Michael Davis competes in the road race at USA Cycling Para-cycling National Championships. (Photo: Casey Gibson)
Given that he only began competing in the sport last year, Michael Davis has his short- and long-term goals set as a Para-cyclist.
“Get faster,” said Davis, “(and) represent our beautiful country in Paris (in) 2024.”
The 35-year-old from Canyon Lake, California, has already accomplished so much in his life that it would be foolish to bet against him.
Earlier in life, Davis was serving in the U.S. Navy, where he worked in aviation ordnance before beginning to train as an explosive ordnance disposal technician.
“I was days from graduating and getting transferred to MU-3 (Mobile Unit 3) in San Diego,” he said, “when I got clocked on impact at 140 mph riding my motorcycle.”
Davis broke his neck in four places, and that was just the beginning.
He also “broke every bone in my left arm, got anorectal trauma, broke six inches of bone out of my leg, and other smaller injuries that make me 320-percent disabled,” he said. Davis had also suffered a traumatic brain injury and developed a condition called ataxia that affects his balance.
A passerby stopped, saw that Davis wasn’t breathing, and began to pray for him.
“They didn’t see me breathe for 20 minutes, and then when the ambulance pulled up, they saw me start to breathe,” Davis said. “I wasn't supposed to come out of my coma, and if I did, I want supposed to be able to walk again.
“Ever since I gave my life to Jesus, opportunities began presenting themselves to me. I had no hope until I gave my life to hope.”
When he came out of his coma, it was as if he was born again, Davis said.
“I lost memory of everything from childhood on and had to re-learn walking, talking, eating, etcetera,” he said.
Prior to the accident, Davis had been quite athletic. He had been training to run marathons and for the Special Forces in the Navy.
“So I had to be in impeccable shape,” Davis said.
When his knees no longer held up enough to run, Davis discovered the trike.
The cycling journey began around 2012. Initially, Davis rode a trike with two back wheels. However, the balance issues made cycling difficult, and he fell numerous times, eventually breaking his kneecap in five places. He needed to solve that balance problem.
“I had to stay active and discovered having two front wheels would be more stable,” Davis said. “(Challenged Athletes Foundation) paid Ti Cycles in Portland, Oregon, to build me my trike using the design from Roman Road from the U.K., and I haven’t fallen once in eight years because of balance issues.
“Team Semper Fi got me excellent coaching from Rick Babington, who has helped me improve tremendously by structuring my rides and preventing me from overdoing/underdoing it.”
Last summer, Davis competed at the Para-cycling road national championships and the Paralympic trials.
“It gave me a taste for something I can excel at with continued determination,” Davis said.
At the 2022 road nationals July 9-10 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he placed second in the men’s T-2 time trial and the road race, both behind Dennis Connors. Davis learned a few things in the process.
“A big lesson that I definitely can apply from nationals this year and last is that last year Dennis was a lot farther ahead of me than he was this year,” Davis said. “So, the training Coach Rick has me doing is apparently effective.
“I was 1:31 behind Dennis on the time trial and only 1:30 behind him in the road race. That taught me that I do better with distance, and I learned I need to adjust my effort on the shorter races.
“One lesson I learned in Chattanooga was that I need to learn to pace myself and how to draft because I do neither very skillfully, and I’ve learned that lesson, I think many times … and haven’t been able to perfect either of those skills yet.”
The smart money would be on Davis to figure out both.