Kurt Hovelijnck is starting his season this Sunday at the Mallorca Challenge, as are many other riders. But unlike the others, simply being able to start in the race is a victory for the Belgian rider.
Last March, Hovelijnck was training with teammate Wouter Weylandt when he crashed and fractured his skull. He was placed in an induced coma for three weeks, but as he says, “I was very lucky.”
When he came back to consciousness, however, the 28-year-old was feeling depressed, he told Sportwereld. “I had just been given a great opportunity: a ProTour contract with Quick Step. I was a teammate of Tom Boonen, Stijn Devolder. I was eager to ride for these men. At the Tour Down Under I even had a chat with Lance Armstrong. Or rather, he had one with me. And then, suddenly, everything was over!”
How did he come through? “A man is stronger than he thinks,” Hovelijnck said. He made himself work harder than ever before, but admitted that “I still had days when I no longer believed.”
He succeeded, however, and now is eager to put himself to the test. “To be honest, I am confident, ” added Hovelijnck, proving this at the team's training camp, riding alongside “guys like Boonen, Devolder and Chavanel. I could easily follow them. Hence my confidence. It's weird, but I'm just more explosive that before.”
He knows, however, that others still doubt that he is ready for the season's challenges. He told the team he wants to ride the opening Belgian races, “but they wrote me in as a reserve. They didn't want me to rush in to anything.
“You know that the problem is?” Hovelijnck concluded. “I have no patience!”