On May 1, 2018, Weston Flickinger, a cyclist for Fort Lewis College’s cycling team, was riding with his teammates to train for a race when he was hit by a pickup truck on 32nd Street in Durango.
The driver was coming from the opposite direction and turned left into Flickinger’s path before ever seeing the cyclist, Flickinger said.
He was riding his bike at roughly 25 miles per hour before he went through the passenger-side window of the driver’s Toyota pickup truck, Flickinger said.
Flickinger suffered a concussion, three broken ribs, a deep cut near his jugular vein and a shattered jaw, he said.
He had three reconstructive surgeries on his jaw, which had to be drilled back into his skull and wired shut for two months. The 22-year-old now has a plate in the roof of his mouth and two plates in his jaw with nine screws, he said.
Flickinger lost many of his teeth and will have another two surgeries this year to replace them, he said. He also lost 35 pounds due to a liquid diet during the recovery process, he said.
“It probably wasn’t the healthiest decision because I was burning more calories than I could eat, but it was really the only thing that could keep my head from going insane,” Flickinger said.
Flickinger, a senior and exercise physiology major, raced for the FLC cycling team Sept. 18. The team finished third in the USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships, Flickinger said.
Flickinger was able to participate in nationals this month due to his determination to ride after his injuries. One month after the accident, the bike he was on during the accident was rebuilt and he immediately started riding again, Flickinger said.
He was advised not to ride by his doctor, coaches and teammates. However he was tired of being in bed and wanted to get back into shape to race. He would hide in his garage and ride the bike on rollers whenever he could, Flickinger said.
“Everybody else was having summer vacation, I was starving.” Flickinger said, “So I was just really excited to ride again. As soon as I got my bike back my life came back really. That month without a bike was the worst month of my life. The feeling of riding a bike again, nothing compares to that,” Flickinger said. “It was the happiest time of my life.”
He started training in July and would show up on campus to ride the dirt derby, Flickinger said.
“I would do the first couple races and realize how tired I was, and everybody was like, ‘Why are you riding man, you don’t even have teeth.’” Flickinger said.
Flickinger has been cycling since his father introduced him to the sport at 10 years old. He began competing at 12 years old and won a national championship in Carson, California, at 18. David Hagen, the FLC cycling director, called Flickinger for recruitment after his victory, Flickinger said.
Flickinger has had multiple serious injuries in the past, including a skin graft when he was 16 years old and a broken neck vertebra when he was 17 years old. Accidents are common in cycling, and he has had multiple friends die who have been hit by cars, Flickinger said.
Flickinger was humbled by his accident. He no longer takes training for granted, as he had to work harder after having it taken away from him, he said.
“Before the injury I had this physical ability that I didn’t fully comprehend. When that was taken away from me and I wasn’t able to ride my bike, it was absolutely horrible. I’m much more grateful for the people that have supported me.”
The sport is a rollercoaster of emotions, where 75 percent is mental and 25 percent is physical, Flickinger says.
“I just wanted to race. I just wanted to compete.” Flickinger said. “And some people are competing against others and some people are just competing against themselves. And I think that’s what brings a huge community of cycling together, is so many people are improving. And it’s just about, did you improve? Are you working hard? And ultimately, it just comes down to everybody’s suffering. Everybody’s suffering, and at the end of it, we all suffered. It’s a lot of comradery.”