For Saul Raisin, it was two heavy crashes that ultimately flicked the lights on his career. In 2003, he went headfirst into a barrier, knocked himself unconscious and busted half his teeth out. In 2006, near the finish of the Circuit de la Sarthe, he hit a patch of gravel. Raisin, an up-and-comer with Crédit Agricole at the time, sustained a tremendous blow to the head, and needed surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain due to bleeding. He fell into a coma.
The short of it is that he would never truly race again, even though he would make a farewell lap at the national time trial championships in 2007. The risk was simply too high: at a training camp with his Crédit Agricole teammates after the accident, he was doing things like running red lights without even knowing. He’s 29 now, and was 23 at the time of his last major crash.
Raisin still talks to Thor Hushovd, an old teammate. But that’s about it from those days.
“He sent me a signed yellow jersey from the Tour de France last year,” Raisin said. “But you know, the cycling community stuck with me for a year or two… It actually kind of reminds me of high school. You have all these friends, and once you get out, they’re not your friends anymore.”
Who knows why the sport forgets people it once heralded? It’s fairly common, right? The next big thing on the bike ends up to be nothing on the bike at all, for a constellation of reasons, some of their own volition and some not. Maybe it keeps others from slowing down, to not think of those who’ve gone before them. Maybe there’s nothing more to it than an inadvertent loss of consciousness, a motion blur in the rear view as the sport speeds on.