While Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) was in the hospital contending with an emergency health situation, his team was present at the Belgian 'cross national championships in Hooglede-Gits on Sunday. Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) took over the role of team leader and his third place behind Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) was an achievement for the 26-year-old. Adding to the good news, Wellens' team announced that his health was improving as of Sunday night.
Peeters is becoming a somewhat regular podium visitor these days, always with his child in tow. When asked about Wellens' after the race, Peeters didn't know too much about it. "I think we were a bit protected in order not to bring us out of focus. It's good for the team to have somebody on the podium on such a tough course. Before the race, I wouldn't have guessed that I could crack the podium. I need to count on mistakes on some of the big four. Today there were two of them with an off-day. Every time they made a mistake I got a bit closer to the podium," Peeters said.
At the end of the day, the team sent through a statement about the current situation of the former cyclo-cross world champion.
"The day ends on a slightly positive note regarding Bart Wellens," read the team statement. "Bart is recovering slightly from his heart problems. The last few hours he was able to sleep well. The doctors are preaching prudence, but the worst seems behind us now. He slept a lot and is also able to talk now. His wife Lentl was with him all the time."
Team manager Hans van Kasteren said that according to Lentl, his situation can change at any moment, but things are evolving positively. "Bart's organs were not functioning properly, but are working again. What a difference from last night and this morning. When Bart was transferred from the hospital in Geel to Antwerp, things were touch-and-go. If the doctors tell you there's a chance that he won't survive, it's hard to swallow. We almost lost Bart, but luckily he's strong; they don't take him down just like that," Van Kasteren said.
Bart Wellens' younger brother Geert also managed to climb on the podium on Sunday in the elite-without-contract category. Geert Wellens finished third and at the post-race press conference, and he offered his view on things. "I heard about the news this morning when I switched on my phone. Yesterday during our ride, he was struggling with sore muscles and a high temperature. I decided to race anyway because if I would be ill, I wouldn't want him to skip the race. I guess that if I had skipped it, he would blame me for having done that," Geert Wellens said.
He also reacted on the rumors which were spreading about the cause of his brother's heart muscle malfunctioning. "There were many rumors. It's sad. Bart is just a human who can become ill. Everybody here is super sharp and the smallest of bacteria can take one down," Geert Wellens said.
The brothers were planning on claiming a double win in Hooglede, both in their respective categories. "We did it before, so why not. It think he could have become champion although beating Nys would've been hard. We can try again next year," Geert Wellens said.