Cantwell fights through injuries at Tour of California

After his dramatic stage 2 crash, Saxo-Tinkoff's Australian sprinter Jonathan Cantwell had decided not to start the next stage of the 2013 Tour of California. Sporting bruised ribs, missing large patches of skin on his left side and wrapped up like a mummy, he had resigned himself to abandoning his goals and going home, even as his team bus pulled into Palmdale for the start.

Fast forward four hours and Saxo-Tinkoff hit the front of the peloton and who was on the lead-out train but the mummy himself, Cantwell.

What came over him that he felt compelled to start the race in his condition?

"I have no idea what got into me. I just love racing," he told Cyclingnews. "I think for me in particular, the Tour of California this year was one of my biggest objectives. I've been training so hard and really looking forward to doing this race. To pull out after stage 2 was something I would never think about. I couldn't comprehend not finishing the race."

During the two hour transfer from Palm Springs he was even on the phone with the team's logistics manager, trying to get a flight home to Monaco from Los Angeles, but they had no luck. Once the bus pulled into the start town and the team began getting ready to race, he just couldn't help himself.

"I just got motivated I suppose. I saw everyone, I saw the start line and the crowd... and we have such a good spirit on the team, when everyone's on the bus and they're getting ready and their numbers are pinned on, and with me being a sprinter... I just got the urge. I put my cycling shoes on and went for a small ride around the car park, and if I was able to do that, then I was going to take the start line."

It wasn't too long ago that Cantwell was dominating the US criterium circuit. He got his start here with Jittery Joe's in 2008, and then with Fly V Australia. He was picked up by Saxo-Tinkoff in 2012, but is glad to be back for the first time since 2011 and that also helped to inspire him to get to the start line.

"I love racing in America, and to come back here and see a lot of the people I know and race against a lot of the guys I used to race against, it's been pretty cool. That's another reason why I wanted to do well. I'm happy to be here, I'm loving it."

Additionally, in the back of his mind is a desire to get results to ensure he will be renewed with the team or picked up by another top squad.

"It's starting to get into that time when you are thinking about next year and teams and resigning contracts. I've had a really good race program this year with doing a lot of the Classics, I've done a relatively good job for the team and I think they're happy with me. I really wanted to deliver some good results in California, which would go in my favor."

A result may not come, however. On stage 3 he finished 16th, and on the morning of stage 4 he was feeling a little bit worse for the wear.

"I'm a bit worse than yesterday, to be honest," he said in Santa Clarita. "I'm on struggle street at the moment, I'm just going to take it day by day. We have a really good team here, Michael [Rogers] is fourth overall. Even if I get one more stage and support him as much as possible, that's what I'll do."

For now he will keep soldiering on, being wary of well-intentioned people who want to provide comfort by putting an arm around his wounded shoulder. "It's kind of funny, as soon as somebody knows you're injured, they always feel sympathetic and they have the urge to touch you - I'm seriously missing a lot of skin. So I need a sign on my back that says 'do not touch me'."


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