A Golden Square cyclist has returned home from hospital to spend Christmas with his family after suffering broken vertebrae, a broken neck and serious facial injuries in a freak crash.
Justin Mollison, 55, was on a training ride near Strathfieldsaye on December 4 when a four-inch stick flicked up from the road by another bicycle jammed his front wheel while he was riding at 45km/h.
Mr Mollison’s bike stopped dead and his momentum flipped him over the handlebars and head-first onto the road.
“I remember it all quite vividly – didn’t lose consciousness at any point,” Mr Mollison said.
“When I was riding along I could hear this stick getting flicked between other riders’ wheels and I can remember thinking to myself ‘gee, I hope that stick doesn’t jam in my wheel’ and within a split-second it had and I was falling over the handlebars at high speed.
“The bloke that was riding beside me said I had my hands on the gear and brake levers, basically my face and the top of my helmet took the full brunt. I didn’t have even a split-second, it all happened so quick.”
The Central Victorian Veterans Cycling Club member was at the back of a group of riders who rushed to his aid once they realised what had happened.
“A lot of the younger blokes couldn’t look at me and I don’t blame them because my bottom lip was torn in two and part of it was just flopping around so my face was a mess,” Mr Mollison said.
“I just lay there regurgitating all this blood until the ambulance arrived – it was like a horror movie.”
Mr Mollison was taken to Bendigo Hospital, where he stayed just five hours before being transferred to Royal Melbourne Hospital.
“They took all these X-rays and then they realised they couldn’t deal with it there,” Mr Mollison said.
“I think the plastic surgery was probably the stumbling block because my face was such a mess.
“I ended up in Melbourne, they hadn’t picked up I had a broken neck at that point. I kept complaining about this pain in my neck so I had an MRI and then my neck was the main priority.”
Mr Mollison – who works in the Visual Arts department at La Trobe University – said he still suffered pain and struggled to sleep at night, requiring an electronic chair to lay down and lift him into a seated position.
He doesn’t expect to be back at work for at least three months and while his operations are covered by Medicare, he must pay the dental costs to repair his two broken teeth.While he is staying remarkably positive about the terrible event, Mr Mollison doesn’t expect to get back on a racing bike again after the second major accident in his 23-year riding career.
“I had a bad accident 15 years ago; I broke my pelvis and gave up racing for a little while then came back to it,” he said.
“I always said if I had another bad fall that’d be it for me and they don’t get much worse than this one was. I know the consequences and really didn’t want to go through it again. When I broke my pelvis I was in traction for a month and then had another two months on sticks.
“I’d had a really good last five or six years, I had some really good results. The weekend before this crash, I’d always wanted to win the Tour of Bright, and I actually did that.
“I went from the highest to the lowest. It was only an age group thing but it was still quite a thrill for me.
“I’ll still probably ride with my wife on the mountain bike. You can’t wrap yourself in cotton wool, but by geez, it shakes you up.”
Veterans Cycling Club president Dale Lowe said Mr Mollison was a “tough character” and “a bit of a gun” and he is organising the club’s fund-raising effort for the injured cyclist.
“A lot of people have been asking about him. We usually have a bit of a raffle when all our money goes to people have fallen; it’s what any good club should do,” Mr Lowe said.Mr Mollison thanked all the people who had supported him since the accident.