Skujins returns to racing after California crash

Toms Skujins (Cannondale-Drapac) returned to racing Wednesday following his high-profile crash last month at the Tour of California that stirred controversy when a neutral support mechanic pushed the obviously disoriented rider back into the race.

Skujins finished second Wednesday in the Latvian time trial championship to Aleksejs Saramotins (Bora-Hansgrohe), who covered the 33km course in Baldone 30 seconds faster than Skujins and 38 seconds faster than third-placed Krists Neilands (Cycling Academy).

Skujins has been out of competition since crashing out of the Tour of California during stage 2 while following fellow breakaway riders on a descent. The 26-year-old Latvian fractured his clavicle in the crash, but the more obvious injury was the concussion that caused the team to pull up alongside the rider and coax him out of the race after he had remounted and continued to chase. Skujins was later diagnosed with the fracture and concussion.

"It's definitely the biggest crash I've had," he said. "It was my first broken collarbone and my first concussion. It was also the most visible crash I've ever had."

Skujins sat out the Tour de Suisse as he recovered in his US base of Boulder, Colorado., waiting for the fracture to heal and undergoing the team's concussion protocol. 

"It got better quickly after the first week," Skujins said of his shoulder. "At the tail-end of the second week, I was able to ride again. I did a cognitive test and was given the clearance to ride the trainer."

Skujins said the cognitive test was taken online and is comprised of several separate test that focus on memory, concentration and the ability to complete tasks, "like pressing a key when the light is green or when the letters are a certain colour."

"It's six or eight tests that you do in those 30-40 minutes, and it generates a score that you can compare to a baseline you've already established," Skujns said. "I did them last year when not concussed, without any head trauma, so that if I ended up in this exact situation I'd have my own individual baseline that I'd need to return to before I can ride."

Skujins passed the test and was back on his trainer near the end of the second week of his recovery and in time to compete at nationals, although he says the upcoming Tour of Poland July 29-August 4 is now his major goal. He said that aside from some muscle loss in his shoulder and mobility that is not quite 100 percent, he is feeling no lingering ill-effects of his crash.

"I've been riding some longer, steadier rides," Skujins said. "I was at altitude in Boulder, and my big focus is Tour of Poland more than nationals. I want to be ready for that, for the second phase of the year. Knowing that, I didn’t do a lot of intensity. The body feels good, and it's race ready, but it's not RACE race ready, if you know what I mean."

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