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Hand-cycling champion may not recover in time for Games

Welsh hand-cyclist Rachel Morris' preparation for the London Paralympics has been severely disrupted by a crash. The 33-year-old was hit from behind by a car while competing in a time trial near Guildford at the weekend.

“This has totally screwed me up,” Morris said.

“I feel like everything I’ve worked for has been taken away. I can’t imagine not being there, but I know how long it has taken me to recover from this type of injury before, and it was longer than I now have before the Games.”

Morris was six minutes into the event when a car ran into the left side of her hand-cycle, leaving her with whiplash and shoulder injuries. She had time to get as close to the curb as possible, but the impact destroyed the left side rear wheel of her hand-cycle.

She said: “The bike went up into the air. I remember looking across and I was aware that I was at the same height as the passengers in a car passing in the outside lane.”

Morris' condition, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, is a nervous system malfunction that causes extreme pain and related sensory abnormalities. She has previously had both legs amputated because of her condition.

When Morris suffers an injury, her body reacts in a damaging way, which means that an accident like this impacts her more seriously, making her recovery compromised and uncertain.

After a crash in 2011, Morris was concerned that her body might reject her damaged shoulder. In an interview with the BBC she talked about her fear that her arm might need to be amputated. Since developing the condition Morris has competed in various sports as her level of disability has changed.

However, she does not race just to satisfy her competitive instincts. Training is essential. "It's a way of managing the pain' She told the BBC. “Without it, my life becomes unmanageable."

British Cycling says that it is supporting Morris, providing legal and medical help. The organisation said that it will be following the case closely as it is concerned that these incidents are often not adequately investigated and prosecuted. British Cycling recently called on the Ministry of Justice to undertake a comprehensive review of how the criminal justice system deals with this type of incident to ensure that everyone, especially the victim, is treated fairly and that the right environment for people to drive responsibly is in place.

It's certainly been a bad year for top riders getting injured while training. German time trial specialist Tony Martin was hit by a car in April; Levi Leipheimer sat out the Tour of the Basque Country after a collision at the end of March; Russian team pursuit rider Ivan Kovalev was hit while training in Sydney; and world keirin champion Shane Perkins was hit by a car in Melbourne.

 

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.