Four and a half months ago Jimmy Casper narrowly escaped tragedy at Gent-Wevelgem, a semi-classic that draws its fame from the Kemmelberg, the only major obstacle on the 200-kilometre course that has to be passed three times. It is paved on both the uphill and the downhill part, making the latter especially treacherous when the peloton flies down at 60 or 70 km/h.
When it is raining it becomes an extremely dangerous section, but this year, even though it was sunny and dry, a bad crash took Casper out with several facial fractures, a concussion and three fractures in his left wrist. Rather than on a podium he landed in hospital, where he spent quite some time and had four surgeries to repair his damaged bones. There were many theories about who was to blame or even if the Kemmelberg should be eliminated altogether. Bottles definitely could be seen flying all over the place and riders trying to avoid them.
The Unibet sprinter is back in action and revealed to velo 101 that "my legs feel fine, but even at 80 percent it is difficult to make a great race. One shouldn't expect too much from me for the rest of the season." He restarted his 2007 campaign with the Tour of Denmark, continued with the Vuelta a Burgos and raced the Eneco Tour. His biggest complaint is his left hand, "where I only have 30 percent of my strength back."
He is looking forward to the future, stating that "now, I am still suffering from the aftermath of the crash, but next year all that will be forgotten. I will be back at 100 percent of my strengths."
Casper, who said he "can't grab the handle bar firmly," revealed that it was a long recovery and "it's not even finished yet." His attitude is rather positive, though and he simply shrugged that "that is the life of a bike racer." He received plenty of support, although it was more in a beginning, but then thought that it was perfectly normal. "When once crashes, there is plenty of support in the beginning and then later they wait that we make our return."
He did admit his morale wasn't the best, considering he couldn't race in his best condition this year. "Additionally, the team is folding at the end of the year. I don't know where I will be in 2008, but I am not too worried. There are good contracts [out there]," and he hopes to know more in the next couple of weeks.
Understandably his outlook on Gent-Wevelgem has changed. "I think they shouldn't descend on that side of the Kemmelberg. If they don't I will return. There was plenty of damage in that descent. I think it is time to stop the nonsense," said Casper, who had done the downhill already a few times before finally hitting the pavement.