It happened quickly. One hundred miles into our 400K, we crested a hill in the Uwharrie Mountains and started a steep downhill run. A small white dog, keen for action, heard us coming and wandered into the road. The first group cleared him on the right. This dog was unpredictable; he turned a circle in the road and headed to the left once more. This was big trouble.
Not sure what he'd do next, I scrubbed off as much speed as I could; I was prepared to stop and make a stand, and I shifted my weight behind the seat on the chance that he crossed my front wheel. If he cut back my way again, I was on track to hit him square on.
I managed to slip by on his right and released my brakes, picking up speed again. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that Wes had cleared him as well. I thought we were all in the clear until I heard a rider and bike hit the chipseal.
John M caught the dog broadside and went down hard. I turned to see his tumble, and the contents of his handlebar bag -- a cellphone, a food container, a pair of shears -- spilling onto the road. We stopped immediately and circled back. The dog was long gone (John would see him on the return leg and note the dog had a well-defined tire mark across his flank.)
John was dazed but he was sitting up. Blood was oozing from a deep, ragged divot of skin near his elbow. John is a doctor and I watched as he instinctively checked his legs, his hip, his arm, the shoulder he'd rolled on.
His self-diagnosis took less than 30 seconds.
"Well, I don't think I broke anything," he said. Even shaken, he was calm and matter-of-fact, and he made it clear that he would press on. He needed the 400K as a qualifier for Paris Brest Paris. A dog and a divot were not going to stand in his way.
We took about 15 minutes as John gathered himself up. He made a makeshift bandage using a glove liner and an elastic ankle band to hold it on. Ende collected the items off the road and returned them to John's front bag. I checked over John's bike, put his chain back on, tweaked the bent front fender, straightened out the brake levers. On a short test ride, the bike had a new rattle in the front fender, but everything else seemed fine and the front wheel was true.
We pushed on. John was understandably slow for the first few miles, and he complained of being sore, but his form slowly returned. At the turnaround, he borrowed a flexible knee brace from Lynn and used its compression to hold a bandage in place for the rest of the ride.
John finished with Jerry and Terry just before midnight. A tip of the hat for gutting it out on a very tough 400k course. And a tip of the hat to Geof, Lynn, Branson, Capn, Wes, Jimmy and JoeRay, who had an inspired day off the front.
To all of the riders out there on the course, wasn't that a great day for a bike ride? Let' s do it again. But watch out for the damn dogs.