It’s gone mostly under the radar, but for the fist time since Bradley Wiggins in 2007, a young Briton is riding for Cofidis – yet he’s fortunate to be even doing so after a horror crash last summer.
Harrison Wood had been progressing steadily in the U23 scene across Europe for the past four seasons when in May last year the French WorldTour team offered him the opportunity to become a stagiaire from August.
A few weeks later, however, the Torquay-born rider crashed at the Course de la Paix while racing with Great Britain and he had to be flown to the nearest hospital in a helicopter. He was unconscious for six hours, suffered a small bleed on the brain, broke a collarbone and struggled to walk.
“I’ve only really told my mum and dad this before, but I think I am lucky to have my life when I hear what happened,” the chatty climber told Cycling Weekly magazine last August. “I am completely blind to what happened and I don’t remember anything, but I think that’s a blessing in disguise because it could have been a lot worse, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve still got my life and cycling.”
Fortunately, Wood recovered well, and after five weeks off the bike he was able to return at the Tour du Limousin in mid-August where he made his debut with Cofidis. The French team had kept in near-constant contact with him during his rehab and he had sent results of MRI scans and x-rays to the team’s medical department.
“I wasn’t sure if my season was finished or not,” he reflected, “and it was touch and go if I was going to be a stagiaire or not.” As it transpired, Cofidis provided him with 15 racing days in the final three months of the season despite his comparatively poor condition. They then offered him a two-year contract.
“It’s nice to officially be in the team as a full-time pro, and I’m really thankful to them,” he told CW at the Tour of Oman, his second stage race of the season after making his bow at the Tour Down Under.
“Coming into a stagiaire role without any training and without having done much racing was a big shock, so for me this year is about racing as much as possible, gaining as much experience and seeing what’s possible.”
Any lingering doubts from the crash reside with his parents rather than him. “It’s my parents who are the ones worried!” he laughed. “I still don’t remember anything from it but that’s a good thing as when it gets hectic in a finale or on a climb, I don’t think about…
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