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Fri 24th Jan 2020
A lucky escape
Posted by: Annie Emmerson
Posted on: Friday 15th May 2009

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Phil Parsons, established Ironman triathlete and loyal supporter of his wife, the well known duathlete Michelle Parsons, contacted Tri247 yesterday with news of a terrible accident that happened whilst on a training camp in Italy. Thankfully we can report that Kevin May from Worcestershire tri club (pictured top row second left) who suffered the worst injuries, is making good progress, and fingers crossed will not suffer any long term damage. Phil sent us this report as a reminder for us all to take care whilst out training, but also wanted to emphasize that the accident was simply that, an accident that can happen to any of us!

The 1st May in Italy is a national holiday – for the past five years a group of us have been travelling out to Riccione on the Adriatic coast for a training holiday around that time of year. Strangely this year we decided to do the Cippo climb on that day. This climb has gained notoriety in recent years because it was reputably Marco Pantani's training hill and there is a monument to him halfway up. It's a ride of maybe 65km to the foot of Cippo (or Monte Carpegna as it was referred to in last year's Giro) from Riccione and then a steep 7km climb to the summit (and a fairly rapid descent down the other side). As usual we stopped at the cafe in Carpegna to refuel on hot chocolate before riding the 65km back. I would estimate that we have done the ride back from Cippo maybe seven or eight times now and covered the final 30km stretch of road well into double figures because it is taken in by many of the routes out there as the road back to Taverna. Friday 1st May 2009 was no different therefore from any other time we have done that ride.

So there we were a group of nine cyclists in one single line cycling back to Riccione on a familiar piece of road moving at a reasonable pace with the front five in the line rotating around to share the work. On such rotation Kevin, the fittest and strongest rider in the group was moving back after a turn on the front. He actually said "I'm going back for a rest now" and he steadily moved down the outside of the line. He slipped back into the line in fifth position just as the road narrowed for a small bridge over a stream and then suddenly six people were scattered across the road – burning rubber and metallic scrapping were the two initial senses for those of us ahead.

It transpires that somehow Kevin had hit the barrier at the side of the road where the bridge started and catapulted himself over his handlebars and onto the barrier travelling along it for a while before being flung into the road. His bike struck the barrier and immediately shot back across the road, hit a car travelling in the opposite direction and bringing down those following in the line.

Thankfully there was another group following close behind from the Big Cow Training group who immediately stopped and helped with traffic, tending to the injured and generally making sure the safety of our group was secured. We have already passed on our grateful thanks to them.

Eventually an ambulance arrived and took Kevin on a spinal board and in a collar away to hospital in Riccione, and also another of our group, who it appeared had a nasty shoulder injury. Thankfully we had enough sensible and experienced people in our group and the Big Cow group to do deal with the problems until it arrived. Most notably was Jon Cowell who, even with injuries himself, looked after Kevin on the road and who was calmness personified in what we thought was a touch and go situation.

That evening at A&E it was mayhem. A national holiday with all sorts of sporting events taking place meant it was literally standing room only! Our hotelier, Valerio Capelli, form Hotel Montecarlo was brilliant and pestered and pushed the doctors so that both our guys received express treatment. The eventual diagnosis for Kevin was severe. The orthopaedic specialist we saw the day after confirmed that all the vertebrae fractures showing on the X-rays were old ones (he was in a serious accident 22 years ago) so collar and spinal board were removed and he was allowed to sit up in bed a little.

His list of injuries sustained included; breaking all of his ribs, puncturing his left lung, breaking his right hand, his left collar bone, and his nose. He also sustained a nasty cut to his left cheek and his chin (both requiring stitches) and many other cuts and grazes. Oh and he had a ‘slight’ concussion as well apparently. As one of our group said (it was Notty and he should know because he has had a serious bike accident himself before) "Hard as nails that boy."

For the first week Kevin had a chest drain and oxygen line to help with lung inflation. Thankfully they were all removed earlier this week.

Yesterday as he said he "escaped" back to the Hotel to convalesce before his insurance company fly him home. The Hotel and all the team there have been brilliant. Valerio and his wife and the hotel manageress Donatella, have all visited him during his stay in hospital on many occasions. The kitchen staff have sent him food parcels and looked after his parents who travelled out last week to take over from us because although we would have liked to have extended our stay further the kids would have killed us!

He tells me when he returned from hospital to the hotel his great friends Emmie and Michael Hanreck from Infinit Nutrition had sent him a supply of recovery drinks to aide his return to full health.

He's a fighter and has never complained even though I am sure he was in great pain a lot of the time and bored to tears in that hospital ward between visits with no TV and no one speaking English. He has been receiving calls, texts and emails from friends and family throughout his stay, the Italian hospitals are relaxed about mobile phones.

I guess he won’t mind me giving out his email address to anyone who wants to contact him while he is in Italy or alternatively the hotel's email address is His biggest disappointments are that he will miss the two Ironman races he had entered for in 2009 being Lanzarote and Roth, but I'm sure he will come back as strong as ever next season and knowing him as I do it may be sooner than that.

I want to stress the accident was literally just that ‘an accident’. Kevin is a superb bike handler having ridden on the track in his younger years. If the accident 100 yards either side of the bridge he would have fallen off into a grass field. No one doing anything stupid and we were not taking risks. Flat piece of road on a nice sunny day.

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