On July 12, 22 year-old Kai Reus of Team Rabobank left the team's training camp in France for a solo training ride, and forgot to put on his helmet – a move which had nearly fatal consequences for the young man. He crashed and then spent 11 days in an induced coma. Reus has now spoken about his experiences for the first time, looking back to what happened and looking optimistically to the future.
"When I woke up, it was just like I had ended up in a horror movie," Reuss said on the team's website, rabobank.nl. He can still remember many details of the day of his crash. "I forgot to put my helmet on but I did not find that out until I was already cycling. The Iséran is a nice climb. I enjoyed the spectators who had already lined up alongside the road for the Tour de France. And some people were lighting candles for their families on top of the mountain. A few Italians recognized me so I chatted with them for a minute. Then I started my descent. The rest is only a black image, which is a good thing I think."
On the descent, he tried to pass a car when his chain broke and down he went. He suffered three broken ribs and a broken collarbone as well as a brain haemorrhage, which was serious enough for doctors to place him in the induced coma.
Reus also has memories from the coma. "You cannot describe it, a long time. I had many coma dreams. My parents, girlfriend, and the team that was supporting me were all in it. That really helped me. And I dreamt that a team-mate aborted a morning stage in Spain only to come to me. We were aiming for a good autumn anyway, he told me. He got me a bike and we went for a ride together. And yet another time I was climbing to the Iséran and fans were cheering me on."
When he was finally slowly brought out of the coma, the medication he was taking caused some temporary personality changes. "I was not the Kai from before the accident. I was aggressive, a side-effect from the medication. That is not fun, but it was obviously necessary." That is one of the reasons he was tied to his bed. "Naturally, I wanted to be released. And after five days I wanted to do things one my own, like wash myself and walk a little. But everyone kept telling me to take it easy, that I had to realize that what I had been through was very serious. At the time I was planning to ride in the fall, but now I know that at that time it was already impossible."
The young Dutchman has a long ways to go but he has one less worry, in that he knows that he has a contract for the coming year. He said he knew "that I am riding for a really beautiful cycling team. I do not know if things would have went the way they did if I had been on another team. The management explicitly said that I will get all the time I need to recover and that I will be on the team next year, even though my contract is expiring. That is quite a relief. I will definitely return to the pack, and I am not worried about getting back to my old level."
Right now, he is mainly continuing to rest, but he has already returned to riding. "I ride a few kilometres every other day. After all, I have to move on."
Reus is enjoying seeing his teammates Oscar Freire and Denis Menchov doing so well in the Vuelta a España, but admitted that watching racing on TV was not always so easy. "The Tour of Germany, especially Uran's crash, and the Eneco Tour were really hard to watch, but I am over that now."