By Greg Johnson
The parents of injured cyclist Paul Crake, Peter and Elizabeth, have spoken for the first time since the 29 year-old's freak accident during last week's Tour of Southland through a release distributed by Cycling Australia. "We would like to express our sincere thanks for the support and good wishes we have received from the countless number of people from all walks of life following Paul's cycling accident," the statement read.
"We would like to assure all his friends that Paul, who underwent spinal surgery on Wednesday, is progressing well and is fully aware of his condition. Despite the brutality of the situation Paul has been spared and we still have our son. He is still very much the Paul that everybody knows, loves and admires. What is in front of him will be his greatest challenge yet."
Cyclingnews has learned that the Australian has suffered extensive damage to his spine and is unlikely to walk again. Crake is said to be in good spirits after undergoing surgery on Wednesday to stabilise his cervical vertebrae and to pin and secure the T5 and T6 vertebrae.
The accident occurred two kilometres from the end of the Tour of Southland's eighth stage when Crake was blown from his bike. "It was just incredibly windy and they were caught by a gust and blown down the bank," said ACT Cycling Federation President Steve Blair following the accident. "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."
Crake switched to competitive cycling in 2002 after claiming five consecutive stair climbing titles in New York's annual Empire State Building climb. He had spent 2006 racing professionally for Italian squad Naturino-Sapore di Mare and was a member of Australia's Road World Championships team in 2004.
"We would also like to thank the medical staff here in New Zealand," concluded his parents' statement. "Their expertise and professionalism has been second to none and we owe his survival to them. Last but not least thank you to Cycling Australia for all the support and assistance we have received."