Butler County rider pushes through despite wrecks

| Saturday, June 28, 2008

The call came over the radio to the rest of the Tour of Pennsylvania race caravan in a frantic tone -- there was a rider down in the middle of the road.

It was one of the worst possible places to crash, on a fast descent on a winding mountain road where cyclists, motorcycles and cars were weaving in and out and whipping around corners.

That rider was Butler County's Turner Johnson, 22, who's riding for the Pittsburgh-based Penn State Cancer/GPOA/Cannondale team.

"I just hit a rock and lost control of my bike at probably about 50 miles per hour," the Renfrew native said before the start of yesterday's Stage 4 from Bedford to Latrobe. "I totaled my wheels, but the bike's good. I suffered through it and made the time cut so I'm ready to go."

Before the Stage 3 crash on Thursday, Johnson crashed in the criterium on the first day of the race and was already sporting road rash down almost the entire side of his right leg. After the downhill crash he had his right arm wrapped in gauze, including a spot on his right hand where he received five stitches.

But as one of only three of six team members left in the race, and with the chance to race into his neck of the woods with the premier stage race in the country for riders under the age of 25, Johnson wasn't quitting.

"I'm trying to make it to Pittsburgh, that's my goal," said Johnson, whose grandparents, father and sister have been following along with every stage. "Once you get riding, the pain of riding overshadows the pain of the wound."

The Penn State Cancer team is last in the field of 18, with only Adam Farabaugh and Justin Brown left. Christopher Kuhl did not finish in time after Stage 3, and they lost Brett Jacoby and Elliot Gaunt on Stage 2.

Johnson, who finished the 60-mile Stage 4 in 65th place with a time of 2:42:07, is 86th overall in a field of 91.

"We have nowhere to go but up right now," Johnson said. "Making it through every day, getting closer and closer to home, and making sure you can finish and do well the last two days is pretty exciting. The closer we get to home, the more exciting it gets."

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