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Australian cyclist Paul Crake, 29, is set to undergo surgery in New Zealand's Christchurch Hospital after suffering spinal injuries in a crash during Saturday's stage of the Powernet Tour of Southland.
Crake was one of five cyclists blown off the road by a powerful wind gust as they headed into the final two kilometres of the 79-kilometre eighth stage from Te Anau to Lumsden, north of Invercargill. He was taken to Invercargill Hospital by ambulance and on Sunday flown by air ambulance to Christchurch.
Scans have revealed minor fractures to his C1 and C2 cervical vertebrae and dislocations of his T5 and T6 thoracic vertabrae. He also sustained numerous cuts and bruising. Doctors say it is too early to predict the full impact of his injuries but will operate to stabilise his cervical vertebrae and to pin and secure the T5 and T6 vertebrae.
ACT Cycling Federation president and competitive cyclist Steve Blair was by his team-mate's side within moments of the crash occurring. "Two kilometres from the finish of the stage they came down a slight descent and it was just incredibly windy and they were caught by a gust and blown down the bank," said Blair. "Four riders got up but Paul didn't.
"Paul hit his back on a fence post at the bottom and lost consciousness for four or five minutes but when he came around he was quite lucid and all his vitals were good," he said. "The race doctor was on the scene really quickly and did all the right things to immobilise him and get him to hospital. Paul is fully aware of his situation and the nature of his injuries and his Mum and Dad are here along with friends to give him all the support he needs as he recovers from the surgery," said Blair.
Crake was a member of the Australian team at the 2004 Road World Championships in Italy, was third in the road race at last year's Australian Open Road Championships and this year placed second on the fourth stage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under into Willunga. This season he has raced with the Naturino Sapore di Mare team in Italy.
He switched from stair-climbing to cycling in 2002. As a stair-climber, he notched up five straight victories in the annual sprint up the 86 flights of stairs (1576 stairs) to the top of New York's Empire State Building between 1999 and 2003 and still holds the record for the fastest ascent of 9mins 33secs.
CSC testing programme
This week, Team CSC and Department Z at Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark are set to launch their joint anti-doping programme. The project will be the most comprehensive testing system in professional cycling, with close to 800 tests being collected from Team CSC riders starting in December and continuing throughout the 2007 season. The main part of the tests will be collected out of competition. Rasmus Damsgaard, MD, PhD, will be supervising the programme.
"This programme is a truly unique piece of anti-doping initiative. It is groundbreaking in both its shape and content. For me, the most important thing is to guarantee the Team CSC riders a better protection of their health. They should be able to compete in a safe and healthy sport, and this project will definitely enable them to do just that. Hopefully, it will also create a stir within the world of sports in general, hereby adding pressure so that more programmes like this will see the light of day. This project with Team CSC will help show just how serious and uncompromising anti-doping work should be," says Rasmus Damsgaard, who will begin his work in South Africa at Team CSC's first training camp ahead of the new season.
"Our ambition is to be pioneers in the work against doping, so we are very proud to initiate this programme," said CSC team boss Bjarne Riis. "We have worked closely with Rasmus Damsgaard to develop the programme and we think it gives us a unique possibility to do something for the future of cycling and maybe sport in general. I have no qualms about submitting our riders to the most rigorous tests out there, because we want cycling sport to be a clean sport.
"I have faith in the fact that our riders have the right attitude and I would like for them to be able to show this to the world. I am hoping this initiative will pave the way for other teams to follow and as a result help rid our sport of doping altogether. We have taken a very big step towards this and it will help demonstrate how serious we are about anti-doping, and at the same time we firmly believe that given the right conditions professional cycling has a great future ahead of it."
The British-based Events Group have been appointed consultants to the new Montreal to Boston stage race, which will be added to the 2007 race calendar from August 5-12, 2007. The 2.1-ranked eight-day stage race starts in Montreal, with four days of action in Canada. The peloton then crosses the border to the USA, where the remaining four days will culminate in a spectacular finish in the city of Boston. The new tour has the full support of the Quebec Government and the mayor of Boston.
The race is being promoted by Canadian Daniel Manibal, who has much experience in running major events, having been the organiser of the UCI women's World Cup event in Montreal for many years. The Events Group, who are also the organisers of the Manchester round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in February, will provide detailed technical and promotional consultancy to the race organisation.
The race is sanctioned by both the US and Canadian cycling federations and is expected to attract major teams from both of those countries, as well as big names from Europe. The field will be made up of 20 teams of seven riders and the organisers are expected to be able to start to announce the team entries shortly.
Events Group MD Alan Rushton is excited about the new race. "We are delighted to be working on this new event," said Rushton: "And looking forward to contributing to its future success in many different ways. We are targeting a range of entries from the top European teams as well as those from North and South America."
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