Juan Mauricio Soler still very unsure if he will return to pro cycling
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Juan Mauricio Soler still very unsure if he will return to pro cycling

by VeloNation Press at 10:36 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Colombian rider says he can see light at the end of the tunnel

Juan Mauricio SolerStill badly affected by the Tour de Suisse crash which almost cost him his life, Movistar rider Juan Mauricio Soler has moved to outpatient treatment and believes that he is making progress in his recovery. “All I can say is that I begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, but I have had difficult days and I have tackled with maturity and with faith.

“I can feed myself, can walk, but always with the help of my wife. The truth is that those things still cause me to feel vertigo,” he told elespectador.com, speaking of progress but also knowing that he has a long way to go.

Soler’s dizziness is caused by the head injury he suffered on June 16th, when he crashed heavily on stage six of the Tour de Suisse. The Movistar rider had won the second stage and was sitting second overall, 54 seconds behind then-leader Damiano Cuengo (Lampre ISD), but his entire career was plunged into uncertainty when he crashed into a spectator and hit a barrier head on.

He suffered a severe cranioencephalic trauma with cerebral edema [in layman’s terms, a severe head injury accompanied by excess fluid in the brain – ed.]. In addition to that, he experienced multiple fractures and hematomas, and was placed in a medically induced coma.

In July it emerged that he was suffering from what was termed ‘serious cognitive defects,’ with the rider being able to move at that point, but not being capable of speech. Things have continued to progress since then and he is now able to talk, albeit with difficulty.

Once the threat to his life lifted, many wondered if he would be able to someday return to pro cycling. Four months after the crash, Soler still doesn’t know, but said that he’s got other things on his mind now.

“According to medical reports sent from Switzerland to Spain, my trauma was very serious. I do not know exactly, but I think I had 19 fractures. It wasn’t easy,” he said. “I want to do many things now but at this moment, everything is very difficult for me. All I want to think of now is my recovery.”

As regards the bike, he won’t get drawn on the chances he will be able to race again. “That has certainly moved to a second level [being of secondary importance – ed.] I remember when I’d just awoken from a coma when I was at the clinic, I asked for the bike, I thought that before long, perhaps a week, I could ride again. But really, at this moment I realized how difficult my trauma was, and that the most important thing for me is being alive. Later my God will tell whether or not to race again.”

Amnesia and attitude:

Soler still can’t remember anything from the day of the accident. Indeed his sole memory from the Tour de Suisse is his stage win, although he admits that this amnesia is a good thing. He said that having regained consciousness after being transported to hospital in Spain, he doesn’t try to remember anything from before.

It’s been a battle, and a difficult path to take. He thanks the doctors and his wife for helping him to improve to the point where he is receiving outpatient treatment, and said that while he has setbacks and difficult days, that the doctors have reassured him that this is a normal part of recovery. Two steps forward, one step back.

“When things are well, you don’t appreciate everything that you have. So today I see life differently,” he said. “All I want is get out of this as soon as possible and to be able to enjoy my son, my family ...the rest will follow after that.

Soler admits that his son has been a very big part of helping him to fight hard. His attitude is that his son doesn’t deserve to grow up without knowing his father, and that this thought spurs him on through the difficulties. He’ll continue to fight hard towards a full recovery for this reason.

Amazingly, although he is frank that it has been a very tough experience for him, he shows affection for cycling. He’d be excused to be angry about it, particularly as his career since winning a stage plus the mountains classification in the 2007 Tour de France has been difficult due to injuries and frustrations, not least his Tour de Suisse crash, but his attitude is both unexpected and passionate.

“I will always be grateful, first with being alive and secondly because of the bike, because thanks to it I have seen several countries in the world, have had recognition,” he said. “Everything I am today, I owe it to the bike.”


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