At the end of last year doctors told Preston Blackie his cycling career was over.
In all fairness, it wasn’t the first time the Whitehorse cyclist had heard that.
“It’s actually the third time a doctor had told me cycling has to go,” he said.
Early last December Blackie broke his leg in the innocuous act of stepping out of his vehicle. An early diagnosis was cancer and he was told he could lose his leg.
It turned out that the Blackie’s tibia had been compromised by a bone infection.
“Last April (in 2015) I started noticing symptoms, I had a really bad pain … it felt like tendonitis,” he said. “It got progressively worse over the summer. I couldn’t ride at all, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t walk up and down stairs because I had a really bad limp. I just put up with it.”
Blackie, who is a former professional mountain biker, had a surgery earlier this year in which much of his tibia was replaced with polymethyl methacrylate, commonly called “bone cement.”
“My first meeting with the orthopedic surgeon … he said, ‘Your cycling career is over. We’re going to start with teaching you how to walk again,’” said Blackie.
Not only is Blackie back on the bike, he has already won races this season and hopes to capture the solo men’s division of the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay next month. The 37-year-old placed second in the division of the 240-kilometre race from Haines Junction to Haines, Alaska in 2013.
“I’m fitter and stronger this year than I was last year and I’m pretty confident going into it,” said Blackie. “It’s my big A race for this portion of the season, for sure.
“I’m looking forward to battling with Joel (Macht, the defending champ,) and whoever else shows up.”
“I’m highly motivated,” he added. “This year it’s all systems go.”
Blackie won the expert men’s general classification in the Tour de Skagway this past weekend.
He finished the three stages with a combined time of three hours, 44 minutes and 51 seconds. Juneau’s Casey Colten came second at 3:58:38 ahead of fellow Juneau rider Will Coleman at 4:05:43. Whitehorse’s Shea Hoffman took fourth at 4:24:31.
Blackie placed second behind Colten in the 20-kilometre time trial by 1:13; he crushed it in the 84-kilometre road race, taking first by over 10 minutes ahead of Whitehorse’s Sean McCarron in second; he took third in a field of eight expert men in the 19-kilometre hill climb. Former course record holder Ian Parker of Whitehorse came in first in the climb at 44.18, while Colten placed second at 46:27, 41 seconds ahead of Blackie.
Blackie, a two-time Tour de Whitehorse champ, also won the 100-kilometre road race in the Tour de Haines Junction the previous weekend. He produced the fastest time of 30:54 in the 20-kilometre Icycle Sport North Klondike Time Trial, hosted by VeloNorth, on Wednesday.
The two previous times doctors told Blackie his riding career was over came after neck injuries over a decade ago while he was a profession free rider mountain biker. The first one stemmed from a collision with a tree, the other during a training session for a Red Bull festival in Montana.
“When I was training for that I caught my front wheel on the landing of a jump and slid down the landing on my face and scorpioned and had a very bad concussion from that,” said Blackie. “I had to have my nose reconstructed – I destroyed my face and took all the skin off my forehead … and fractured my neck.
“That was number two, this was number three.”
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