All professional cyclists crash. Few have had as much bad luck as Christian Vande Velde.
The 35-year-old Illinois native has had more than a dozen surgeries to repair damages from race crashes.
Vande Velde exited the Tour of Italy in 2009 and 2010 and likewise departed the 2010 Tour de France via crashes. Last month, he crashed four times in the opening week of the Tour de France but recovered, rode strongly in the final week and finished 17th overall.
With two stages remaining in the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Vande Velde is second overall, trailing race leader Levi Leipheimer by 11 seconds.
"I haven't feel this way since late 2008 or in the spring of the 2009 season," said Vande Velde, a father of two young children who nearly retired after his severe crash early in the 2009 Tour of Italy.
"Now that I'm riding good or to my potential again, I realized now how much I suffered in the past couple of years. It makes it all the more fun when you have been limited like I have in the past couple of years . . . Suffer, suffer, suffer. . To finally put your foot on the gas pedal, it feels good again.
Vande Velde’s team, Garmin-Cervelo, won the team time trial in this year’s Tour de France and the squad won the team title.
But Vande Velde, who finished a career-best fourth overall in the 2008 Tour de France, hasn't won a race since claiming a stage of Paris-Nice in 2009. As a strong climber and time trialist, he was a favorite in the Vail Time Trial, and he thought he had a victory while finishing a few minutes ahead of Leipheimer in the individual ride.
"I prepared for the Tour de France here 10 years ago," Vande Velde said of competing in the Colorado event. "I've ridden it many times in hail, snow and sunshine.
"I had this stage picked out weeks ago. I know these roads, like a lot of people did, I knew it suited my characteristics as a bike rider."
Vande Velde finished 21st in the main field in stage 4 with Leipheimer and other overall contenders, and there was no change in the top overall standings.
But whether Vande Velde will be able to gain time in the final two stages on Leipheimer remains unknown. Which is, of course, is why bike races are held.
Please click on the banner above to check out more of Acura's 2012 moldel line-up.