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U.S. Racing This Week: Elk Grove opens busy August without Mike Friedman

Amgen Tour of California, stage 8, Mike Friedman
Friedman leads the break on stage 8 of the Tour of California. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

July has come and gone and with the Cascade Classic came the second half of the U.S. racing season. The Tour of Elk Grove opens Friday and kicks off the busiest August in memory. Between two major stage races in Utah and Colorado and a run of national criteriums, the eighth month of the year is one of its fullest.

One rider not taking part though is former Elk Grove podium finisher Mike Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth). In a season that his manager Jonas Carney called “difficult,” Friedman has been a non-starter since May, when he was diagnosed with a kink in his common iliac artery. The injury, which forced KBS rider Ian MacGregor to retire last year, caused decreased blood flow and thus abnormal lactic reactions in Friedman’s left leg.

The affliction is nothing new to pro cyclists. A number of riders, including Derek Bouchard-Hall and Charles Dionne, have dealt with the issue in the past. Friedman told VeloNews he noticed an issue years ago, but always thought symmetry (or lack thereof ) was to blame.

“I was sitting crooked, my left leg hitting the seatpost, and my right leg always had space. But last year, I would feel lactated under much more minimal work,” he said. “And this year it was ridiculous. It was much more prevalent. I mean, I just couldn’t ride.”

Friedman struggled through the Tour of California, making the long breakaway on the final day, but was dropped the first time over Paris Mountain in the U.S. professional road race a week later. As he fell back into the caravan, Friedman apologized to Carney, punched his leg and was gone.

Days earlier he’d received the diagnosis of a kink in his abdomen, near where the iliac arteries split to travel through the pelvis. He had been making plans for a run at the omnium at the 2012 London Olympics. Now off the bike until September 1, those hopes are most likely gone, but Friedman said the diagnosis was a blessing.

“I don’t have to think I’m not good, that I’m not training hard enough anymore. I always thought I had to be skinnier or train harder,” said Friedman. “Now have a viable reason for feeling the things I was feeling.”

Friedman underwent a challenging surgery in Colorado Springs last month, followed by 10 days in the hospital, before returning home to Boulder. Teammate Michael Creed and he shared on Twitter Friedman’s miserable time in the hospital. Many riders struggle with the decision to undergo surgery and risk unknown long-term side effects, or even death, as was the case with Barloworld’s Ryan Cox, and Friedman took his time. He ultimately decided that he wasn’t ready to move on from the bike.

“The doctors didn’t rush me, didn’t pressure me; they sent me home for couple weeks to think about what I’m going to do,” said Friedman. “I really wasn’t ready to stop racing, especially on these terms. And now I may be totally new rider. It’s really a second chance.”

Friedman will get his chance to return to the road, but not until 2012. He finished second at Elk Grove in 2007 and fourth last year, but he’ll miss a shot this weekend at the title that has twice eluded him. Friedman’s focus is on a comeback in time for the track World Cup season this winter, but if the Olympics don’t happen, he may get another shot at Elk Grove’s $44,500 overall purse next August.

Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove – Elk Grove, Illinois
August 5-7
$110,000 (men) / $15,000 (women)
Stage 1 Time Trial (4.5 mi.)
Stage 2 Criterium (155km men / 50 min. women)
Stage 3 Criterium (155km men / 50 min. women)
*National Racing Calendar

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