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Cyclist Bouchard-Hall Perseveres

August 25, 2000

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ Derek Bouchard-Hall is living a new life this year, taking his cycling career to the Sydney Olympics a few months after surgery almost ended it.

After years of concerns over pain in his left leg when he rode hard, Bouchard-Hall was diagnosed last fall with a thickened iliac artery.

Ironically, the injury probably resulted from years of pedaling on a bike. Each pedal stroke caused tiny traumas, eventually thickening the arterial wall for reasons not fully understood by doctors.

``There was a kink that developed and restricted my blood flow,″ said Bouchard-Hall, who lives in Palo Alto, Calif. ``I was down to about 40 percent blood flow. Now, I’m back at 80 percent and I’m finding that’s good enough.″

Surgery was performed in January, using pieces of arteries from his right leg to reconstruct the blocked area. Other than quitting bike racing, it was his only option and made for a gut-wrenching decision.

``It was a relief to finally know what had been bothering me, but almost unbearably upsetting to learn about what it would take to try to solve the problem,″ he said.

The surgery carried long-term health risks but Bouchard-Hall, 30, showed little adverse affects, which he attributed to his strong health. And after six weeks of light riding, he returned to top form.

``Once he was able to train at his highest level, he came back very, very quickly,″ said Craig Griffin, coach of the U.S. Olympic endurance cyclists. ``It really was a remarkably fast comeback.″

So quick, in fact, that Bouchard-Hall narrowly missed qualifying automatically for the Olympic team. He finished a close second in the Olympic trials road race in May in Jackson, Miss.

In July, Bouchard-Hall was named to the Olympic squad in track cycling on the six-man team pursuit squad. He left training camp last weekend, demonstrating his versatility by winning the national pro criterium championship in Chicago.

``I feel great. I’ve got the best form of my career right now,″ he said.

Bouchard-Hall’s story is more exceptional considering he holds degrees from Princeton and Stanford and could have been living comfortably as a civil engineer. Instead of taking a job offer in Boston, he spent the last six years on his bike.

``What was supposed to be a summer of fun on the bike turned into a year, then two years,″ he recalled. ``It certainly wasn’t a calculated plan to have a career as a cyclist.″

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