Hovelijnck happy to be onlooker at Nationals

"Happy that I'm still here" after crash and coma

Kurt Hovelijnck attended Sunday's Belgian national championship in Aywaille, but as an onlooker rather than a participant. That didn't bother the Quick Step rider, though, who simply said, "I am happy that I'm still here."

Earlier this season Hovelijnck spent four weeks in an induced coma, after suffering severe head injuries in a training crash in March.

"I said that I would make my comeback at the Belgian Championships. That was a bit too optimistic," he told sportwereld.be. "I only started riding my bike again about two weeks ago. Carefully. Very carefully. My plan is to race again next season."

The doctors told him that they had not expected him to survive, he noted. " I am please that I can still walk around. And it is great to see my teammates and to share in the atmosphere again. It my sound silly, but it is a great day for me."

About ten days ago Hovelijnck was allowed to stop wearing a special helmet to protect his skull, a helmet he had worn for the last three months. He now sports a large scar across the skull from ear to ear.

Now, the 28-year-old said, "I greatly look forward to the day I can return to the peloton. I don't know if I will be afraid. We will have to see."

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