A rogue gust of wind has blown away Blenheim cyclist Ray Dunstan’s hopes of a world title – at least for the time being.
Just over a month ago, the 54-year-old veteran was in superb shape, poised to ride for gold at the UCI World Cycling Tour finals in Slovenia after coming off victory in a qualifying event in Perth, Australia.
After returning to New Zealand Dunstan continued his carefully-programmed buildup, reaching new performance levels and confident he could surpass the time trial silver medal he won at the worlds in 2007.
With his training going to plan, a friend suggested he travel to Nelson to participate in a club time trial at Aniseed Valley.
It seemed a good idea at the time. But within minutes of the start, his dreams were shattered – along with his shoulder blade, lung and four ribs.
Dunstan takes up the story: “I had come down the road and was leaning around the corner. There was a gap between the hills on one side, but I wouldn’t have been exposed [to the wind] there for even two seconds before a gust, right at the time I was at that point, lifted me off the road. My coach was following in his car and he had to lean forward and look up to see how high I went.”
Although he recalls little following the accident, Dunstan said his bike computer registered 57.9kmh at the time of the crash.
He came down to earth on the same side of the road he was riding on, a godsend according to the vastly-experienced cyclist who has since checked out the accident site and realised that, with a rock-filled culvert at the side of the road, he may not have survived if he had not ended up on the tarmac.
The stricken rider, suffering a punctured lung, broken shoulder blade and “flailed” chest, was stabilised in an ambulance, then flown by helicopter to Nelson Hospital where he was kept for four days.
A talk with the surgeon the day after the crash confirmed that Dunstan’s world championship chances were over.
“I remember saying a week before my accident, ‘I just have to make sure I don’t get sick or have a crash’.”
He remains confident the course was safe to ride.
“There was a bit of wind around, but I drove the course before the race and it looked OK. It wasn’t perfect for a time trial situation, but it was an absolute freak gust of wind that caught me.”
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