Six weeks after breaking his left collarbone at stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California, Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) will be on the start line of the Tour de Toona on Wednesday evening.
“The recovery has gone exceptional.” Jacques-Maynes said when we chatted on Sunday evening as he was packing to head out to Altoona, PA.
“First off, it was a crash that wasn’t my fault and I knew the drill, I was able to mentally cope from the get go. Even in the ambulance, I was thinking ‘oh that’s some shit luck, oh well’ ” he laughed.
“I was getting over the fact that I had crashed and had some bad luck. And really I’ve been moving on from that point and putting in every effort to get back as fast as I can. I think it’s culminating in my ability to race this week but it’s still kind of scary, it’s been six weeks now. It still feels like a really quick turnaround, I’m really just going to see how it goes.”
His previous collarbone fracture was three years ago at Cascade Classic.
Crashing close to home does have some perks. “If you have to crash out of a Tour, be able to be driven home by your wife who is close enough to be able to after reading the live feed, to be at the hotel waiting for now, it’s pretty awesome.” he laughed. “As far as ways to go out, I can think of worst ways to go out.”
Jacques-Maynes went down in one of those crashes that happen every year at the Amgen Tour of California. “We’re lining up, it’s fast, kind of a crosswind/tailwind, you’re paying attention, and then it bunches up, someone goes for a water bottle and invariably someone runs into a pothole and no one else is paying attention. That makes a huge pileup.”
“Some big named people have crashed out of the Tour of California that way and missed out on the Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France, the Spring Classics when it was in February. It’s kind of the story of this race, I guess it was kind of my turn.”
For the Northern Californian, the crash happened in his backyard on the Seaside to Paso Robles stage on May 19. An interview done with the local paper, Santa Cruz Sentinel, as he was being driven home paid off. “I was already on the phone with the newspaper, publicizing the fact that ‘I’m looking to come back as fast as possible, I need an orthopedist, this is a big deal for me.’”
25 hours after his crash, the 32-year old was in surgery. His first choice and first appointment the next day, Dr Speigel had read the paper and was ready for him. A few hours later he was fitted with a Titanium Elastic Nail.
“I have a titanium nail that goes all the length of my collarbone, really cool procedure, a lot less invasive, a lot less distance for bone to grow across so the actual fusion of the bone happens a little bit quicker in a more complete way. Now six weeks out, I’m in a lot better shape than I would be definitely without any kind of surgical intervention and probably in a better way than I would be with a plate and screws.” said Jacques-Maynes who was brushing his teeth, with his left hand, the night of the surgery.
Recovery time. Two days later, he was on the trainer. “The trainer is what it is, it is absolutely mind numbing. You have to be realistic about it when you’re doing it, you’re trying to not bleed off form as fast as you could just be sitting on the couch. A little bit of activity is better than none but definitely in that shape, you can’t take much anyway, you could want to ride the trainer as much as you want but as same point you’re going to go back inside, take your meds and fall asleep.”
“That amount of time before that happens gets longer as your recovery goes on, you basically end up like you’re starting all over and I definitely felt that when I first got on the road two weeks ago. It’s been a very hard two weeks to try and get back into some form, some semblance of shape.”
A few long rides were done last week to test out the body. “I did a 210 km day on Friday and that was go out as long as you can, see what it feels like when you get really, really tired and after almost seven hours, I was definitely tired but also I knew that things just didn’t fall apart or all the muscles started spasming. That’s totally something that could happen, when you have an injury like this, it’s on one side, it’s not bi-lateral, you can definitely get imbalances, your weak side could fail a lot sooner than the rest of the body. That was another good test, somebody I’d rather not find out on the race course.”
But mountain biking is definitely out for now. “I don’t think I could go mountain biking at all for the next couple of months. The musculature in my shoulder is weaker, the joints are very loose, I don’t think I could take any kinds of shocks to the system like that.”
He’s also been in constant therapy, four days a week for the past five weeks. “They have a lot of really good modalities that they use to work on musculature, both physically manipulative and also the light, the cold laser.”
And he’s been “covered all over” in Spidertech through it out.
Jacques-Maynes is grateful for all the assistance received during his recovery.
“I definitely wanted to give a big thanks to SOL, Sports and Orthopedics Leaders PT group. They’ve done a huge amount of work for me to get me back on the road, I wouldn’t be able to race this weekend without them.”
And “the whole medical staff, Dr Speigel’s office and Sutter Surgery Center.” added Jacques-Maynes.
“Everyone was very professional and did a great job to bring me back to this place, I’ve always felt that I’ve been ahead of the curve because of great care from professionals like SOL, like Sutter and it makes a huge difference for me to be able to get back to my job as fast as possible.”
Back to racing. Jacques-Maynes is unsure how his return to racing will be and waiting to see how it goes at Toona.
“There are so many levels that I need to be able to do. I need to be able to handle my bike properly and that part is going well. I need to be able to take the bumps on the road and that is going okay. I need to be able to ride in a pack and I have no idea how that’s going to go, I have done a couple of group rides in town here but I don’t really know what it’s going to be like in a pack. I could have some pretty big freakouts.”
He admits that the possibility of crashing is constantly on his mind. “It’s your ability to get over that and push that back, get the confidence back for knowing that you’re doing the right thing. It will be hard for the first couple of races for sure, just take it race by race.”
However, he deems his actual fitness level as pretty good. “I’m nowhere near where I was getting ready for Tour of California, but I wouldn’t expect to return to that kind of level anyway. I’m still building up some endurance and the legs are decent, I would say.”
Tour de Toona is a good race to return to with two shorter road stages, at 73-mile and 91-mile long, much shorter than the back to back stages at Tour of California. “But I’m sure it’s definitely going to be taxing for me and I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to sit in the wheels a little bit and the shorter days is going to make it fast and it will just be over sooner. You don’t want to prolong the torture really.”
The fractured collarbone did bring some good news. “We’re buying a house. A mile down the street, we love where we live, the kids get to stay in the same school district, we’re really happy. And it totally would not have happened if I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have been around to sign papers, to do inspection so it’s kind of fortuitous, you have to find the bright spots in these dark days. Another life dream and your normal life to carry on.”
Tour de Toona is just the first race back with a busy racing schedule with many stage races including Cascade Cycling Classic, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“I am looking forwards to getting back to normal.” Jacques-Maynes concluded. “July and August are actually going to be pretty big months for me, for my team. There’s a lot more racing to come and I’d like to do my part in it.”