Lucas Euser, formerly of Garmin-Transitions, is aiming to return to the highest level of the sport after recovering from injuries sustained in a collision with a car in May. While training with teammate Dan Martin in Girona, Spain, Euser was hit by a car and sustained two broken ribs, a broken finger and a shattered patella. After months of rehabilitation the climber has signed with a UCI Continental team for 2010 and hopes to return to European racing in 2011.
It has been a long and difficult road for the 26-year-old Euser, who recently found out that he would not be kept on at Garmin, the team he'd raced with since 2006. Since the accident his main focus has always been on his recovery. "That's my life right now. My number one goal is to regain my fitness and get healthy," he told Cyclingnews from his Californian home. "It's not to be the best pro I can be; it's to be normal again. It was seven months ago, May 14, when I got hit by the car. It was just a case of wrong place, wrong time."
After the accident Euser spent months researching the injury his knee sustained and quickly realised that his 2009 season was over as far as racing was concerned. It was a hard blow to take mentally, having already had an injury-plagued 2008 and with his contract coming to an end this month.
"Cycling has been life ever since I was a six-year-old racing around the BMX track. I think about it a lot and I've told myself that I will race again. I've committed a full year to my rehab but by the middle of May I want to be racing. I'm not going to be 100 percent by then but I want to be racing. I want that feeling back."
As yet Euser can't announce his new team, only saying that they're Canadian-based and that they have plans to expand in the future. When it came to choosing a team Euser, with the help of his agent Andrew McQuaid, knew that he needed the right environment.
"It came down to the fact that I needed a home where they would look at my injury not as a liability but as something we could work with. The team and I are both fully convinced that if I do this right and I'm not pressured too quickly, then I can come back stronger than before."
The move marks the end of Euser's Garmin career, a team that nurtured him through the first few years of his career and where he scored his biggest win at the Univest Grand Prix in 2008. "I was there when they were a small team struggling and trying to make a name for themselves. I feel like they've grown and so have I. They provided a lot of good times but I have to take a step back. I need to do that in order to take a step forward. Was I expecting them to let me go? No, I was hoping to stay with the team because we had a good time together.
"Unfortunately they're taking a different path and I can't fault them for wanting to be the best ProTour team in the world and frankly I am a liability right now. I understand that. In some ways I wish we could have come to a different understanding."
A smaller team and a lighter racing programme will give Euser the base he needs to rebuild his career but just a few weeks ago that was put in jeopardy when his knee flared up once again. It sparked the rider to take drastic action, embarking on a road trip along the Californian coast in order to find answers from as many specialists as he could find. "It was really frustrating as I could swear I was doing the right things. It's like you're writing a thesis, you're half way through and then you realise none of it makes sense. It was a real slap in the face."
The trip was a success and Euser believes he's come back from it in a much stronger state, both physically and mentally. "I hooked up with Platinum Fitness, the guy Lance Armstrong uses, and the guy is a god when it comes to rehab and personal training. He knew all the exercises to do for a whole-body rehab."
Since then everything appears to have clicked into place for Euser and despite the long hard hours of gym work, or as he describes it, "going to a job you hate for a few months," things are looking up.
"I want to be back in Europe in 2011 and that's the goal I've set."
Euser is clearly determined but has also relied on support from his peers in the peloton during the difficult times, with one individual standing out. "I had a lot of support from the peloton. I had a good relationship with Dan Martin, Timmy Duggan. I even got some good words from Christian Vande Velde. We didn't race much together but he's certainly someone I respect and aspire to be like later on in my career.
"Number one was Allen Lim. That guy can motivate you and discomfort you and he has a great way with words. He offered a ton of support."
Euser's team will be announced in the coming days and you can follow his progress via twitter. http://twitter.com/lucaseuser