Guttenplan returns to racing five months after life-threatening training accident
After several months recovering from a near fatal car collision, David Guttenplan will return to the start line August 20 to race the TUFMED USA CRITS Finals Iron Hill Twilight Criterium.
It was a routine training ride that turned into every cyclist’s nightmare. March 1, a reckless driver hit and dragged Guttenplan from the road into a parking lot. The Support Clean Sport/SeaSucker/Guttenplan Coaching team leader from Clearwater, Florida said he doesn’t remember anything about the accident and felt no pain, but was lucky to just to be alive.
His face was destroyed. Jaw broken. His nose hung from his face. The longtime Support Clean Sport leader also suffered a punctured lung, broken rib and scapula.
“I was lucky in that I don’t really remember much, but the first month, everything was ungodly terrifying,” Guttenplan said. “I’ll never be able to explain how scary it was. I was basically still fighting for my life. I was in a weird, survival mode like you see in the movies. Once you get through that, nothing else seems that bad.”
Fortunately, the doctors were able to do all of his required surgeries, initially said to take three weeks, in eight hours. Guttenplan’s heart rate remained at a steady 70 beats per minute, so the surgeons just kept going.
To Guttenplan, the important thing was that his legs still worked. The suggestion was made to hang up his bike forever, but the 31-year-old was riding again with two short weeks.
“I clawed my way out of the hospital,” said Guttenplan, who knew from multiple collarbone breaks he would be recover faster at home. “As soon as I got out, I know whenever I pedal, real slow on my trainer, it will clear out the pain pills and the funk of anesthesia. They had to put a trachea tube through my neck, so that was pretty difficult, but once they got that out, it was a million times better, despite having my jaw wired shut and being on a liquid diet.”
Five months along, Guttenplan doesn’t feel fully recovered. He said every morning he wakes up and his face, newly pieced back together by plastic surgeons, feels understandably “weird.” Physically, he said could have mixed it up in criteriums soon after the accident, But the issue is, he can’t fall on his nose or his face.
“If I fell on my nose, we’re back to square one,” he said.
Despite enduring life-threatening injuries, Guttenplan is surprisingly upbeat and optimistic about his experience, to which he gives his support group much of the credit. To help pay for his sky-high medical expenses, Guttenplan’s girlfriend, Daniela, organized a crowdfunding page, which ended up raising three thousand more than the initial goal of $20,000.
“When I woke up out of my coma, the first thing I saw was every single person I knew, their family and friends, either donated, sent me a message or were praying for me. I’ll never be able to explain that feeling. It was the most uplifting, positive experience that made me want to do well and motivate people.”
Family, friends and team sponsors continue to be supportive of Guttenplan throughout his ordeal. They would understand if he didn’t race again this year, but he owes it to them and himself to try.
“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to race again and grateful for all the messages from supporters that helped me keep my spirits up,” Guttenplan said. “It’s one of those experiences that you never thought would turn out to be positive. I can’t take life for granted and I don’t want anyone else to either. Anything can happen at any moment.”