Thirteen months after the scooter accident that nearly ended his life as well as his professional career, Saxo Bank rider Jonny Bellis has vowed to repay the Danish team’s loyalty for supporting him during his long recovery.
Bellis signed a one-year contract extension with Bjarne Riis’s team in August, despite abandoning the British National Championships in June. He completed 150km of the GP Plouay but quit the Tour of Britain in September midway through stage one.
After a recent operation to remove a hernia in his stomach, Bellis now believes that he can fulfil the potential which saw him take bronze in the 2007 Under 23 World Road Race Championships in Stuttgart.
The hernia was the last remaining after-effect of Bellis’ life threatening accident last September, and hampered his breathing throughout the 2010 season.
“I know a lot of people will be saying behind my back that I’ve got a lot to do and won’t make it, but, as bad as it was, the accident caused no permanent damage,” the 22 year old from Douglas told Cyclingnews.
“You don’t just lose your talent. People will look at my performance at the Tour of Britain and draw conclusions, but that was the ride of someone who had no race fitness and was up against people who had just ridden major tours and were preparing for the Worlds. I felt normal for someone starting his season. The problem was that I was the only guy in that position.”
One year ago
A year ago, Bellis lay in an Italian hospital bed, a tangle of tubes hanging from his 45-kilogramme frame. He couldn’t eat and only communicated via scrawled notes or rasped one-word instructions to his traumatized parents. Pronounced beyond help on his admission to hospital on September 19 and then told he would never walk again, he went on to make a remarkable recovery.
The Manxman was finally discharged from hospital in March. Within weeks, he was training for his comeback under the supervision of Saxo Bank directeur sportif Brad McGee in Monaco.
While he tries not to dwell on his accident, Bellis admits that he could scarcely help it on the anniversary of his crash a month ago.
“I just went out with some mates, and of course I thought about it,” he said. “Of course it’s a big deal for me, but I’m trying to move on now and look to the future. The year’s gone pretty quickly for me, but not for my parents. It’s been the hardest and longest year of their lives.”
Having recommenced training and thrice-weekly gym sessions ten days ago, Bellis says that he will now intensify his efforts over the coming weeks.
“The problem initially when I came back was that I could only train for about three hours, but gradually I built up to five or six-hour rides,” he said. “Now I just need to work a bit harder. The team’s first training camp is in Fuerteventura at the end of November, and there we’ll assess how I’m doing and come up with a race programme. I’m really glad to have this one-year deal, because on one hand it stops me being complacent, and on the other it makes me feel like I’ve only done one season as a pro and am ready to start my second.”