopped beating the way it should 3 years ago so now I have a pacemaker & defibrillator and little cardiac output. Driveways are a steep climb these days! Living in Levi’s neck of the woods, it’s tough looking at these wonderful climbs and knowing I can’t do them any more.

  3. Comment by Boz | 10.5.2011 | 10:08 am

    You and the Hammer are making a life time of memories in such a short time. I am envious, but inspired. Thanks, Fatty!

  4. Comment by Liz | 10.5.2011 | 10:17 am

    Wow, that last photo — just amazing, like a postcard.

    I hope the guide continues to have a speedy recovery. All good wishes his way. (And thanks for answering the question you KNEW all the bike fanatics had — “What about the bike?!”)

  5. Comment by Janet B | 10.5.2011 | 10:20 am


  6. Comment by Rob W | 10.5.2011 | 10:29 am

    That last photo CANT be real….What a beautiful place. My heart goes out to the guide….get well soon!!!!

  7. Comment by Gabi | 10.5.2011 | 11:00 am

    wow this looks like a beautiful place to ride!

    I wish I could take advantage “Go Big” event…I may be a fat cyclist but alas I am short. Hopefully it’ll help your friend get to his goal.

  8. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 10.5.2011 | 11:02 am

    I will try and not have Wife#1 read this post. She was a little concerned about my commute ride this week in the dark and the rain. Now she may never let me go to France.

    Pastries and Coke(diet)- Now that’s what I call a good ride meal !!! I can smell the flaky buttery trifle even here in the States. Sounds like a Bovine Bakery Ride kind of a day.

  9. Comment by Kasia | 10.5.2011 | 11:17 am

    That last picture looks like you’re sitting in front of a green-screen, as if the background is fake. That’s how stunning those views are. Man, I’m jealous!

  10. Comment by LauraS | 10.5.2011 | 11:20 am

    DavidH – Yum! Bovine is the best. Love their buckle cake.

    FYI to all, the guide is back in the Bay Area where he lives after multiple surgeries in France. Saw him last week in rehab, and he is in good spirits.

  11. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 10.5.2011 | 11:32 am

    Ok, so each day you’re giving us the values for distance and climbing but one vital “Fatty” stat is missing. What’s your calorie intake for each day? Pastries, coke, ice cream, 5 course meals? It’s gotta be up there. :-)

    Lotsandlotsandlotsandlots. – FC

  12. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 10.5.2011 | 11:41 am

    @LauraS Thanks for the update on the guide. He’ll probably want to get a tattoo to commemorate the event. Might I suggest..”Fatty was Near”

  13. Comment by Kathryn | 10.5.2011 | 11:43 am

    I really look forward to your posts about your trip to France. I’m a francophile and a ‘velophile’, and nothing brightens up my dreary work days than living vicariously through you!

  14. Comment by Mateo | 10.5.2011 | 11:43 am

    Thanks for the “fatty special” from Twin Six, picked up a great priced jersey (yup- XXL qualifies, yay me, I think) and coordinating socks…and I feel good about myself for spending the $$. Love the travel reports and the photos. Broken bones aside, looks like another amazing route, just stunning scenery.

  15. Comment by Jacob | 10.5.2011 | 1:01 pm

    Eh. You weren’t stupid for thinking it was a no-brainer to keep riding. If you stick entirely to logic (something that is by definition the opposite of stupid), you are very much correct.

    Unfortunately, humans are only partially logical animals. It’s perfectly normal to have your enthusiasm sucked out by that sort of event. You’re not disrespecting the injured by going on. You’re just upset and you want to remove yourself from the situation.

    It’s kind of like that time in high school when I was driving to visit a friend. On the way there I was stuck in traffic because a guy was killed crossing the road minutes earlier. I drove past the accident as they’re covering him up. Then I ran over a black dog on an unlit country road at night on the way back home after deciding not to visit the friend after seeing the dead guy. Completely illogical decision. But I was freaked out. Probably more because of the dog, actually.

  16. Comment by roan | 10.5.2011 | 1:05 pm

    WOW ! The last photo…you sure you weren’t sitting in front of a mural ?
    I kept looking for the “disaster” post, then thought…well (hoping) maybe it was just another deserved headlock.
    You covered this accident well & thank you, LauraS for the update. I didn’t ride after being involved in a unfortunate incident because I was in shock. But I did ride 8400+ miles during the next year and that was not enough.
    Went to T6, placed an order, even had a couple items go out of stock while looking. THX Fatty & T6

  17. Comment by John | 10.5.2011 | 1:20 pm

    Amazing stories from your trip!!
    One thing, I hope you gave the dope who lay his beautiful BMC down on the gravel a swift smack on the back of his head!
    They must be reminded of Velominati Rule # 65

  18. Comment by skippy | 10.5.2011 | 2:10 pm

    BIRTHDAY WISHES http://t.co/FjP80HTI

    Enjoyed hearing that the Guide was home in the US recovering !

    Like all hoping that the ” Galibier double “is posted tomorrow

  19. Comment by Jolene | 10.5.2011 | 2:59 pm

    Your trip looks so incredible! It’s fun to see the beautiful places you’ve been. Glad to hear the broken friend is recovering well.

  20. Comment by evil3 | 10.5.2011 | 3:17 pm

    I am disappointed, I want to know these tips on how to descend faster (granted I could learn that on my own, but still it feels like I am being cheated).

    I with you 100%, I say just because someone else crashes it doesn’t mean you should just stop. Sure you will get emotional about it, but there is no excuse to not ride when you are perfectly healthy.

  21. Comment by GJ Jackie | 10.5.2011 | 5:01 pm

    Am I the only one who envisions Julie Andrews twirling around in all the mountain meadows shots? (I know, wrong country.)

  22. Comment by Wife# 1 | 10.5.2011 | 5:45 pm

    Another riveting post – thank you! Just love these travelogues.

    Took Twin Six up on their awesome offer to donate 50% of gross sales from today’s BIG N’ TALL items and did some early FAT Christmas shopping. XL and XXL all around! Santa will be styling indeed. I hope I didn’t need to enter a code or anything. Great way to contribute to Dustin’s challenge!

  23. Comment by pathguy | 10.6.2011 | 4:09 am

    Wow, great story! Terrible to hear about the crash, hope everything is OK

  24. Comment by sdcadbiker | 10.6.2011 | 8:42 am

    Tibula? Never heard of it! ;-)
    The “lets keep riding after a crash” mentality is probably a MTB thing; in my local group if we didn’t do that we wouldn’t get to do much riding at all!
    What an awesome vacation, excellently documented.

  25. Comment by Twin Six Brent | 10.6.2011 | 11:17 am

    Thanks to everyone who bought XL+ gear. You helped raise $1057 for Young Survival Coalition (YSC) http://www.ysctourdepink.org/site/TR?px=1079280&fr_id=1180&pg=personal.

  26. Comment by skippy | 10.6.2011 | 3:04 pm

    Ridden past that La Grave cafe so many times ! Next time i will make sure i get a coke from the S/market , preferably a San Pellegrino and squat on the bike crossbar as i take a photo of this view to send in .
    6 euros is more than my daily food bill !

    Got to say that that view always grabs my attention when the weather is clear !

  27. Comment by Spence | 10.6.2011 | 7:47 pm

    Your blog especially the photos are incredible. Especially you and “the Hammer?” at the cafe with the Alps in the background. Very inspirato.
    Access my blog on biking to work by google searching “Biking the live fantastic”

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