You wouldn't know it by the sound of his voice, but it has been a frustrating six weeks for Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team's Ivan Dominguez.
The Cuban sprinter has been sidelined since a bizarre crash May 17 during stage one of the Tri-Peaks Challenge in Arkansas. Dominguez had already crossed the finish line that day when his front wheel suddenly twisted sideways, tossing him head-first over the handlebars.
He landed squarely on his back, bruising his ribs. The Cuban was off the bike for more than two weeks and still has trouble sleeping at night. "If I am riding real hard, I feel the pain in my back," Dominguez said.
He has mixed feelings about his expectations on his return to racing this Sunday at the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. "It's hard to say," he acknowledged Thursday. "I stopped for a month and although I feel good training, racing is a lot different."
The crash at Tri-Peaks forced Dominguez to miss the "Philly Week" races earlier this month. The series of single-day races have previously showcased his sprinting ability, including the second place he scored last year in Philadelphia.
Dominguez points out that the team has been winning without him, too. "Some teams only have one guy who can win. Our team has many," continued Dominguez. "It's made me feel more relaxed seeing them win."
The famous race in the LA area has seen its spot on the National Race Calendar moved up from the regular mid-August date. Last year's race was won by then-Toyota-United's J.J. Haedo, who is now riding for CSC. Dominguez finished fourth back then. In addition to Dominguez, Toyota-United riders Jose Manuel "Chepe" Garcia, Caleb Manion, Ryan Miller, Sean Sullivan, Henk Vogels and Chris Wherry will be racing in front of a traditionally large crowd.
The hot dog-shaped course for the expected field of more than 150 riders features a pair of long straight-aways, two sweeping 180 degree turns and 50-feet of climbing per lap. Making each 1.4-mile (2.2 km) lap most challenging is the 180-degree turn that comes 300 metres from the finish line.
"If you're not in the top two or three places coming around that turn on the last lap, it's going to be hard for you to win the race. Every year, you have people crashing and getting all crazy."