Less than three weeks ago, US Criterium Champion Daniel Holloway of the Kelly Benefit Stategies-OptumHealth, crashed hard on stage 1 of the 6-stage Jelajah Malaysia; at full speed, he went head first into a concrete trench. Broken ribs and a lung contusion forced him to stay in Malaysia for two weeks before it was safe for him to fly home. And now, it’s time to heal and even though the Amgen Tour of California is probably off his schedule, Holloway’s morale is still good.
Holloway is back home in Northern California following a stint in Malaysia hospitals, first in a rural setting then a private facility in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. I reached Holloway on Thursday afternoon to get the details on his injury and recovery. Understandably, the rider known as Hollywood was subdued when we talked – laughing does hurt with broken ribs – but he was still keeping a positive attitude.
On his first year with KBS-OptumHealth, the 23-year-old is looking forwards to getting back to racing with his new team and for Performance Director Jonas Carney. If all goes well, his first race back will be the Sunny King Criterium, an NRC crit on April 9 in Alabama.
It’s just part of bike racing I guess. Right at 2K to go there was a right-hand turn and I was on the outside of the group. It’s kind of my own fault being that far back where I was, the group swelled and I just got pushed to the outside. From my vantage view it looked like it was just a grass field, I didn’t see the concrete trench that was there until it was too late and next thing I know, my front wheel is in it and I’m going head first into the concrete. Hit my head, hit my ribs and then I was screaming for a bit until the ambulance came.
Ouch. What was the extent of your injury?
The first diagnosis was three broken ribs but it’s just two broken ribs – ribs 8 and 9 – and then I had a lung contusion for probably five or six days and that’s why I had to stay in Malaysia for an extra week to be safe and let that heal up. Because the risk of flying with a lung contusion is pretty dangerous.
This is scary stuff. How scared were you especially in a hospital in Malaysia, not in your home country. How tough was that?
The first hospital was a government hospital, they did just enough to maintain a hospital. So it was different you know, they speak English but it’s not the best English and I was the only guy there so I didn’t have anybody to talk to while I was going through everything. Mentally that’s hard the first couple of days. I was there in that hospital for two and half days and it was a really long two and a half days, then I got moved to a private hospital.
I was already feeling a little bit better, I could be a little bit mobile and stuff but it was nicer being there, the doctors were able to give me the right diagnosis and tell me to not fly for ten days so I didn’t. The first hospital it was like ‘yeah three days and you’ll be okay’. It was really nice to get the second opinion and Jonas was a big advocate for going somewhere else, getting another diagnosis. I really appreciate that from him, he really took the initiative to get me out of the lower-end hospital and also push for the second opinion. He got the resources together in Malaysia with the people he knew and he pushed really hard for me to get transportation and for me to get to a really nice hospital. Just the updates I was able to get from him while he was doing that was keeping my spirits up while I was in this foreign hospital.
What’s your prognosis for now? How long before you heal?
Like any broken bones, it’s four to six weeks. Ribs can be longer because I can’t put a cast on it to immobilize it, some people say eight weeks. I’m ready to get back on the trainer, just be stationary and get my legs back moving.
Really. You can do that already?
Yeah, I can go around the mall for two hours or whatever, I just can’t get hit. I can’t really sneeze, I can’t do any heavy lifting. Surprisingly for what it is and for the initial happening, I thought I was going to be bed-ridden for at least two weeks but being able to walk around is mentally helping me out. I just really want to get back on my bike because I had really good form before it all happened so I’m really motivated to get back to training but I just have to be patient with it and no over do it to draw out the injury.
I’m trying to remember, is this your first serious injury?
I broke my collarbone when I was 19 and that was at the end of the year and everything like that so it didn’t really have that much impact on anything. I’m trying to make myself feel better just looking at it, this is almost the best time to have this kind of thing happen because it’s taking me out of early season stuff but I still have a long season. If I heal quick then I’ll still get back 90 percent of my race program so I’m happy for that.
At least it’s at the beginning of the season. This was the first team race for you correct?
Yes pretty much, we had the crit in Singapore before but this was the first real stage race.
Tell me about the beginning of your season with Kelly Benefit. And what is the plan for the rest of the season?
Everything has been great, I really enjoy the team. Both camps were successful for me and successful for the team, [for] myself, getting to know everybody and just getting into the rhythm of the team and how guys work. A lot of the team is core riders and I felt that everybody, from management to older riders, was accepting my position in the team and I think we all meshed pretty good. So I’m excited to be part of the program and I think it’s going to be a pretty successful year for us once we get the ball rolling.
For my schedule, it was Tour of Taiwan, come home and then get ready for Battenkill and then a trip to France to do a one-day race, Tro-Bo Leon and then Tour of Brittany and then come back. Depending on how I felt after that I was going to do Joe Martin and then I was confident I was going to make the California roster and then Philly. That was as far as our team schedule went. But now, talking with Jonas, as long as I heal correctly and I don’t hurt myself again, instead of Battenkill I’ll be going to Sunny King. Then hopefully I’ll still be making the France trip but instead of our picture of me being going really well in France, it will be more just using to get back into the motion, you know I’ll be suffering there but it will be a really good lead-in into Joe Martin. I think it’s really a long shot for me to make the California squad now because I’ll be missing the front of bike racing now, I’ll be using it to get my legs back so I think it will be really hard for that but as long as I can keep my schedule, I’ll be really good for Philly which is a big goal of mine.
It must a bit disappointing for you not to make California with Philly being your big goal. Are you thinking about maybe another big stage race later in the year?
It’s kind of too early to tell but if you look at Quiznos and Utah which are the next two stage races, they’re both basically climbers’ races and they’re both at altitude so both those things don’t really play into my favor, but we still have a lot of bike racing with Philly and then we may go back to Asia in June. If that doesn’t happen, we still have a lot of big races at the end of the year in Asia that we’re trying to get into so it’s still a long year for us. Unfortunately it looks like I’m going to miss California but I have a lot of opportunities to go some good racing.
I know you’ve been friends with Jonas for a long time but how is it working for him now?
It’s really nice because when I was injured and he saw the broken ribs in the hospital, he played the friend card and was there for me, not because it was his job but because we have a relationship. It may not be as good as some of the other guys on the team but we do have a little bit of a history. It felt good to have somebody that I have history with there, helping me out. But on the flip side him being my boss, he does a great job, I respect the guy a lot what he’s accomplished on the bike and how he runs his team, it’s really good to be with him.
What the hardest thing of having broken ribs?
I can’t really laugh too hard. I love laughing and I love watching funny movies, I can’t really laugh. Sneezing and coughing hurt but other that, I just can’t move around too fast. Surprisingly I’m pretty mobile.
You seem to be pretty up. This is tough mentally but you seem to be handling this pretty well.
Well I have to. If I get down, I get lazy and I stop. It’s just the negative effect of being down, I have to be positive, I’m still able to do some things to benefit my training that I’ve started doing, it’s not that I’m losing a bunch of fitness just being off the bike for two weeks. I’ve got a really good support staff around me, it’s really good to have that, it makes things easier.
Best wishes for a quick recovery.