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by Shane Stokes
January 18, 2018
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Nineteen months after he crashed and almost died, losing huge amounts of blood when he severed blood vessels in his neck, Keagan Girdlestone returned to UCI racing on Tuesday and performed solidly. The 20-year-old South African competed in the opening stage of the New Zealand Cycle Classic and finished in the main bunch.
Girdlestone crossed the line in 64th place, finishing in the same time as the 11th place finisher Anthony Giacoppo (Bennelong SwissWellness Cycling Team), who led the bunch into Masterton. They were 24 seconds behind breakaway duo Nicholas Reddish (Oliver’s Real Food) and Hayden McCormick (One Pro Cycling).
The South African collided with his team car during the Coppa della Pace race on June 5 2016, hitting the rear window while chasing back on a descent. Suffering huge blood loss due to lacerations to his carotid artery and his jugular vein, he was hospitalised in severe condition.
He suffered several small strokes, had uncertain prospects of survival and remained in a coma for several days. Doctors were initially sceptical if he would ever walk again, but he did that and then returned to outdoor training in November of that year.
He rode his first race nine months ago, but Tuesday’s opening stage of the New Zealand Cycle Classic was his first UCI event since his crash. The race is five stages in duration, giving Girdlestone the chance to continue what has been a remarkable comeback.