By Gregor Brown
Crédit Agricole announced Wednesday, November 21, that American rider Saul Raisin would not be racing in the immediate future. The 24 year-old rider from Georgia, USA, suffered a life-threatening crash in April 2006 during the Circuit de la Sarthe, and has since made tremendous progress in recovery. However, the team and its medical representative, Joël Menard, decided it would be best not to subject him to racing based on recent neuro-psychological exams.
"He had a very bad crash, but has made lots of progression," commented Crédit Agricole Team Manager Roger Legeay Thursday evening to Cyclingnews. "In July he indicated he wanted to return to racing, and in September he had good results at the US time trial championships. It [the individual time trial test - ed.] was good; I did not want him to ride in the bunch because it was too early."
The French ProTour team conducted tests with Raisin in Bordeaux, France, during October, and received the results this week. "We made the decision two days ago because we just got the results from the doctors from Bordeaux. We informed him, and his mother and father. What he will do, I don't know. He said, 'yes, I understand.'
"I had prepared him for a few months about this. He had known I did not know what I would decide. He understands; he knows it is for his safety. He said he is not angry, and he understands. I don't know what he will do."
Raisin was in a coma for over one week and paralysed on the left side of his body after his accident. He stayed in France until he was stable enough to be moved to Georgia, where he started down the road to recovery.
Legeay's concern for his young charge was clear through the tone of his voice and explanation of the past 18 months. Legeay said "He had very nice progression, but the progress is... We are in a very dangerous sport, not like tennis. You have issues of concentration, it is hard to explain all the issues, it is a very demanding sport. My first priority as a manager is the life; it is not results or the money. For me it is a big risk for him to ride in the bunch. It was my decision.
"I explained my decision to Saul and his parents. I said 'I want to be sure there is no risk of his safety,' and his parents agreed with me. After looking at the results with the doctors – neurologists and psychologists – from Bordeaux, we made a strong decision and take the responsibility."
Raisin has a contract that goes through 2008. "He has a contract without any problem; he is paid like a normal rider, even though he is not racing. The problem is not the money, but the risk."
Legeay did not think that Raisin would want to try to find another team that would allow him to race. "It is a big responsibility for any team," he confirmed, feeling that the Crédit Agricole team was doing the best for Raisin.
Cyclingnews was unable to reach Saul Raisin for comment. For more on Raisin, read Raisin's start mattered more than finish.