Blink twice and you might have missed it, but on stage 7 of the Volta a Catalunya, with around two laps of the hilly circuit in Montrjuic to go, there was a moment where the bright green jersey of a Cannondale rider, part of the daylong break of 12, was briefly visible on television images as he was caught by a group of counter-attackers.
Then the cameras moved back to the main peloton as the attacks rained down on race leader - and eventual winner - Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and the Cannondale rider’s group was forgotten, and finally, almost completely, swallowed up by the favourites.
However, for that rider, Ben King (Cannondale), who eventually finished an anonymous 63rd on the stage, even taking part in that day’s break represented another step forward towards recovery.
After all the Volta a Catalunya was his first race of the season after breaking a fibula earlier this year, and a milestone on his road to full recovery.
Speaking to Cyclingnews before stage 6 of the Volta a Catalunya - and 24 hours before he made it into the day’s break on Sunday - King pointed out that, “this is a hard race to come back to, I was actually reserve for it, so watching the front group ride away from me is a hard thing to have to accept.”
But then, as King recognises, he has to be relative about such issues. As he points out, “I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk [after my crash] for eight weeks and this [stage 6] is only nine and a half or ten weeks after it, so considering that” - he adds with a fair leavening of understatement - “it’s going pretty well.”
“I’d worked really hard over the winter, so not all is lost and maybe I can benefit in the second half of the season.
"Fortunately the team is still giving me opportunities like this too and now I’m here, just doing what I can to support the team, and really happy to be doing that.”
The crash, caused by an ice patch when he was out riding on a frozen trail this winter, was one of those freak events, “that can happen a thousand times with no repercussions. I just put my foot down funny and rolled my ankle and heard a ‘pop’ and knew immediately this was bad.”
The timing, January 8th, could hardly have been less fortunate given King had been due to head to the Tour of San Luis a week later.
But King had few options on the table at that point: the fibula, albeit only mildly displaced, clearly needed surgery for screws and a plate to be inserted to correct it and ensure no long-term complications. It was also his worst injury as a pro to date, although the Cannondale pro fell in Milan-San Remo last year and hurt his hip badly enough for him to abandon, and has also had broken collarbones to contend with in the past.
“Fortunately I haven’t had many serious injuries. This one I bounced back pretty quickly too. I was off the bike for three weeks and then started on the trainer. Just 45 minute rides easy and trying to respect the recovery process and injury and not do anything that felt like it would hurt bad. Little by little, day by day.”
He is wary of stating whether the crash and ensuing eight-week delay in starting his season will cause him to alter his race program.
“We’ll see. I want to see how the first few races go before I talk about season goals. In general, though, not for now - I’ve kind of jumped in my season where I left off.”
His next race will probably be the Vuelta al País Vasco, again a tough event and what he calls, “a baptism by fire. Two of the hardest races of the year.”
“I’m still rebuilding, so I’ve had to re-adjust my expectations. I’ve been able to get bottles for the team, help them get in position for the crucial moments. I’m kind of riding through it, helping the team out and on to the next one.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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