The time is 12:10 EDT, August 31st, 2019. Brook Macdonald lies twisted on his side, caked in Quebec dirt. It is 4 minutes since a damp root jutting out from the top of a drop in the forest threw him forward over the bars, landing flat on his back, beyond the transition. With Brook 'the Bulldog' being no ordinary racer, those at the scene know something is seriously wrong. Amidst cries through surging pain he repeats he cannot feel his legs. He wants off the mountain, but the medics are not yet sure how to fulfil that request and are not equipped with adequate pain control.
By 12:23 Brook is on a stretcher. Long time friends and fellow countrymen, Sam Blenkinsop and Wyn Masters, help the emergency crew carry him out into the open. The medical team plan to evacuate him using a small metal trailer towed by a mountain patrol quad, but the road is long and boulder-filled and the idea proves hopeless in the first 5 meters. Fast forward to 15:10; the crowd swells at the bottom of the hill in anticipation of the XC finals for elite men, but the heli still circles high over the woods where Brook fell. Surely he's not still up there?
Unfortunately he was. Brook remained at the side of the track where the accident happened for almost 4 hours. Enduring this extended ordeal of intense, mostly unmanaged pain was of course only the very beginning of a journey more demanding than the average person could ever be expected to face.
Later that day Brook would find himself walking across craters on the surface of the moon; the side-effects of having being administered a strong dose of Ketamine for the pain. Thankfully after surgery the following morning and many weeks without a shower, sensation would gradually start to return to Brook's limbs, but the damage from shattered vertebrae intruding on his spinal cord meant starting from absolute scratch in the recovery process; relearning the most basic motor skills to literally put one foot in front of the other after forgetting how.
One year later and Brook is back. Back on the bike, riding the high-mountain trails of Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Training with his team-mates on the Straitline course the week the World Cup was originally scheduled, he says he feels stronger than ever as he recalls the depths of the struggle and the long road back.