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Pro cyclist tells of being hit by car in Spain, 'day-to-day' recovery at home in Santa Rosa

  • In a photo posted on his Twitter feed, Levi Leiphiemier is shown working out following a cycling accident in Italy.

Sixty seconds, that's what Levi Leipheimer figures.

On April 1, one minute before he and his bicycle were hit by a car near Bilbao, Spain, the ugly thought raced through his head like a nasty virus.

"I had a visualization," Leipheimer recalled Monday. "Like I was going to get hit. It was really crazy, very weird. Then, no more than 60 seconds later it happened. Afterward, one of my first thoughts was, 'Did I do it to myself?' "

Of course, he didn't, but then again Leipheimer, the world-class cyclist who lives outside Santa Rosa, didn't have much of a frame of reference for getting hit by a car going 40 mph.

After all the miles and all the years he has been on a bike, the 38-year-old never had been hit by a motor vehicle. As he now rests -- mostly -- at home with a broken left fibula, Leipheimer has played and replayed that accident over and over like a broken record. The things that made him nervous then still make him nervous.

"It wasn't a road I normally would have ridden on," he said. "I felt very uncomfortable."

It was to be a training ride through Spain's Basque region in the north-central part of the country. It was to be an "easy" ride -- no more than two hours, Leipheimer said. It was the day before the six-day Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, a good, competitive spring prep for the Tour de France. Leipheimer picked a type of road he prefers -- a two-lane through the countryside.

After a time, however, the two lanes suddenly gave way to four. Leipheimer's comfort zone was immediately threatened.

"It's like starting on Highway 12 with two lanes and then opening up to four lanes toward Sebastopol," Leipheimer said. "I avoid roads like that because cars go a lot faster."

His nervousness increased. He knew he had to get off the road as soon as possible. Up ahead, he noticed, was a road sign. A spur road was about 800 yards away. Leipheimer decided to take that spur, get off his bike, check his GPS and find a safer route to return to the hotel in Bilbao used by his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team.

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