They Like to Ride Their Bicycles: Working as a Medic on RAB 2019
"How do you fancy being a medic on a cycle ride...
...it's a rite of passage."
We joined the RAB 2019 team at Bath. We had been at a wedding so could not start down in Cornwall, and when we arrived at the University of Bath's Sport campus, the cyclists were already 215 miles into their ride from Land's end to John O'Groats. Some riders had completed similar events before, some were repeat customers, whilst others were new to long distance cycling.
The medical team, some of whom are pictured, consisted of paramedics, nurses and doctors. Over the next week we would support hundreds of cyclists as they made their way up the length of the UK, through some challenging conditions, to reach their objective. It was an event that would take us through the valleys of the North of England right up to the spectacular landscapes of the Scottish highlands.
What sort of things did we have to manage?
Lots of saddle sores.
Each day started with the 5am saddle sore clinic. I will leave what we had to do to your imagination, but suffice to say at one point we bought an entire ASDA's worth of blister plasters.
This was one of those times when the old adage "prevention is better than cure" couldn't be more relevant.
Copious amounts of vaseline and emollients were applied and the majority of people made it through each stage. Similar to the wet feet that we encounter when working on endurance running or walking events, if the skin in the saddle area gets moist and abraded it starts to break down, which if not properly managed could spell the end of the challenge.
Sometimes we would be based at the start or finish line, whilst other times we would be running a pit-stop on the course. Most of the time we would be managing minor ailments, such as headache, myalgia and knee/leg pains.
We also had some more serious issues, with a few hip fractures, head injuries and a traumatic pneumothorax occurring over the course the event, however given the number of participants and the busy nature of many of the roads involved, the overall incidence of medical issues was fairly low for an event of this nature.
As the route progressed up to the highlands, the skies became more moody and the strength of the crosswinds increased making progress increasingly difficult for the participants.
The winds blowing across the bay in this video shows some of the conditions faced on the penultimate days of the route. Unfortunately, these winds were seldom behind the cyclists but instead they buffeted them from the sides, making it hard to stay upright.
Whenever I work on an endurance event such as this, I am always inspired by the countless people I meet, all who have stories to tell about what inspired them to start training. A great sense of camaraderie develops amongst the participants and the crew and they are always great fun to work on!