It was Monday, sunny, and 60 degrees. It was also Stage 1 of the Tour of California where I had the opportunity to ride the full stage with a real US Pro rider as a training ride. But it was not just any Pro cyclist that I would be riding with... I'd be riding with a guy who should not even be alive according to some of the most renowned neurological specialists in the world, much less doing a stage anywhere.
The stage route would took us up US1 along the coast with hopes of reaching Santa Rosa before the pro peloton caught up with us. It started out with a large group of riders from the local race scene heading out of Sausalito, up Mt. Tamalpais, and down to Stinson Beach. As we continued the group dwindled as people turned back to San Francisco. But, as each one did, they all received a kind word and a hand shake from Saul, who seemed genuinely greatful they had joined him on this, his ride to promote
his March 31st Charity Ride. As we made our way up the coast to Pt. Reyes, we picked up a few more riders who were just out for a ride, or who were riding to find the perfect photo spot for shots of the colorful streaming peloton of pros when the Tour blazed through.
Most of them, not realizing that the guy in the green Credit Agricole kit, riding next to them, was a pro, fooled by his unassuming, humble demeanor as he pulled up along side to enthusiastically start a conversation. While watching this I couldn't help but think that just 10 months ago this "kid" was in a coma, his parents informed that he would be in a vegetative state, if he lived at all. Now here he is back doing what he loved, mixing it up with other strong riders on a pro race route.
As we rolled thru Pt. Reyes and headed North, the group continued to get progressively smaller until there were just three of us left. Saul, Teddy from GU Sports (one of Saul's sponsors), and myself. It was in this intimate trio that I gained an insight into Saul Raisin. I didn't know him before hand, and all I know of him now, was what I saw on the road that day, and I must say I was truly impressed by how good natured and down to earth he is. You knew this was a good "kid."
(Editor's Note: Saul Raisin is 24 years old - an age that is considered young in the sport of road racing)
After the trauma of the accident, and the miracle of his recovery, that "good kid" is also now a very appreciative one. As we rode, he reflected and spoke about his recovery, the hole in his brain, how staunchly his team stood by him, and how great his parents were. Then he mentioned God. There was no mention of a particular religion, just the idea of God. He said that before the accident, he really didn't know what God was. But, since then he thinks he knows a little more. He explained that while he was recovering, he realized if anyone needs to a see a miracle to confirm God's existence, they just need to look at him. He's alive. He's walking, he's talking (all things he needed to relearn) and he's riding... again.
As we turned off US1 and headed towards Santa Rosa we found out the pro peloton for the Tour of California (Stage 1 of which we were pre-riding) was breathing down our necks. That's when Saul said "Get on!" and he started driving the pace. That's when Saul showed one of the most impressive displays of the day. Less then a year after his disastrous accident the "kid" was blasting up the mountains of California, leading a friendly peloton to the finishline, muscling it out in the big ring. We crested the last climb and raced down the other side into Santa Rosa, twenty minutes ahead of the race. When the finishline announcer yelled that it was Saul Raisin rolling in, the huge crowd went wild. They cheered as if they had just witnessed a miracle... In my opinion, they had.
(Editor's Note: During the ride, our reporters had a chance to ask Saul a few questions about this life and how it changed over the last year. Here's what he had to say.)
PPO: What was the toughest part of this whole situation?
Saul: The mental aspect. Not knowing what was happening to me. Not knowing what my life would become. Not knowing if I would ever walk again. Having to relearn how to do basic human things. I couldn't read a children's book, I wasn't able to clean himself, I felt dirty.
PPO: How was this shaped your present outlook on life?
Saul: When I was in the hospital bed, I thought if I ever get back on the bike, I want to help others. That's when I started Raisin Hope. I am so grateful and all I want to is be helpful, and I am happy to just try to have a normal life. But I know I will never have a normal life (...in the public eye).
PPO: Can you talk about the emotional side? Did you ever feel like just giving up?
Saul: Never! Never thought that once. I kept saying to himself, where is my life going. I couldn't even lift a spoon to feed himself or a bedpan... But once I started to make a little progress, I said to myself, maybe I will ride again. But everything was one step at a time, I had to relearn how to talk. At first, in the beginning it was tough because my throat was swollen from the respirator. I had push and keep on outdoing myself. After going to physical therapy all day, I would get on the trainer and push and push, to outdo myself.
To find out more about Saul and Raisin Hope visit: