Professional cyclist Michael Torckler might be the master of the understatement.

The 25-year-old New Zealand native was descending Pine Flat Road on June 29 when, according to police, a car driven by Arthur Yu, 36, of Rohnert Park rounded a bend on the wrong side of the road and drove straight into the Bissell team cyclist.

Torckler, who just last year worked his way back into racing shape after suffering a broken kneecap, was left with multiple skull fractures and a broken arm.

"I'm definitely a little bit sore still," the rider said just before being moved into Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital's acute rehabilitation facility Friday.

Airlifted to the hospital in critical condition, the racer is now deemed in "good" condition by his medical team.

A plate has been inserted into his lower arm and he is limited to soft foods — yogurt, eggs — to keep nourished until his jaw feels recovered enough to chew.

"I've improved a lot very quickly," he said from his hospital room.

Torckler, with his parents Linda and Brohn Torckler by his side, said his relative immobility is a strain.

"It feels quite frustrating," he said. "I want to live a normal life, get back to walking and eating normal food."

Torckler declined to comment on the specifics of his crash, but said he was lured to Sonoma County by a teammate who raved about the challenging and beautiful roads.

"I'd really been enjoying my time here. Training here is quite magnificent," he said. "A lot of quiet roads, it's really enjoyable."

The steep pitch up Pine Flat has been used as a training ground by Santa Rosa resident Levi Leipheimer, as well as fellow professional cyclists Chris Horner, Alberto Contador and now-retired Scott Nydam of Sebastopol.

Few houses are located along the twisting turns and it's a popular spot for experienced riders looking for a challenging climb and technical descent.

Torckler said the local community has rallied to support him and his family in the days following the collision.

"It seems pretty incredible so far, slowly waking up to how much people care and are offering support and help," he said. "People bend over backwards. It's really quite cool, quite amazing."

Torckler plans to spend about a week in rehab locally and then hopes to travel back to New Zealand with his parents.

His return to cycling remains unclear.

"I'm not sure," he said. "Initially I thought, &‘Yeah, of course.' But we'll see how things go."

Yu is charged with hit-and-run causing injury, reckless driving with injury, auto theft with a prior conviction and possession of a car he allegedly stole from his father.

Yu also was charged with a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license and was being investigated for a possible fifth felony charge of drunken driving.

(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield can be reached at 526-8671 or