Garmin’s Alex Howes breaks collarbone in training crash; hopes to be back in time for August's USA Pro Challenge

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — “Wow. Just found out Alex Howes just crashed out training and broke his collarbone. When it rains, it pours,” Garmin-Sharp team director Jonathon Vaughters wrote on Twitter Saturday afternoon.

After eight of his riders went down Friday afternoon in stage 6 of the Tour de France, with Tom Danielson, Ryder Hesjedal, and Robbie Hunter forced to abandon the race due to their injuries, the loss of early-season revelation Alex Howes to a training crash on Saturday was not the kind of luck Vaughters’ team needed.

Howes, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, sustained a broken left collarbone Saturday afternoon during a motorpacing session with his teammate, Peter Stetina, and upcoming U.S. Olympic team member, Taylor Phinney, led by Dr. Allen Lim.

Howes spoke with VeloNews Sunday about the crash, his injury, and how it affects his preparations for the latter half of the season.

The trio was out for 260km behind Lim’s scooter in the mountains above Boulder when, as Howes recounts it, “I kinda got tangled up in the scooter there a little bit, next thing you know you’re on the floor.”

Training camp staff tended to Howes immediately. “One of the guys who was up there… tossed me in the back of his Subaru,” Howes said. “I was in surgery as quick as we possibly could be.” Due to the need for an empty stomach before going under general anesthesia — to reduce the risk of pulmonary aspiration, the migration of stomach contents into the airways and lungs — Howes was in surgery “six hours after my last Clif Bar.”

The collarbone is one of the most commonly broken bones in cycling, but Howes’ injury “really wasn’t a clean break,” he said. “Nobody really knows how well it’s gonna heal and how quickly it’s gonna heal.” He now has ten screws holding his left collarbone together, but expects to be ready for the USA Pro Challenge in mid-August.

Howes lit a fire under his neo-pro year this season with a sixth-place finish at Brabantse Pijl, and backed it up four days later with 215km in the break at Amstel Gold Race, where he went on to finish a respectable 30th. His strong show of form in some of the hilliest one-day races bodes well for the Pro Challenge. He is clearly fired up for what he considers to be his “hometown race,” even more so than for the concurrently-running Vuelta a España, saying that, “that’s kind of where my heart’s at right now. We chatted about it a little bit but I guess I kind of won out for Colorado.”

Despite Saturday’s crash, Howes believes he will be fully ready for the weeklong stage race. After what he estimates to be 46 race days this season, Howes actually expects to benefit from his forced rest, saying, “Where I’m at right now I could probably use a little rest anyways. We’ve been training really hard at this camp and it’s been a long season; I have a lot of races in my legs at this point.”

In the meantime, Howes expects to be back in motion on the stationary trainer by mid-week, admitting that his priority is “trying to enjoy myself a little bit and trying not to think about it too much, just trying to stay active.”

Despite the setback, Howes is confident that he will come out on top, saying that, “on paper, I think being able to bounce back from this and being able to have a strong second half of the season shouldn’t be a problem.” However, he cautioned that, “this isn’t paper, it’s the real world, and we’ll see how it goes.”

With his Garmin-Sharp teammates looking to rejuvenate their Tour this week, Howes hopes to bounce back for the Colorado tour — and to help end Garmin’s 2012 season in a strong way, on home soil.