Adam Craig has spent much of his life defying the laws of physics, rushing down rocky or muddy mountainsides on his bicycle. And he always escaped serious injury.

Until now. Craig, the 2008 U.S. Olympic mountain biker from rural Exeter and a Dexter High graduate, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and has begun his rehab following a recent surgery. He’s almost reluctant to talk about the incident — even apologizing to his fans and sponsors for the injury on his latest blog.

Craig, you see, didn’t injure his knee in any grand athletic event. “Unfortunately there’s no cool story of an avalanche sweeping me over a cliff or (mountain biker) Kurt Sorge teaching me how to land a backflip on the mulch pile,” Craig wrote. “Nope, the aforementioned activity was a brisk walk across a slick parking lot.”

In other words, Craig slipped on ice.

“Unfortunately,” said Bart Bowen, Craig’s coach in Bend, Ore., “sometimes that’s all it takes.”

So now, instead of working his normal early-season training, which would include 30 hours of riding a week and lifting three or four days a week, Craig is pushing through his rehab, which includes a lot of range-of-motion therapy and stationary riding.

Realistically, said Craig and Bowen, he won’t participate in a race until July, meaning he will miss half the World Cup season.

“But it won’t cost me the whole season,” Craig said last week. “It still gives me a chance to catch back up, so I should be fine.”

Bowen said Craig is looking for a strong finish.

“He can salvage the end of the season with some good results,” said Bowen. “If all goes well, he’ll be back in July and he could have a phenomenal end of the season. A lot of times athletes come back (from injury) stronger and more motivated. I tell him to keep a positive outlook. He can only look at it as a good thing that will make him better.”

Craig, 28, was ranked 25th in the 2009 Union Cycliste Internationale standings and has been the highest American among world-class mountain bikers for the last five years. He hopes to be at full strength for the final World Cup race in Windham, N.Y., Aug. 25-29 and the world championships at Mont St. Anne in Quebec — perhaps Craig’s favorite course — on Labor Day weekend.

“That will be the focus on my season,” he said. “I’ll need to be racing pretty fast to make up for lost time.”

Following his injury, Craig underwent surgery in which he had a cadaver ligament attached to his left knee. Bowen said it usually takes about eight weeks for the cadaver ligament to be accepted and start blood flow.

That’s when the more strenuous rehabilitation can begin. “Once the ligament starts blood flow and gets new tension, that’s when you get more motion (in the knee),” he said. “A lot of people feel good after four weeks and start to stretch the ligament too soon. We’re trying to make sure Adam has a strong foundation.”

He added that the rehab is going as well as can be hoped right now.

“I mean, no injury is great for a high-level athlete,” said Bowen. “I think things are going along nicely but it’s going to take time. An ACL is a big one. It’s not like he broke a bone and will be back in six weeks. It’s going to be a long process and we’re looking at the big picture for him: this year, next year and two years.”

So Craig is limited right now in what he can do. He rides his bike on a trainer — meaning he’s stationary — for about 30 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon. He does resistance work and range-of-motion exercises.

“Rehab is frustratingly easy now,” said Craig, “because (the knee) isn’t strong enough to do anything with it yet. I lie on the floor and lift my leg up. I ride on the trainer with flat pedals. I’m sure it will get hard, but this is a slow process.”

He’s recently started walking around, putting pressure on the leg.

“I just tell him to take it one day at a time,” said Bowen. “He should probably be riding outside in another three, four weeks. He’s going to put a lot of miles on his road bike this year and that’s what he’s going to have to do.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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