The Exergy Tour in Boise Idaho doesn't give out a jersey for the most courageous rider, but if it did, Canadian National Team rider Laura Brown would be a prime candidate.
Brown crashed hard in the final 200 meters of the wet stage 2 Kuna time trial Saturday and was forced to run the rest of the way across the finish line, where she immediately collapsed and had to be helped off the course and into the medical tent.
Despite the spill and subsequent run for the line, the 24-year-old track specialist, who hopes to earn a medal in the London Olympics with the Canadian team pursuit squad, finished 25th out of 98 riders, just 1:38 down on stage winner and overall race leader Amber Neben (Specialized-lululemon). Then she was back at the start line for Sunday's 96km Queen stage.
“I'm just sore,” Brown said before Sunday's start in Crouch, Idaho. “Nothing's broken, so I'm pretty happy to be here. I'm pretty happy to be on the start line today.”
Brown grew up in Alberta and was a competitive gymnast for 11 years, but she switched to cycling in 2002 following a nagging back injury and started training at the Olympic Oval National Cycling Centre. “I was kind of in a no-man's zone after gymnastics,” she said. “I was only 14 years old, so I wanted to pick up another sport. My mom signed me up for a camp, and I started track cycling at 14. I just fell in love with it.”
That love has transformed Brown into a world-class track rider and team pursuiter, a discipline in which she has earned gold medals in the Pan American Games, Pan American Championships and at the Cali World Cup. Now she and her teammates have their sights set on the 2012 London Olympics.
“It's my dream, I always wanted to be an Olympian,” She said. “So to be this close to going, and not only going but winning a medal, it's just keeps me focused and motivated very single day to be the best I can.”
So when Brown crashed on the traffic-marking paint in the final corner of the rain-slicked time trial course, a few clouds of doubt about fulfilling her Olympic dream cascaded through her thoughts. “Running and not knowing if I was OK or not, it was going through my head, but I was just blown away with the medical staff and attention, they were really, really good.”
Brown finished 56th on the difficult stage from Crouch to Idaho City and will start today's stage in Boise placed 48th overall, 10:16 down on race leader Amber Neben (Specialized-lululemon). After Exergy she'll tackle the Canadian Road Championships in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, and then hopes to head for London with her team pursuit squad at the end of July. Right now she's just trying to keep her own – and her nation's – cycling momentum rolling along.
“Over the past couple of years Cycling Canada has just been growing and growing and growing across all disciplines,” she said. “I mean Ryder [Hesjedal] just won the Giro, and in the team pursuit we're hoping to win a medal. I just hope that this momentum we're building in cycling for Canada keeps growing and growing and we become a cycling nation.”