When Levi Leipheimer was struck by a car in Spain last Sunday, X-rays at a Spanish medical center showed no fractures. The cyclist flew back to California confident that he had nothing more than a badly bruised calf muscle.
That's why elite athletes get second opinions on their injuries.
Leipheimer's team, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, announced Thursday that additional imaging has revealed a broken left fibula, jeopardizing the cyclist's participation in this year's Tour of California, which is set to start May 13 in his adopted hometown of Santa Rosa.
An OPQS press release stated that Leipheimer would observe a two-week period of "absolute rest." But Greg Fisher, editor of Bike Monkey Magazine and a close friend of the cyclist's, said that Leipheimer expects to be back on a bike within a week, with a return to road riding very shortly thereafter. His training will be supervised by Dr. Max Testa, a famed exercise physiologist and a long-time cohort of Leipheimer's.
The athlete remained upbeat despite the news.
"Really it's the best bad news I could've gotten," Leipheimer said in the press release. "The fibula is less important for cycling compared to other bones in the leg. I'm really looking to overcome pain more than anything."
Fisher offered more details of the incident. Leipheimer, 38, was on a routine training ride the day before the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, in the Spanish Basque country, cycling on the right shoulder of the road when he was struck from behind by an aged motorist traveling about 50 mph. The impact sheared his bicycle into "multiple pieces."
According to Fisher, witnesses assisted Leipheimer, called for medical help and saw him off to the hospital. The driver left the scene but returned.
"The real victory here is that I survived the collision and that I'm alive to meet that challenge at all," Leipheimer said. "It's amazing that all I did was break my fibula. I was in a panic state after (the collision) happened. I couldn't calm down. I can't communicate how close I came to being killed and that was incredibly scary. More than anything, I'm really grateful for the chance to come back from this injury."
Leipheimer has won the Tour of California three times, and has been an important ambassador for the annual stage race. He said he doesn't believe the injury will hold him back from summer events such as the Tour de France and the 2012 London Olympics.
You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.