Battered but unbowed, Bui hits the comeback trail

Marco Bui (L) and Giovanni Battaglin

Marco Bui (L) and Giovanni Battaglin (Image credit: Tim Maloney)

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

After a superb season where he won the Houffalize World Cup cross country race and finished third in the European championships, mountain biker Marco Bui finished 11th in the elite men's cross country race at the world championships in Livigno, Italy. But disaster suddenly struck Bui that day as he ran into a car when it unexpectedly turned in front of him; the 28 year-old went under the Toyota Yaris, which literally crushed both his legs. "I only remember a big impact", Bui explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Gigi Perna. "Then I was on the ground with my massacred legs... the doctors told me I blanked out all the rest."

Bui suffered an open fracture of his right femur, tibia and fibula, crushed his left knee and foot and ruptured his spleen, which was removed. He needed almost 50 units of whole blood in the first 24 hours after the accident while in the hospital at Bassano del Grappa, where three teams of surgeons worked almost 18 hours straight to save Bui's leg.

"It was really hard when I woke up after the first operation. They were really great in the hospital, but at my age it's hard to accept what happened... sometimes I was afraid because I thought they might still have to amputate my leg, even though the doctors told me I was out of danger." Bui received plenty of support while recuperating in hospital from friends, team-mates and above all, former Giro d'Italia winner Giovanni Battaglin, who owns the Full Dynamix team. Battaglin told Cyclingnews that "Marco is determined to come back and if anyone can do it, I know he can."

Bui will need all the encouragement and support he can get, as the road back to cycling will be a tremendous physical and mental challenge. Bui has already had several operations to repair his broken legs and has more ahead of him in the next few months before he can begin his physical therapy, which could last as long as one year. "I know I'll probably need a year before I can get back on my bike, but I won't quit. I want to ride again," Bui explained. "Others like Marco Pantani and Herman Meier have come back even if they weren't as badly hurt as I am. The worst thing is that this came after my best season, where I won at Houffalize. Sometimes I try to move my legs and I dream of coming back like I was before."

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