Keagan Girdlestone: 'I still want to win the Tour de France and Olympic Games'

Less than 10 months since the horrific crash that almost left him dead, Keagen Girdlestone is back racing and has reiterated his desires to win the biggest races in the world.

Keagan Girdlestone, junior time trial, 2015 World Championships (Yuzuru SUNADA)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Keagan Girdlestone, the South African teenager who suffered near-fatal injuries after crashing in an Italian race last June, is racing once more and says that his "every ambition and goal I've ever had is unaltered".

In a blog post on his own website, Girdlestone revealed that he has already started racing once again in New Zealand, where he lives, and that he hopes to make selection for the Commonwealth Games next year.

It is a remarkable recovery for the rider who last June, riding for Dimension Data's development team at the U23 Coppa della Pace race in Italy, crashed through the windscreen of a team's car when he was chasing back to the peloton after a mechanical.

Girdlestone was in a critical condition in hospital after the accident with a severed carotid artery in his neck, also had nerve and muscle damage, bruising on the brain and a damaged vocal cord. But he has now regained full mobility of his body and has been riding his bike for several months. He has said that he should be dead and it is a "miracle" that he is not.

>>> Watch: Keagan Girdlestone rides on the road for first time since horrific crash

In the last two weeks, the 19-year-old has learned that he no longer needs to keep his heart rate beneath 145 beats per minute and that he doesn't need surgery on his biceps.

Buoyed by the news, Girdlestone has written: "Every ambition and goal I’ve ever had is unaltered. I will continue to try my best, work my hardest, to win the likes of the Tour de France (and stages), Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships, Ardennes Classics and more.

"I initially gave myself 2 – 3 years to get back to the level I once was at, but now I’m not sure if it’ll take that long anymore. I have a long way to go but I know what is required of me, I’ll get there.

"My sights are still set on the stars and I know for a fact there will be doubters reading this, which is perfectly acceptable. I mean, the goals I’ve set are higher standards than most professionals, who haven’t been to hell and back, who have failed themselves.

"How on earth would the likes of a kid, who partially paralysed his right arm, severed nerves and arteries come from a death bed and go on to achieving at the highest level of the sport? I’ll tell you how: a level of self belief, dedication and a new love for life that very few people who roam this earth possess.

"It’s not every day you get a second chance at life and with that second chance comes the realisation of how fragile life is, that realisation shifts a paradigm in ones-self that nothing in this world comes easy, but the toughest journeys have the best rewards."

Girdlestone addressed the message to his fans, his sponsors and teams in what could be interpreted as a 'come and get me' plea. Thinking back at the previous 10 months, Girdlestone says that nothing will be more of a challenge than what he has already been through.

"I’ve had a lot of doubt in my journey thus far." he admits. "Initially I was supposed to be dead, then brain dead, then wheelchair-bound, then I’d live but probably wouldn’t have a normal life, then I wouldn’t ride a bike, then I would never race a bike.

"I feel like those are some pretty massive assumptions that I’ve proved wrong thus far, so why not prove a few more wrong? I know this isn’t going to be easy but I keep thinking to myself, “How many people's lives could I change in a positive way if I make it back to the pro peloton?

"How many people will start believing in themselves? I believe I can push myself so much further now that I’m doing what I love with a bigger and more influential purpose.

"Everyone loves a winner but not everyone can relate to winning. Everyone can relate to setbacks and failure. And I’d love to be the person that shows, no matter how bad your setback is, with the right frame of mind and the right people around you, you can achieve any goal you set your mind to."


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Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.

Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.