East London-born cyclist Jevandré Pauls will face a critical test of his comeback form at The Herald VW Cycle Tour on February 1, after two serious accidents nearly put paid to his professional career.

As final lead-out man for Bonitas sprinter Herman Fouché, Pauls hopes to return to full fitness in time to play an integral part in team tactics for the 106km Classic in Port Elizabeth.

“I want to surprise my team and make them proud,” said the 19-year-old all-rounder, who believes his local racing knowledge will work to their advantage.

“It’s important for me to be part of the winning move and to follow the tactics.

“The race is also very special because I’ll use it as a stepping stone to the national champs.”

To this end, Pauls has been training hard over the festive season to get back into the kind of mental and physical shape that first grabbed team management’s attention back in 2013.

That year, he scooped the win in the junior category at the PE race and went on to claim the junior South African road champion’s jersey as well as five titles at the national track champs.

Pauls also took a hometown victory in the Daily Dispatch SPAR Cycle Tour and was named overall EP road race champion.

That August, he represented SA at the junior track worlds in Scotland and was preparing for the road equivalent in Italy in September when disaster first struck.

He hit a barrier while trying to avoid a crash during the Race for Victory in Johannesburg and landed face first in a rock-strewn ditch.

Pauls sustained a fractured jaw and serious facial injuries that required surgery and put him out of action for two months.

Last March, he was on the comeback trail and once again preparing for the national road champs when he was hit from behind by a vehicle during a training ride.

“The accident left me with a traumatic brain injury, from which I recovered remarkably well,” said Pauls.

He suffered extensive facial fractures and injuries, loss of speech and partial paralysis (hemiparesis) on the right side of his body and was placed in a medically induced coma for a week.

After recovering from facial reconstruction surgery, he started a six-week rehabilitation programme that included speech therapy, physiotherapy, gym work, occupational therapy and psychological counselling.

“The road to recovery wasn’t as long as the doctors predicted. By the grace of God and a positive mindset, I recovered more quickly.”

Pauls said the support of his family, teammates and management had played a key role.

“Due to my previous successes and ‘never give up’ attitude, I believe I will still reach all my goals.

“To live life to the fullest we must make the most of the opportunities that come our way. I have always tried to look at the opportunities instead of the setbacks or challenges.”

Although he “battled a bit” in his first race back in the saddle in October, Pauls said there was definite improvement by the time the season-ending Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge rolled around.

“I felt much more confident and could cover moves and do team duties during the race.”

Pauls said he was looking forward to putting his strength and fitness to the test at The Herald VW Cycle Tour.

“This season, I want to get back to where I was and even better.”

He missed out on representing his country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and said his major goal was to form part of the 2016 Olympic squad.

Before then, he said he was hoping for a full year of racing without accidents.

For more information visit www.heraldcycletour.co.za. 

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