After fracturing his sternum resulting from a crash in Paris-Roubaix back on April 10, Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) was set to make his return to competition at yesterday's Volta a Catalunya. However, eight kilometres in the team time trial opener on a false-flat piece of road, the 28 year-old Belgian pulled out of the formation, stopped and began to hyperventilate.
"All was going well for him and he was very much ready to come back to competition," said assistant directeur-sportif, Dirk Demol, in a team statement.
Hoste sat down at the side down at the side of the road, breathing heavily, before team physician Dr. Dag van Elslande, who was in the car with Demol, checked him over. "We were all really scared," added Demol. "When I passed him, I saw nothing was wrong with his bike but on his face he looked like he was really breathing heavy."
"Maybe the crash in Paris-Roubaix has got something to do with this hyperventilation," Demol told Het Nieuwsblad. "On top of that, such a team time trial demands extreme efforts of a rider, while Leif has only just come back to racing."
Fortunately, Hoste recovered from his breathing difficulties and returns back to his home in Belgium today, where he will undergo a full medical check-up.
However, it wasn't just Hoste who found the pace of competition too much. After 19.2 kilometres, only five of Discovery's eight riders - the minimum required for finishing a team time trial - crossed the line together in Salou, so given the circumstances, the team rode exceptionally well end up second to Phonak.
"What I saw today was a strong Popo [Yaroslav Popovych] and the four others," Demol said. "Popo was good, Jurgen [Van Den Broeck] was strong and so was Roger [Hammond], Benjamin [Noval] and Stijn [Devolder]. They all had to take longer pulls, so to only lose by seven seconds with just five guys, it was frustrating."
On what to expect the rest of the week, Demol added: "We have many guys here who are just coming back to competition and coming back from injury, so we really don't know what to expect. We will go into the next two days and try not to lose time, and see where we are after that. I am hoping for a stage win this week. The GC will be hard for us."