Steele von Hoff lived up to his given name today, taking an improbable victory in the 2018 Commonwealth Games road race on Australia’s Gold Coast, just seven weeks after a crash left him with four broken vertebrae. While von Hoff may be made of Steele, he takes home Commonwealth Gold from a reduced group sprint, with help from his Australian teammates who chased down a late break in the closing kilometres to deliver von Hoff his opportunity to win on home soil.
Von Hoff’s chances of winning the Commonwealth Games road race in front of the home crowd ranged from improbable to uncertain from the moment of the crash right up until his move to follow Jonathan Mould’s (Wales) wheel in the closing metres of the race. Just hours after being named to Australia’s Commonwealth Games road team, von Hoff crashed in a local criterium, breaking four vertebrae in his spine.
Determined not to let his chance to race at home slip away, Australia’s new man of steel worked with doctors and team staff to accelerate his recovery as much as possible. Von Hoff progressed from riding a trainer with a neck brace, to steady rides out on a mountain bike, still sporting the rigid neck brace, on mellow gravel paths.
This was Steele von Hoff a month ago, riding a mountain bike for the first time in a neck brace after breaking four vertebrae. Today he became Commonwealth Games champion with gold in the road race. One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/TfgzHBsxqr
— Reece Homfray (@reecehomfray) April 14, 2018
That first tentative ride progressed into real training, and then the Gold Coast road race. Just getting to the race was a massive accomplishment, but von Hoff’s aim was still higher, he was still racing to win. That looked unlikely with 10km to go, when the Australian team appeared to have let the race slip away from them, allowing a late break too much distance too close to the line. The team dug deep to chase back the leaders, and Cameron Meyer led out von Hoff heading into the finish line. Mould jumped first, and von Hoff was quick onto the Welshman’s wheel. He was able to come around Mould to cross the line with room, and time to celebrate his improbably road to victory, hands held high above in a victory salute.
Canada’s only finisher at the Commonwealth Games road race was Michael Foley in 48th.