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NorCal cyclist overcomes crash, injuries to race Tour of California

By Patrick Ibarra

Nearly a year ago, cyclist Lucas Euser was training in Spain when he was involved in a crash with an SUV, sending the promising rider tumbling with multiple injuries. Now, a year later and after rehabbing a broken kneecap, the Northern California cyclist is ready to compete against some of the best in the world again.

As the Amgen Tour of California sweeps through the state starting May 16, Euser will join his SpiderTech powered by Planet Energy team to compete in the biggest race in the United States, also racing alongside greats like Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer as they cruise through the countryside of California, starting fairly close to Euser’s own hometown.

“The Tour of California is a big race,” said the 26-year-old Napa resident. “It’s a big race for our team and the biggest race in America right now. It’s an honor to race with guys like Levi and Lance and all the other guys teams are sending. It will be cool to race with those guys again, and I’m doing it in my home area.”

Lucas Euser will ride for SpiderTech powered by Planet Energy in the Amgen Tour of California. (Photo courtesy Hugo-Sébastien Aubert for Cycle Sport Management, Inc.)

A year ago, Euser might not have been so optimistic about this week’s events. While training in Spain, an SUV passed him and turned in front of him in the bike lane, causing Euser to crash into the side of the vehicle at a high speed. He was thrown from his bike and to the ground, where he laid for 25 minutes before an ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital.

“I was just out on the roads in the bike lane and a car did what a lot of cars do and didn’t pay attention and hit me,” Euser said. “I was minding my own business when a car passed me on the left-hand side, got 15 feet in front of me and then turned down a dirt road.

“I t-boned the car at 35 miles per hour. I hit the rear-door panel with a blunt impact. It was like Wile E. Coyote slamming into the side of a cliff.”

Euser went into a mild form of shock while waiting for paramedics, and worried about handling the situation in a foreign country until a strong support group from the area joined him in the hospital.

“I broke a couple of ribs, but the worst of it was that I shattered my kneecap,” he said. “I smashed it hard enough to break it into a few pieces. I look back and wish I would have broken something else because I would have been back a lot sooner. You rely on your knees a lot more than you think. A year later I’m still dealing with it, but it’s much better.”

A year’s worth of rehab and a recent ride in an 8-stage race in Mexico has Euser confident he can jump back in the saddle at the Tour of California and put forth a good effort for his team.

“I talked to other cyclists with knee injuries and they said, ‘Don’t even think about it in any less than a year,’” Euser said about coming back. “From a medical standpoint, the kneecap healed in a funny way. The compression doesn’t help it heal like it would on a broken femur. The two major tendons constantly pull the kneecap apart. Every time you bend it, it stresses it more and more.

“Three months out I felt like I could use it, but the x-rays didn’t show it heal completely until almost six months out. It took a really long time. I committed that full year to getting back and rehabbing, and amazingly enough, the year ends when the Tour starts.”

The crash happened on May 14, 2009. The Tour of California starts this Sunday, May 16. While Euser is confident he can compete with the knee, he’s remaining realistic about his chances of winning the race.

“I’m not really that nervous with the knee,” he said. “I worked my butt off to get here and reap the rewards. But you have to be realistic in this sport when you’re testing your body’s limits. I’m in no means trying to win the race. I would like to race aggressively, targeting stage wins or a jersey, or just helping my teammates.

“I wish I could go stomp everyone out there, but that’s not going to happen. Winning will hopefully come down the road. Hopefully I’ll be able to represent my team well and give the pro tour guys a run for their money.”


8 comments, add yours!
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