Cycling champion breaks back in crash

Paralympic cycle champion Simon Richardson has broken his back in two places in a hit-and-run crash that has left him in a critical but stable condition.

The 44-year-old cyclist, who won two gold medals and a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, may need surgery as he also has a double break to the pelvis, both front and back, and a broken breast bone. He is breathing out of one lung.

In a statement, his wife Amanda, who is by his hospital bedside, said: "I'd like to thank everyone in the cycling community and other well-wishers for their messages of support for Simon.

"He will be heartened to know that people are extending their positive thoughts and encouragement to him during this difficult time."

Richardson, of Porthcawl, was cycling near Bridgend yesterday morning when he was apparently struck by a white van and thrown to the side of the road.

He was taken by air ambulance to the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff.

Richardson is no longer on British Cycling's para-cycling squad but he was still training.

Friends, family and colleagues have flooded him with get-well messages, including former team-mate and Paralympic champion Jody Cundy.

The International Paralympic Committee tweeted: "Our thoughts are with British paralympic cyclist Simon Richardson, who is in the hospital after a road accident while training this week."

Friend Phil Jones, who also works with technology firm Brother, one of Richardson's sponsors, said: "Simon has shown before that he has the enormous mental and physical strength needed to overcome challenges.

"He also has tremendous support not just from his family and friends but the cycling community, his sponsors and the wider community in Porthcawl, his home town."

Gareth Sheppard, the performance manager for British Cycling's paracycling team, said: "All our thoughts are with Simon and his family.

"It's really, really sad that someone's life could be threatened by someone not taking due care and attention on the road."

With ever-increasing traffic congestion and cycling a growing mass participation event in the United Kingdom, Sheppard called for increased awareness from all road users.

He added: "You've got little protection as a cyclist because you are so exposed.

"We very much want to make sure racing and cycling in general on the road is safe and there does need to be a Government-backed campaign on the issue."

Gerwyn Owen, of Disability Sport Wales, said the incident highlighted the need for everybody to look after cyclists on the road and for cyclists to take care themselves.

He said Richardson had been training hard and competing in his bid to get into the London 2012 team.

He said: "He is still a full-time athlete, supporting himself, and he gets great support from his wife, Amanda.

"Long may it continue and we look forward to when he gets out of hospital and we can assess his condition."

Richardson was seriously injured in a cycling incident with a car while out with cycling club friends in 2001.