A court appearance Thursday marked professional cyclist Michael Torckler's first face-to-face encounter with the man charged with crashing a car into him and then fleeing.
Torckler raised his splinted right hand, swore to tell the truth, and for 25 minutes sat across from Arthur Ben Yu, 36, of Rohnert Park, who authorities say nearly killed him and put him in the hospital for 12 days.
Yu is charged with felony hit-and-run causing injury, reckless driving with injury, auto theft with a prior conviction and possession of a car allegedly stolen from his father. He also faces a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license and is being investigated for a possible fifth charge of drunken driving.
When prosecutor Chris Honigsberg asked the bespectacled Torckler if he recognized Yu, his answer was brief.
"No," he said.
The case is in its early stages, but Torckler was in court for testimony that was videotaped for future use because he is returning this weekend to his native New Zealand.
He said that on June 29 he rode about five miles up the steep and isolated Pine Flat Road above Alexander Valley before turning around and descending for about a half-mile before stopping to catch his breath.
"I had a look at the view, got my breath back and that's about as much as I remember," he said.
Torckler, an emerging racer who won the Tour of Borneo in May riding for New Zealand's PureBlack Team, had been in Santa Rosa since mid-June, training with locally based Bissell professional squad.
"I didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was," he said of the climb used as a fitness test by elite international pros, such as Levi Leipheimer, Alberto Contador and Chris Horner.
That is where Torckler's memory stops. It restarts a few days later with the realization that he was in the hospital and falling in and out of consciousness.
When Torckler arrived at the emergency room at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, he had a shattered face, a broken arm and hand and such deep, open wounds around his face that his trauma surgeon was worried he might develop a bone infection if they were not closed immediately.
"He had very complex facial fractures," surgeon David Russell said.
More astounding than the list of injuries Torckler sustained were the injuries he did not, Russell said.
"I think more remarkable is that his injuries weren't worse," he said. "The big shocker for me: How did this kid manage not to injure his brain?"
"If he is not wearing his helmet, he doesn't live, is my guess," Russell said.
Doctors inserted a breathing tube to prevent swelling from closing Torckler's airway.
"It was not a pleasant sight to see him," Torckler's mom, Linda, said of her arrival at Memorial after flying from New Zealand.
When Linda Torckler and her husband, Brohn, were informed their son had been hit, they were told it was unclear if the second of their three children would live. But officials have called Torckler's recovery remarkable.
Torckler was moved July 6 from Memorial's main facility to its Acute Rehabilitation Unit. Five days of in-house rehabilitation work later, he was discharged.
"His recovery has certainly been brisk," Russell said.