A small crash in the mud at Champéry, Switzerland has left Maxxis-Rocky Mountain team rider Cameron Cole, 22, with a broken scaphoid in his right hand, derailing his UCI World Cup downhill campaign for 2010. But the laconic Kiwi says there is a chance he could be back in time for the World Championships, which will be held at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec at the end of August.
Cole has had three top-10 finishes and two podiums in the first three Downhill World Cups of 2010 and, despite finishing 35th after snapping his scaphoid at Champéry, still sits sixth in the overall standings.
“It was just a stupid crash – I was trying one of the gnarlier lines at the bottom of the course – it was quite a bit quicker – a high line on the outside of a corner and I got the line okay, but when it joined back onto the mainline it was very boggy and I just got sucked up in it and went over the handlebars and flying down the track, over the top of my bike,” he explains.
“I put my hands out and the right one must have gone straight into a rock because there was a big cut in the palm just before the wrist. I landed on my head as well. My bike went flying over me – luckily the bike was still on the track and not down the bank – so I sprinted to the finishline and did all the big jumps at the bottom and didn’t feel too much pain. Then I saw the cut and thought I would just need to get it cleaned out, then about an hour afterward it started to get sore so I decided to go to the doctor. At this stage every day is valuable for healing, so I thought it would be better to know if it was broken.”
After a long wait at the hospital, Cole and his Kiwi racing partner Amy Laird, also of Christchurch, were given the verdict.
“So now I have a massive cast on and heaps of stitches in my hand,” he says.
“I need to go back in a week to get another x-ray to make sure it’s healing, but I might talk to some people in New Zealand to see if I can try to get home and sort it out so I can get back for Worlds and the World Cup final.”
Cole was told it would take six-eight weeks to heal by itself, but there are only six weeks to the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
“It’s bad timing, but this happens with what we do. I don’t really want to go to the Worlds and just run 40th or 50th. I’d rather go there in the form I know I am in,” he says.
“If I can get my wrist operated on this week I think I could be okay for the World Championships. Once you have a screw in the scaphoid it heals a lot quicker and a lot more effectively. That will only happen if I can get home, or maybe in France. That would mean a four-week healing period. I have a screw in my left wrist and it healed quicker than they said it would.”
The last injury Cole had was back in 2007 when he crashed spectacularly, breaking the scaphoid in his left wrist – dislocating three bones and breaking the end off his ulna. He had broken ligaments, a concussion and his “whole body ached” afterward, leaving him off the bike for an entire season.
“In 2007 my crash was massive and it was my first big injury, but it taught me what to expect to come back from it and how to handle this one. But this crash was just a silly one and won’t knock my confidence,” he states.
Cole’s confidence has been soaring as he has been collecting top results without stepping outside his comfort zone in the World Cup races. Champéry was working out no differently for him.
“I qualified 30th and so it was good to have Friday night to think about it and on Saturday morning I went up there and felt a lot better – I rode all the lines well, including that high line. I think there was only me and one other rider that managed to do that line in the race – it was intimidating, but I felt good for the race.”
Cole lost some time in the top of the course when he went for a 30m slide in the mud.
“I got back on with my hands covered in mud and my pedals filled up. I was coming back at the bottom for a 20th or 25th place finish, which I would have been happy with after that crash, but then went over the bars in the bog,” Cole recalls.
The muddy conditions caused havoc for the entire field and marked the third wet race out of four Downhill World Cups.
“I thought Maribor was bad, then Leogang was the worst conditions I had ever raced in and then Champéry on Saturday was another level again,” he laughs, shaking his head.
The World Cup circuit’s commentators are tough to crack and Cole’s results have been played down by many, but this has become a source of motivation for the Kiwi rider.
“It’s quite hard to win people over, here. You do a good result once and they want to see you do it again to prove it wasn’t a fluke and then you do it again and they still want to see you do it again. I have had three top-10s in a row now, but still feel I have to prove myself. It is a good motivator and it always has been,” he admits.
Cole freely offers that the 2007 injury set him back along way from his 2006 World Junior Championship win.
“I don’t think people understood how hard it was for me to comeback from that injury in 2007. It took me a while to get back to where I was as a junior. That’s what I feel I have accomplished this year – I am back to 100% in confidence and feel I am back on form and I just want to ride as good as I can every week.”
He adds that those “close to him, such as the Fox guys and the team” have been really supportive and that they have made it possible for him to perform the way he wants to.
“I am happy with what I have done so far this season. I thought about this after the race yesterday – it’s good to get this sort of thing out of the way while I am young – each time you have a broken bone and time off the bike you learn from it. I am 22 and my career could be as long as I want it to be. Series leader Greg Minnaar is 28 and Steve Peat is still performing well at 36.”
“Because of that I won’t push my return this year if I don’t feel ready – I don’t want to jeopardise my training and preparation over summer for the 2011 season.”
Cole will find out about his surgery options by the end of the week and will miss the fifth World Cup of the season at Val di Sole next weekend if the surgery goes ahead.