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“I am super happy to be back at full form,” Torckler said. “I hope this result does proud all those who have stood beside me and supported me through the rehab.”

Photo: Bissell Pro Cycling






15.08.2013 @ 09:40 Posted by Lukas Knöfler

Michael Torckler (Bissell Pro Cycling) is a true comeback kid. 14 months after a hit-and-run accident that left him in critical condition, he’s back in the pro peloton for good: On Sunday the New Zealander won the King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour of Utah.


After two seasons on the New Zealand U23 national team, Torckler went to Spain at the age of 21 in order to race on the local amateur circuit. In the colours of Construcciones Paulino, he won a stage and finished second overall in the 2009 Vuelta a la Montaña Central de Asturias. In January 2010 Torckler won the 2.2-ranked Tour of Wellington in his homeland before returning to Spain to race for Azysa-Cetya-Conor, winning the San Martin Proba de Ataun and the Clásica Ciudad de Torredonjimeno.


These results lead to a contract with New Zealand’s Continental team Pure Black Racing for 2011, but in the 2010 Tour of Southland Torckler fractured his collarbone. And in the first race back, the Tour de Vineyards in January 2011, he again suffered a crash that weakened his knee to the point that the knee cap broke in two in a freak accident a few weeks later. Because of this new injury, Torckler didn’t race for most of 2011, only starting again in September with local races in New Zealand.


2012 started off better: After a 11th place in the national road race championship, Torckler showed he was on the road back to his best when he finished 25th in the high-quality Tour of Langkawi. Two months later the Kiwi won the first stage of the inaugural Tour of Borneo, and defended the race lead until the end, making this his second victory in a UCI-classified stage race. And after confirming his form with an 8th place at the Jelajah Malaysia and a 19th place in the Tour de Beauce, Torckler got a deal with US-based Bissell Pro Cycling team for the rest of the year.


He was scheduled to ride the Cascade Cycling Classic in July and the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge in August, and stayed in Santa Rosa, California to train with his new teammates. On one of these training rides on the 30th of June, Torckler was hit by a car that cut a corner in a bend. The car was going uphill at less than 30 km/h which probably saved Torckler’s life. Still, the then 25-year-old was thrown off his bike and hit the car windshield, breaking his arm and suffering multiple facial fractures.


The driver fled the scene, but was later arrested. He had been driving without a license and has since been convicted of a.o. reckless driving and hit-and-run, being sentenced to 10 years and 4 months in prison. He has previous convictions and was prescribed medicine for a mental condition, which he didn’t take on the day of the accident.


Getting first aid from a Santa Rosa city employee, Torckler was then airlifted to a hospital where he arrived in critical condition. Remarkably, he hadn’t suffered any brain damage, although Torckler has no recollection of the accident. After a few hours the rider was moved to intensive care, and could be discharged after only 12 days. When returning to New Zealand a month after the crash, he was ready to get back on his bike again, starting with indoor trainer sessions.


After 4 months Torckler returned to racing at the 2012 Tour of Southland, helping his Bissell teammate Carter Jones to win the hilltop-finish stage 5 and finishing the week-long race in 61st place. He continued to improve at the New Zealand Cycle Classic (the successor of the Tour of Wellington) in January 2013, finishing 4th overall. After racing smaller races in the US, Torckler lined up at the Tour of California in May for his first HC race. He finished the race in 64th place, but again supported Carter Jones who took home the King of the Mountains jersey.


And last week, the New Zealander equaled that feat in the Tour of Utah: He went into the break on stage 1 with only Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare) for company, and took maximum points on the two climbs, earning him the mountain jersey. On stages 2 and 3 Torckler collected enough points to defend his lead, and then went on the attack again on stage 5 to seal his victory in the King of the Mountains classification.


“I am super happy to be back at full form,” Torckler said. “I hope this result does proud all those who have stood beside me and supported me through the rehab.”


Torckler will line up for the USA Pro Challenge on Monday. Read the preview on the United States' highest-altitude UCI race here on closer to the race.



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