Lance Armstrong could be back on his bike sooner than expected after he broke his collarbone in the Vuelta a Castilla y León yesterday. While the American travelled back to the United States for possible surgery, specialists in Europe have theorised the consequences of such a pause in training and racing.
Doctor Gérard Nicolet, who has been working for the French cycling federation as well as the Tour de France in the past, gave some answers to L'Equipe on Tuesday, which featured Armstrong's misfortune on its opening page. Nicolet explained the procedures taken in case of a collarbone fracture, and added that Armstrong's loss of training and racing could only involve a few weeks.
"For a high level athlete, we generally practice an osteosynthesis, which means that we fix the collarbone with some material [metal plates, screws, wires, etc.]. Ten days or two weeks afterwards, he can train on the rollers again," said Nicolet, who believes that Armstrong could be back riding his bike on the road in three weeks.
While the accident will have a certain effect on the comeback of the seven-time Tour de France winner, the timing of the mishap may not compromise Armstrong's participation in the Giro d'Italia after all.
"It's still only March, even if the Giro [which starts May 9 - ed.] seems rather close. In my opinion, this will not compromise his comeback, but it will make it more difficult. This being said, some champions have peculiar reactions, doubling their motivation to get over a setback. On that level, there are often surprises."
Such as the one of Frédéric Guesdon, who at the same age as Armstrong (37) broke his collarbone on February 22 in the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal and came back to racing last Sunday at the GP Cholet in France. The accident cost the Française des Jeux rider only four weeks of his preparation for Paris-Roubaix on April 12.
"I didn't want to have surgery, as the fracture was clean," Guesdon explained. "Ten days after the accident, I was back on the rollers, and went on the road soon after. Sure, it was hard, as I could never come out of the saddle. But if I hadn't done it this way, the Classics wouldn't have been possible."
The Frenchman, who won Paris-Roubaix in 1997, will race over cobblestones tomorrow at the Dwars door Vlaanderen. "I've seen riders recover very fast, others suffering a setback. But I think he [Armstrong - ed.] can come back in time."
However, an osteosynthesis apparently also includes a risk, as explained doctor Christian Dalouède, a contributor to French magazine Sport et Vie. "The danger lies in a second crash on the same collarbone: the plate may twist. You need to change it and the screws are very hard to pull out in that case," Dalouède said. (HK)
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