Boeckmans: I want to be the rider that I was before the crash

Back on the bike but taking small steps after coma and Vuelta crash

Kris Boeckmans' (Lotto Soudal) long road to recovery after his horrific Vuelta a Espana is on track but the Belgian is aware that he must take baby steps before his career can get back on track.

Boeckmans can ride for five minutes at a time - a miracle in itself given the injuries he sustained in August. The Belgian crashed heavily on stage 8 of the Vuelta a España, suffering facial trauma with several fractures, concussion, broken ribs, pneumothorax, laceration and bleeding of the lung, and swollen pulmonary tissue.

He was medically induced into a coma for two weeks and needed assistance with breathing. However he has now left hospital and at an organised press conference offered an update on his condition and his limited memories of the days surrounding his crash.

"I remember nothing of the days before the crash and the crash itself," he said.

"The first weeks I had some strange dreams. All the people who visited me in Spain also were in my dreams, but in a very different situation. This was a very confusing period. It seems that I only remember the first stage of the Vuelta perfectly and the days afterwards are just a blur. Only three days after they got me out of the coma, I was perfectly conscious again."

Since returning to Belgian Boeckmans has stepped up his rehabilitation, and the long road back will take over his winter as he builds his body back up. He lost 15 kilograms in weight due to the injuries he sustained and he will need further surgery as some of the screws used to fuse his bones back together need removing.

"From the moment I began the revalidation exercises, I notice my progress. Even though it are only small steps. Physically, I feel a bit better and a part of my body weight already has returned. Of the 15 kilograms that I lost, eight are back. I don't have pain, but I feel that I underwent some operations. The screws in my cheek can come out next week, they irritate me."

"My headache gets worse if I need to concentrate for a long period. At that moment I feel some pressure coming up, so then I will take a rest. Every day, I stay in a dark room where it's completely silent. By doing this, my brain concussion will recovery the quickest."

It's far too early to talk about racing comebacks and possible programmes for next season but Boeckmans appears adamant that he will give everything to his recovery.

"I never thought of quitting as a cyclist. Initially, I didn't realise how bad the situation was. Yes, I was in a hospital, but I didn't know why. I wanted to leave that place as quick as possible and re-join the group. By means of the stories my family and friends tell me, the photos and the testimonies, I could draw myself a picture of the situation. Cycling remains an important part of my life and one day I want to be the rider that I was before the crash. When I was watching the World Championships, I could imagine myself riding in the peloton."

Since the crash Lotto Soudal have offered their full support to the rider's recovery and team manager Marc Sergeant confirmed that their backing would continue for the next two seasons.

"We will keep supporting him in the coming two years to become a cyclist again. We know that it won't be evident to get back on the level he had before the crash, but nothing is impossible. Kris already proved that in the past weeks. His contract extension was already a fact before the crash and this situation won't change that. As a team, we will support him where possible and give him all the time he needs to become the person and cyclist he was before."

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