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.
He would never make it, at least not on his bicycle.
That ugly thought crept through his head. Sixty seconds later, Leipheimer was being rocketed forward off the bike.
"I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything," he said. "The edge of the car's bumper must have got me, must have caught my left leg, got underneath me. It was violent."
On the ground, Leipheimer noticed the car braking and stopping. Then came the rush of emotions, engulfing him.
"I started to hyperventilate," he said. "I started to panic. I felt scared. I felt angry. I just felt kinda overwhelmed. Fear was definitely one of those emotions. You really don't know what happened."
Leipheimer struggled to his feet.
"My leg was swelling, there was pain in my back, above my butt," he said.
A car with four people stopped to help. Leipheimer yelled at them to get his bike into their car. They told him there wasn't much bike to get into the car.
"I kept pleading with them, 'Get my bike in the car!' " he said. "But the bike was in pieces. It didn't make sense what I was saying. I just couldn't think straight."
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