Professional cyclist Shamus McDonough suffers the physical agonies of a high speed crash and the emotional trauma of the death of a beloved teammate in a tragic accident at the Tour de France. He becomes entangled in an international criminal investigation when it becomes apparent this accident may have been intentionally caused by dark figures lurking around the edges of the sport in a well organized syndicate harvesting enormous sums of money selling performance enhancing drugs to athletes. Amid these dangerous underworld figures, lives and livelihoods of hundreds of nervous athletes hang in the balance between the risks of being caught using these drugs, and of failing to win in a business that demands success. Shamus navigates dangerously within this netherworld as he confronts his own demons in the pursuit of setting things right, which he feels compelled to do out of loyalty and respect for his fallen colleague, and out of a profound sense of guilt that will continue to haunt him until he finds the truth. Along the way he encounters the rollercoaster effects of an ill-fated first love, and the bliss of letting go and finding the life-partner to travel with him when he finds the path he’d earlier planned no longer accommodates him. Then there's a really cool ending.
Between the sharp cracking sound Shamus heard and the sickening sensation of falling he felt, the realization occurred that he was going to crash, and this was precisely the wrong time and place for that. Fifty miles per hour on a bicycle was always dodgy at best, but immensely more perilous without the benefit of a front wheel. While a window of rational thought remained ever so slightly ajar, he considered his options, concluding they were limited and all poor. He could execute a forward face-plant ensuring extensive craniofacial damage and perhaps lifelong disabilities, or alternatively a heels-over-head somersault that would spread damage over an array of body parts. Shamus had seen a German rider demonstrate the high-speed face-first dismount on one occasion, and recalled how medical officials had thought the rider dead when they’d found his body slumped in the road. Shamus’ mind processed this even as he shot off the front of his malignant machine. For several moments he hovered above the blacktop until gravity took its toll and the cushion of air separating him from harm dissipated. While the opportunity remained, Shamus wisely decided to protect his head as best he could. He tilted his chin into his chest, pulled his legs up into a ball, and let fate and physics attend the rest. The next sensation Shamus experienced was the grinding sound of his helmet being eaten away by the road. Despite that it consisted of little more than a thin plastic sheet over a press-formed Styrofoam shell, it performed admirably. Shamus knew that when this episode was done, the small portion of his cranium nestled within the featherweight Bell helmet would likely be the only portion of his body to emerge unscathed. He consoled himself with this thought, fully aware that ninety-eight percent of his body wasn’t inside that protection. Momentum and friction combined to flip Shamus forward and, to avoid a tumbling, bone-breaking roll down the road, he shot his hands and feet outward, going spread-eagle. Aside from a helmet, second and third most helpful, but only marginally so, in protecting a rider when one dismounted mid-ride, were the leather-palmed gloves and cycling shoes they wore. Shamus hoped to offer these up to the God of road rash as a sacrifice in lieu of his skin. It was wishful thinking, he knew. The tactic succeeded for approximately a millisecond before his knees and thighs and shoulders and elbows and buttocks and countless other parts managed to rub themselves across the coarse blacktop sliding beneath him at highway driving speeds. Quickly his body became a collection of long red streaks as blood found its way to the surface in all those spots where skin had once been. If there was salvation of any sort, it was how fast things played out. Shamus slid on his back and buttocks barely shielded over most of his body by wafer-thin and quickly evaporating polyester clothes. Drifting, Shamus was able to observe some of the melee unfolding around him. He briefly caught the image of a bicycle just managing to dodge around his head, and was thankful he hadn’t been run over. His luck didn’t hold, though, as shortly another bicycle all but bisected Shamus. On the periphery of his vision, he saw the same rider losing balance and control, fighting as his bicycle careened sharply toward the right side of the road which was bounded by an unwelcoming wall of rough granite. The rider and his bike literally exploded against it, the bike virtually disappearing into a fog of flying bits and parts as the rider bounced and spun off the wall, finally falling limply to the blacktop. At one point during Shamus’ passage through the meat-grinder, it occurred that his own damages had been limited to extensive loss of skin. If that were the worst he came away with, he’d consider it cheap rent. Even severely abraded, one could continue to ride, albeit uncomfortably. A spare bike could be obtained from the team car, and the medics would dangle out of a car window to tape up the worst of his wounds while he enjoyed a rare chance to be towed along without being penalized for doing so. Having fallen literally at a point in the race course where all that was left was a long downhill run to the finish, if all he could do was sit on the bike, he’d survive to race again tomorrow. Just as Shamus allowed himself this glimmer of hope, a massive force crashed into the right side of his body and he could feel ribs and other bones snapping and giving way as he lurched to a sudden stop. Whatever had gotten in his way was large and rigid, and his body had folded around it but it hadn’t moved or given at all. It felt like belly-flopping off the roof of a house onto a brick wall. Right lung punctured by rib fragments, Shamus was unable to breathe and his vision went red and then headed toward black. For reasons he didn’t understand or care to contemplate, he was aware that he smelled of dirt and road tar, and tasted of blood. He was afraid to move, fearing what he’d learn about the physical toll he’d just paid. For the moment, he remained relatively numb, benefitting from some degree of shock and not displeased about it.
J.T. Fisher authored the critically overlooked "Las Cruces," which wasn't, for the record, in any way autobiographical. Truly. The author is a licensed bicycle racer and former USAC licensed bicycle racing coach, and his preoccupation with the sport of cycling permeates his writing. He feels both fortunate and vexed at having established himself as a dominant voice in this phenomenally tiny niche of the fiction market. Mr. Fisher is a frequent and prolific - though far from regular - writer for Bicycle.Net, where he attracts critics like flies. He is a devoted husband and the father of three children who humble him daily.