Around six months ago, Daniele Colli was facing the loss of use of his left leg due to a benign tumour in his knee. With the joint rebuilt, the Geox-TMC rider will return to racing at the Giro della Toscana on June 19.
Colli first experienced pain in his knee during Paris-Brussels, his final race in Ceramica Flaminia colours. After the knee problems persisted, Colli underwent an MRI scan in Milan in early November, where he was informed that he had a tumour on his knee.
"I'm really happy, it's like being born again," he explained of his return. "The diagnosis was brutal: tumour to the knee with the threat that not only wouldn't I ride a bike again, but I could have lost the use of the leg. Instead I've come through it, I beat the odds… then I had to learn to walk again and finally I managed to get back to pedalling a bike. Not only am I able to pedal, but here I am, a professional cyclist.
"I have to thank all the people who supported me during these difficult months, my family and friends have been wonderful. I especially thank my team and our sponsors, who had faith in me and had the patience to wait for me and help me get back to doing what I love best, cycling. I will try to pay back this trust by pedalling my best."
Team manager, Mauro Gianetti praised the resolve of the 28-year-old.
"When Daniele told us the news of his tumour, it was a hard blow for the whole team," he admitted. "In these cases cycling, racing, everything gets pushed aside; what counts is to beat the cancer and get back to living. Daniele had our full support and he showed us that he's a strong, determined guy. Guts and determination helped him get better and get back to high levels in a short time. Right now for all of us to see him on a bike again is our greatest triumph."
Colli discussed his return with team medical staff, having gradually built his pedalling strength back up and is naturally relieved to be making his return.
"This experience has taught me a lot; when you're healthy you don't think about it, but then you realise that life is a precious gift to enjoy one hundred per cent," he said. "When you think about Cancer and cycling it's inevitable not to think of Lance Armstrong's story. I may not win seven Tour de France races but I've already won the most beautiful victory in my life."