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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for July 25, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson & Gerard Knapp

AIS women's team update, Germany

Alexis Rhodes conscious and chirpy; Amy Gillett-Safe Foundation launched

Less than one week after the tragic accident in Germany that took the life of Australian cyclist Amy Gillett and put her five team-mates into hospital comes news that one of the most seriously injured riders, Alexis Rhodes, 20, is now conscious and talking.

Due to the severity of their injuries, both Rhodes and Louise Yaxley, 23, were kept heavily sedated by specialists at the German major trauma facility in Jena. Rhodes was the remaining cyclist to be taken off heavy sedation by specialists after Louise Yaxley was also allowed to wake on Saturday.

Their improving condition and speed of recovery has surprised doctors at the German hospital, said to be one of the country's finest road trauma facilities and described as "being like a five-star hotel".

However, both riders are still immobilised and face further surgery as part of a long recovery process. Meanwhile, Kate Nichols, Lorian Graham and Katie Brown are all recovering, with doctors planning to have Brown up and walking this week. Brown sustained a badly broken leg in the training accident and the girls are expected to be released in the next ten days.

Last Monday, July 18, Amy Gillett and five other riders of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) team were preparing for the start of the Thuringen-Rundfahrt when a teenage driver lost control of her vehicle, veered across the road and ploughed into the group, leading to what is perhaps the worst training incident to ever occur to an elite group of cyclists.

Foundation launched

The husband of the deceased cyclist, Simon Gillett, returned to Australia today and at a Sydney Airport press conference announced the establishment of the Amy Gillett-Safe Cycling Foundation (Safe is her maiden-name).

Gillett was at Sydney Airport en-route from Germany to Ballarat, Victoria, to bring his wife's body home to Australia.

The Amy Gillett-Safe Cycling Foundation, jointly set up by her family and Cycling Australia, has three main aims:

To provide support for the rehabilitation of Amy's five injured team-mates;
To fund and administer a scholarship program for young women cyclists to support their sporting and academic endeavours;
To promote road safety awareness amongst cyclists and motorists.

"Amy was an amazing woman with a love of life, sport and education," Gillett said. "This Foundation will honour her memory by supporting the dedication, talent and commitment of young women who will follow in her footsteps.

"Her love of life and all it could offer stand as an example worth following," he said.

Before turning to cycling, Amy had a successful career in rowing that saw her represent Australia at the Atlanta Olympic Games. After that she chose cycling as her sport and was inspirational in her pursuit of excellence.

It's understood that the Australian Federal Government has also offered to cover additional expenses not covered by insurance for the rehabilitation of the five injured riders.

Full details of the Amy Gillett-Safe Cycling Foundation will be finalised in coming days, but Cycling Australia has commenced the fund with a AU$5000 donation. To pledge donations, interested persons can email to acf.info@cycling.org.au with "Foundation'" in the subject line, or call Sydney on 61 (0) 2 9644 3002. Cycling Australia will also have a donation facility set up on its web site in coming days.

Rhodes responding well

The director of the AIS, Professor Peter Fricker, said from Germany on Sunday that Alexis Rhodes is responding well after doctors reduced the level of sedation and woke her.

"She has opened her eyes and is now talking," said Prof Fricker. "Doctors had planned to keep the breathing tube in a little longer because she has significant bruising and damage to her left lung but Alexis requested they take it out and after checking her lung function they agreed to her request.

"She'll need to be carefully managed in terms of pain medication because she has broken ribs and fractured bones in her back."

Meanwhile, the Tasmanian rider Louise Yaxley, who regained consciousness on Saturday, has been talking with doctors and her parents and is progressing well.

"She is still pretty drowsy but she's making sense which is good news," said Prof Fricker. "She still has a way to go and her injuries will require more surgery which she'll probably have sometime next week."

The surgery will include skin grafts to her arms which were badly grazed in the accident and doctors also want to review the condition of her right elbow that was dislocated in the impact from the crash.

"Doctors are happy that both girls have now taken the next step in their recovery and we've been very encouraged by that," said Prof Fricker.

Rhodes' close friend, Australian professional cyclist (Van Bemmelen - AA Drink) and Athens Olympian, Kate Bates, is staying with a German cycling friend who lives in Jena so she can be close to Alexis and help her with her recovery.

"I've been in talking with her and she's just awesome," said Bates. "Every day it's a little bit more good news and it's positive news for both Alexis and Louise who are recovering a lot quicker than the doctors imagined they would. But they're Aussie girls and we breed them tough.

"Al (Alexis) has a sexy, husky voice right now because of the tube being in but she always wanted a voice like that," joked Bates.

The mood among the Australian contingent is now very positive. "I'm going to base myself here until Al gets out of hospital because she's going to be become pretty bored pretty quickly now that she's awake and alert."

Sydney's Kate Nichols, 20, had been planning a brief escape from hospital to go to see Australian band 'The Cat Empire' in concert on Sunday night in Jena but the scheduled start time of midnight was deemed to be a little too late and doctors advised against it. Nichols is expected to fly home next weekend.

Queenslander, Lorian Graham, 27, headed to the hospital cafeteria for lunch with her parents while doctors plan to have Katie Brown, 21, taking her first steps in the next 24 to 48 hours although after surgery on both legs she will be on crutches for several weeks. Both Brown and Graham are now expected to fly back to Australia in ten days or so.

Memorial service

The funeral for Amy Safe followed by a memorial service will be held next Friday July 29, in Ballarat. A second memorial service will be held at Adelaide's Super-Drome on Friday August 5.

Condolences and tributes

Cyclingnews has now published four pages of tributes from cyclists and supporters from around the world who've been affected by this tragedy. Please see: Amy Gillett: Tributes, 1976-2005, Part 1, and Part 2, Part 3 (posted July 21) and Part 4 (posted July 22).

Cycling Australia has also established an email link for people who wish to send condolence messages to the family of Amy Gillett or to pass on their thoughts and wishes to those injured. Go to Cycling Australia's web site and follow the link on the home page.

Related stories:
July 24: Yaxley improving, Rhodes still unconscious
July 21: AIS head 'optimistic' about recovery; 'Brownie' tries his best
July 19: Unprecedented carnage in Germany
July 18: Amy Gillett dead after crash in Germany

Change of plan for Petacchi

Star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi was forced to pull out before the start of the Brixia Tour last week due to a muscular strain. He was expected to be back in action for the Tour de la Région Wallonne today but has decided to delay a little more, with the HEW-Cyclassics-Cup in Hamburg on July 31st his next competitive appointment.

"Fortunately a second scan has ruled out serious problems with the muscle of the left leg" says Petacchi. "But in case it flares up I will also miss the Tour de la Région Wallonne. I am amost certain to return to racing in the GP of Hamburg."

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