BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Boulder’s Taylor Phinney is back in Colorado recovering from a horrific crash at the US Cycling championships in Chattanooga, Tenn. last May. His injuries will keep him out of the USA Pro Challenge that begins in Aspen on Aug. 18.
It was the first major descent of the race, and descending is Phinney’s specialty.
“Once I’m going downhill, that’s my thing. And I was like, ‘Look guys, you made me suffer on the climb, I’m about to just tear you up on this descent,’ ” Phinney said.
Phinney brought along a friend from a different team — Lucas Euser.
“I’ve descended behind Taylor a countless number of times here in Boulder. I felt really comfortable just descending with him,” Euser said.
“Lucas trains with me, he’s a good friend of mine, we’ve raced together for a while,” Phinney said. “He knows that when I kind of jet off the front and descend, he should probably follow, come with.”
“We were both in what we call our ‘super tuck.’ We were going as fast as we possibly could,” Euser said.
“We came into this chicane and there was a commissaire motorcycle, which the commissaires are basically like referees of the race; and they are either in front or behind, and this guy just wasn’t paying attention”, Phinney said.
“Like it was going too slow Inside, and then he realized that we were going a lot faster than he was, so when he accelerated, he took Taylor to the inside,” Euser said.
“I tried to lay it down as much as I could to the left, but I just saw the bike slide out from under me and just stopped on the guard rail,” Phinney said. “I was doing about 53, 54 miles an hour to a dead stop, and as it turns out, steel is stronger than my tibia.”
The tibia shattered, his body crumpled, and somehow, right behind him, Euser walked away from his own crash.
“I just remember Taylor screaming and I remember getting to him as fast as I could and seeing his injuries,” Euser said. “When I got to him he was screaming and also trying to crawl out from underneath the barrier. And so I was just trying to keep him calm.”
“When he was stopping and he was sitting there with me on the ground, I was like, ‘Dude just go back to the race, like I”ll be fine,’ “ Phinney said. “But at the same time I was like screaming.”
Euser could have easily picked up another bike and finished the race. He had his own team to race for.
“It was, I’ve said this before, it was really a moment to decide whether you wanted a new bike or not … when your friend is laying there screaming,” Euser said.
In a sport where riders wait for other riders to crack, where an inch gives way to a mile, Euser never flinched and never left his friend’s side.
“You kind of struggle for a purpose in this sport sometimes. We go out and we race bikes all over the world. Sometimes you wonder why you’re doing that. I’m 30 years old, should I still be playing bikes?” Euser said. “Reflecting on this accident was something that I saw was an opportunity to recognize that it was just leading by example, just being a good person in this sport is enough of a purpose to keep going.”
Phinney had to undergo two major surgeries on his left leg and two months of intense therapy. There are too many scars to count.
“I had an open compound fracture of my tibia, which was … sticking out. To help the healing of that they stick a nail down through my knee,” Phinney said. “I hit something that severed my patellar tendon and also cut off about a centimeter chuck off of my patella.”
His rehab is ahead of schedule. Phinney can actually pedal a bike now and hopes to start training again by October.
“There’s also obviously risk of reinjuring something, but you know, you’re only young once, stupid forever,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back on the bike.”
The leg will get strong again. Their friendship – it’s never been stronger.
“It’s a piece of art,” Euser said when looking at Phinney’s leg. “That’s going to define him.”
Taylor still gets letters. Even Lance Armstrong sent a note. Euser also hears from people who are impressed with his random act of kindness.
LINK: USA Pro Challenge