Jausiers, France—July 9, 2012
HSS physicians and their Italian counterparts set out to ride some of the most majestic peaks of the French and Italian Alps. Amidst the beautiful vistas, they donned jerseys adorned with the Hospital for Special Surgery name and icon and set out on 50 to 85 mile rides each day with the goal of reaching the top of epic mountain peaks legendary to the sport of cycling. After the strenuous climbs, they were rewarded with the gorgeous curving descents at often hair-raising speeds. In total, they rode over 350 miles and climbed over 41,000 vertical feet.
This is the eighth European cycling tour led and organized by Leonardo Paroli, MD, an HSS anesthesiologist. “We encourage each other to do incredible feats of endurance that we wouldn’t otherwise do on our own. Americans and Italians come together because of our shared passion for cycling.”
Participating in the rides from both sides of the Atlantic were: Dr. Leonardo Paroli, HSS anesthesiologist; Dr. Michael Gordon, HSS anesthesiologist; Dr. Robert Rozbruch, HSS limb lengthening surgeon; Dr. David S. Levine, HSS foot and ankle surgeon; Dr. Andrew Weiland, HSS hand surgeon; Matt Holland and Dr. Sarah Holland, plastic surgeon and Dr. Weiland’s daughter; Dr. Alberto Sicignano, emergency medicine physician; Dr. Gianluigi Moras, sports medicine physician; Stephen Galowitz, Bobby Cummings, Geoff Maresca, Jonathan Levine, Gavin Wolfe, J.D. Pelaez, Vincenzo Vicari, Elena Martinelli, Giampiero Casartelli, Guido Bruno, and Giulio Bucciarelli, fellow cyclists.
“We have an amazing group of people from diverse backgrounds - all brought together by the love of cycling and the outdoors. Climbing these mountains is a satisfying challenge, both physically and mentally,” said Dr. Weiland, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday. He was also joined by his wife Nancy and three granddaughters, Lucy, Ella and Audrey.
Among the cyclists were HSS patients with a combined total of at least nine surgeries of the hips, knees and shoulders. “Each cyclist pulls a different weight and uses a different pace as he ascends a mountain. To reach the peak, there must be a successful balance between exertion and recovery,” remarked Dr. Rozbruch on the resilience of human mobility.
The climbs, many of which have been featured in professional races, included Col de la Lombarde, Colle Dell’Agnello at the French/Italian border, the beautiful Col de la Cayolle, Col des Champs, Col de Vars, Col d’ Allos, and Col de la Bonette, the highest mountain pass in Europe.
Not only were there steep climbs of grades up to 11 percent, pitch black tunnels, and single lanes curving along cliff faces to contend with, but there were sheep, too! Seven hundred of them in fact that completely stopped the cyclists in their tracks at one point.
As in the Tour de France and the Giro d’ Italia, the cyclists formed pelotons to help pull each other up to the top and draft off each other on the way down. “There is synergy in cycling, when the whole is more than the sum of its parts. You can climb higher and go faster with friends and colleagues than you can alone,” said Dr. Levine.
While they all set out to conquer the Alps, the Alps attempted to conquer one. Bobby Cummings, a fearless cyclist among the group, came down a descent too fast and lost control of the bike on one of the curves. He went off the road and flipped head over handle bars twice down a rocky field. Miraculously, he was uninjured, with only a small scrape on the knee and over the eye. Unfortunately, his carbon-framed bike and front wheel were cracked and claimed by the Alps. The crash was captured on his head cam which somehow remained undamaged given the fact that the helmet it was mounted on was crushed.
This tour was a culmination of months of training starting as early as November of last year. Weather permitting, HSS physicians can be seen riding at dawn in Central Park before seeing patients or scrubbing for surgery.