Craig Lewis (HTC-Highroad) rejoined the professional peloton for the first time since breaking his femur three months ago and is racing at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. The American says he is on his way to a complete recovery and is using the seven-day, high-elevation event as preparation for the two World Tour events Grand Prix Cycliste Quebec City and Montreal held in September in Canada.
"After looking at the two Canadian races, compared to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, I thought it was a better decision to start racing here," Lewis told Cyclingnews. "There is a little bit of a lower field quality here and not as many technical courses like the ones in Canada. I wanted to see how I would go here and be better prepared for those two events."
Lewis broke his left femur after hitting a street sign during the 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia in May. He, along with teammate Marco Pinotti, were taken to a hospital in the nearby mountain city of Domodossola for treatment before returning home.
"It has been a slow process and every day has been a slight increase in my fitness and mobility and everything," Lewis said. "It is a lot harder to walk right now than it is to ride; I'm missing a little bit of strength and mobility in my hip."
Lewis's teammate Tejay Van Garderen was leading the overall ranking at the USA Pro Cycling Championships heading into the stage three time trial in Vail. The team is placing no pressure on Lewis to perform. He put forth respectable rides during the first four stages through the mountains and is hoping to build additional fitness before the end of the week.
"I felt better than I thought I would so far this week," Lewis said. "By the finish of stage one I still had some power left and I wasn't totally destroyed. I was somewhere mid-pack so I can't complain. I just have to survive. I did a couple of turns with the guys on the front but for the most part I was just trying to make it through."
Lewis will travel north to next compete at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City on September 9 and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on September 11 in Canada, both known for their challenging and technical course designs. He hopes to arrive to the events in proper form in order to capitalize on any breakaway opportunities that may arise.
"For our team, I don't know if we are going to go there with a race favourite so we will all have our cards to play," Lewis said. "If I come out of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge strong then maybe I can try and do something there. It will be a good opportunity."