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Orange’s Resh Gets Some Breaks : Despite Injuries, Cyclist Will Be On the Road Again

The rain lashed at Tom Resh as he rode his bicycle through the English countryside.

It was the first stage of the Milk Race, Great Britain’s best-known bicycle race, which starts in the seaside resort of Bournemouth and finish at Birmingham in central England.

The race, which began earlier that day on May 27, consists of 12 stages, each of varying distances, over 15 days. It is similar, though shorter in time and distance, to the Tour de France.

Resh and the other riders had 10 miles remaining in the first day’s 120-mile ride before reaching the finish at Bristol.

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Resh, 27, from Orange, drifted to the back of the pack on a three-mile, uphill climb. The combination of the hill and the five hours spent in the rain slowed him considerably.

As the riders descended into Burrington Coombe, a long downhill section of the course, Resh desperately tried to catch the leaders, reaching speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. on the twisting road.

Approaching a sharp, left turn, Resh saw that five riders ahead of him had crashed. He tried to slow down, but the brakes on his bike didn’t hold on the wet metal rims. He didn’t slide, didn’t slow, but kept going, up a grassy embankment. He hit some rocks, then somersaulted off the bike.

Resh landed on his back, breaking two ribs, his collarbone and puncturing his lung.

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As if that weren’t enough, his tongue was caught in the back of his throat.

When help finally arrived, Resh was unconscious, having convulsions, and his face was turning blue.

The race ambulance was on the scene quickly, but there was no medic on board, just a driver.

Eddie White, the English team manager, knew that Resh needed a doctor to clear his throat or he would swallow his tongue.

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White went back to the road to flag down passers-by for a spoon or knife, anything , to clear Resh’s throat.

While White was at the road, Dr. Andrew Millar, who just happened to be driving by, stopped and took care of Resh’s tongue.

As Resh, still unconscious but out of danger, was being loaded into the ambulance, he was accidentally dropped off the stretcher.

The British tabloids, never known for their subtlety, loved Resh’s story. One banner headline, which took up the entire page, read, “Cycle star survives crash.”

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Resh, who in early May had won one stage and finished second in another in the Tour of Morocco, spent five days in the hospital.

John Pierce, the manager of a Bristol bicycling club, took over Resh’s care. Pierce put Resh up in the Grand Hotel, one of the club’s sponsors.

“I went to see him the day after the crash and he looked a mess,” Pierce said in a telephone interview from Bristol. “To see him now, he looks normal. He’ll manage all right. He’ll race again soon, but it was so close. . . . “

Resh spent 12 days at the hotel, recovering, before being cleared to fly home. The airlines forbid anyone with a collapsed lung to fly.

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Back at his home in Orange, Resh, who returned Wednesday, still doesn’t know what all the fuss was about.

He is smiling and cheerful as he relaxes in a blue lawn chair in his front yard, relating his experience. No outward signs betray his accident. Only later, when he stands up gingerly, does one recall what Resh’s upper torso has been through.

The only thing Resh can remember was trying, and failing, to slow down. He said he regained consciousness after he fell off the stretcher.

Maybe it’s because he’s been injured before (he has broken his collarbone and has had two concussions) that Resh didn’t think much of his recent ordeal.

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“It didn’t really seem like it was me I was reading about in the papers,” said Resh, a graduate of Villa Park High School. “The people who came to visit me in the hospital were other bike riders. They didn’t seem overly impressed.”

His recovery has amazed Debra Shumway, a friend and a fellow bicycle racer.

“He must be an incredible healer,” she said.

Indeed, on this particular afternoon, he has ridden for an hour on his stationary bike. It will be a few days before he’s out on the roads, however. But Resh is eager to get out and ride again.

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“The day after I crashed I said, ‘This is it--I’m not going to race anymore.’ ”

Resh changed his mind as soon as the pain subsided. Now that there’s only slight pain, he said he’s not about to give up racing for a 9-to-5 job.

He has a degree in computer science from UC Irvine, but has “never used it.” Instead, he has made his living racing bicycles around the world.

As soon as he’s cleared by his doctor, he’ll be back on his favorite Pacific Coast Highway route, riding his usual 300 to 400 miles a week in preparation for the U.S. road racing nationals (Aug. 4 at Milwaukee). He hopes to be fit enough to be racing within a month.

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“It’ll be interesting to see how I ride in a big field again,” he said. “I’ll try to be cautious in the next few races.”


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