Christchurch cyclist Keagan Girdlestone back on the road five months after suffering life-threatening injuries
Never has a 30-minute ride felt so good for injured Christchurch cyclist Keagan Girdlestone.
The 19-year-old is five months into his recovery from a life-threatening crash in Italy, when he ploughed through the window of a team vehicle during the Coppa della Pace race.
Girdlestone, a promising South African-born cyclist, severed his carotid artery and jugular vein, suffered bruising to the brain and had several strokes and a cardiac arrest on the operating table.
Doctors told him he was lucky to survive and that his dream of becoming a successful professional cyclist were over.
However, the former Christchurch Boys' High School pupil told Stuff last month he wasn't giving up on his dream and was determined to get back on the bike.
Then, Girdlestone had gone from collapsing after five seconds of sitting, to being able to walk and train on his exercycle for up to 22 minutes at a time.
He took things to another level last week, when he went for a casual, 30-minute ride in Christchurch, the first since the nasty crash which almost took his life.
"It was amazing," Girdlestone said. "I just forgot how it felt. It was great. It just felt like that day, that all those hard days were worth it
"I actually felt surprisingly good. A lot better than I thought.
"The wind was blowing quite hard, so I had to fight the wind and keep my handle bars straight and I was able to do that, which was a surprise."
Holding anything steady had proven difficult for Girdlestone since the crash, after the strokes he suffered on the operating table rendered the left-side of his body un-coordinated and shaky.
But Girdlestone, who in 2015 became the youngest (16) winner of the 100km Le Race event from Christchurch to Akaroa, followed it up with a 55-minute ride the following day.
He's documenting his recovery on video, and his father, Wayne, rode with him to capture the moments.
"Dad won't let me ride without him," Girdlestone said. "I don't ride in the rain or anything just to keep it safe."
Girdlestone knows he has a long way to go, but he plans to keep riding and building up his aerobic system, while at the same time inspiring people with his fight back from near death.