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Morini returns in US peloton

After being paralysed by a crash in 2001, former Gerolsteiner rider Federico "Fred" Morini is set to make a stunning return to racing in the US peloton this month for the domestic squad Richmond Pro Cycling. The 31-year-old Italian had a promising start as a neo-pro in 2001, but a tragic crash in December of that year left him seriously injured. His recovery and return to racing is nothing short of remarkable.

Morini crashed on a descent near his home in Umbria, falling into the ravine below. Without realizing the severity of his injuries, he struggled for an hour to pull his cell phone from his pocket to call for help; even then, it was over three hours before he reached the hospital. He had fractured several vertebra and suffered serious damage to his spinal column and shock to the medulla. IT was questionable if he would ever walk again, let alone ride a bicycle.

Morini, however, had other plans, and set about his rehabilitation vigorously. After several months of therapy he was back on the bike, but struggled to gain form despite his desire, and finally capitulated and retired from the sport. He spent several years working as a television commentator, events organizer, and cycle tour operator, and then found himself racing again for a small Italian team.

He decided to come stateside when he wanted to return to racing at a higher level but could not find a team. "In the past, I asked the European teams; but nothing good came up, so I started thinking about a new cycling world the USA. Richmond Pro Cycling is a chance to test me again finally. I am so happy to be racing for an American team soon," said Morini.

The developing team will benefit from Morini's experience and character, but will also gain something more, said team manager Craig Dodson, "Fred has strong ties to Virginia and his palmarès alone would be enough for this team, but Fred's natural rapport with youth make him an ideal addition."

Fred Morini is realistic with the opportunity, but also understands that his successes ahead are part of a team effort, "I want thank all the people of Richmond Pro Cycling as they had faith and trust in me. I know this may not have been easy, after my four years not racing, but I presume they understood all I have felt during this long time of recovery and desire to return to the sport. I also want to give special thanks to Doctor Fabbri, my physiotherapist and Dr. Ivol Pulcini, he's a doctor for the Giro d'Italia as well. They both always believed on me! I was tested and given a full doctors approval to race. I think I can be strong rider again."

Fred will arrive in early June and is scheduled to race the AT & T Austin Criterium on June 21.

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