The surgery followed Bakelants’ return to Belgium from Italy, where he has been in hospital in Como since his crash.
"It has been a long day with a lot of pain, but now that Jan is in the country, there is light at the end of the tunnel," Bakelants’ manager Dries Smets told Sporza before the operation in Leuvens.
"Today's surgery has to happen,” Smets told Sporza. “Jan has a lot of pain on his ribs, but an unstable back vertebra is something else. That's a sensitive part in a human body, which you need to be very careful about. That vertebra needs to be fixed."
Bakelants crashed on a corner during the descent of the Sormano last Saturday, along with two other riders. Quick-Step Floors rider Laurens De Plus also came off on the corner prior to that as he chased down Bakelants' teammate Mikael Cherel at the front of the race. Bakelants was one of the worst affected along with UAE Team Emirates' Simone Petilli, who was released from hospital on Friday.
Bakelants broke two dorsal (D8 and D10) and two lumbar (L1 and L3) vertebrae as well as seven ribs in the crash. He was immediately taken to Sant'Anna hospital in Como and remained there until his move to Leuven by plane on Thursday.
"Jan has been in a somewhat smaller hospital in Como, all of which is not comparable to a university hospital like in Leuven,” Smets said. “The people in Como have done all the necessary things for Jan, but they do not have the know-how about this to perform surgery, certainly not with a top athlete. "
Bakelants’ return to Belgium was delayed while his health improved and pain subsided. Bakelants rehabilitation from the injury can finally begin after Friday’s surgery, and Smets was cautiously optimistic about the riders’ return to competition.
"I know Jan as a fighter and optimist, so he will overcome this obstacle,” Smets said. “He has already had some injuries. Top athletes have an exceptional mentality, which makes rehabilitation faster than with ordinary people.
"It's the intention to return as a cyclist, but it's too early to post a date. In fact, we have not talked about the pursuit of his career yet. His care is at the moment the most important thing. That he is now in the hands of specialists gives Jan courage. Light comes at the end of the tunnel.”