BACK ON HIS BIKE, ALREADY A WINNER
By EMMA CORNFORD
AS Glen Ingram waits at the line for the beginning of the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic this morning, completing the course will be foremost in his mind.
Just over seven years ago, Mr Ingram was in a race near Sydney. His plan was to finish, then ride home to get in some extra kilometres in preparation for the Grafton to Inverell.
He never finished the race.
Instead, he collided with another rider which resulted in an accident that left his bike in pieces and his back broken in two places.
The resulting 18 months were some of the toughest of Mr Ingram's life as he fought through his injury and the resulting depression.
"At the same time I had my accident the Goodwill Games were on in New York and a Chinese gymnast broke her neck in the same place. She's now a quadriplegic ? so I was lucky," he said.
"When it happened I thought I'd just pulled a muscle or something and the doctor would tell me to go home and rest ... but then he came in and said I'd broken my neck and I lost it."
With his neck in a brace for four months and his parents caring for him, Mr Ingram had to make a choice.
Despite being unable to ride or even feed himself, he got himself a new bike.
"I couldn't ride it, but it was my encouragement to get up and not become a blob at home doing nothing," he said.
"The first time I got back on I was a bit scared and I had my down days where I didn't want to go anywhere, but life's short and you've got to get up and do what you can."
His bike, which he will ride today, was from Italy ? a country he fell in love with during a trip to Europe years ago and decided he would visit again when he recovered from his accident.
A couple of years ago he got there and stayed at Belvedere Bike Hotel in Riccione.
The owner asked Mr Ingram to return to the hotel and become a bicycle tour guide.
He now works there for four months a year and competes in granfondos, huge Italian cycle races, which he has used as training for this year's competition. He has also been sponsored by the hotel.
Mr Ingram's mother Marlene, father Reg and partner Bronwyn will be there this morning to see Mr Ingram off ? something Mrs Ingram thought she would never see again.
"I didn't think he would ever ride again," she said.
"He stayed with us for a year and we had to do everything. Seeing the depression he went through was the worst thing. But he'll do it. We're just so proud."