Adriano Malori has announced he will return to racing with the Movistar team at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Montreal in Canada in mid-September, after completing his recovery from a terrible crash at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina that almost left him paralysed.
The Italian Movistar rider revealed the news during an emotional press conference near his home in Parma.
"Lots of people have asked me how I was feeling in the last few months as I underwent physiotherapy work and started training again. But I said I'd talk only when I'd return to racing. Now I can say, it, I'm going to race in Canada at the Grand Prix de Quebec and Montreal," Malori said.
"I'm afraid I'll start crying as I roll to the start and see all the riders and sense all the atmosphere around a race but it's where I badly want to be."
Malori revealed that he had to fight against the doubts of several doctors and recover from damage to the right side of his brain that had limited his use of his right arm and shoulder. He has a titanium plate in his left cheek where he hit the road at 65km/h but is now happy to be alive after months of doubt and tears.
"I spent months crying. I don't wish what I've been through on anyone in the world," he said, his voice often interrupted by his emotions as he thought back to what he has been through.
"When I was Pamplona doing my physiotherapy work and trying to recover, there were lots of difficult moments. I was sometimes rolled up on the floor. For several months I couldn't walk to the bathroom and I fell to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Those were difficult moments and I often spent time asking why destiny had given me all this."
Malori still needs to complete further physiotherapy to fully recover his movement but insisted he feels fortunate that he can return to racing- his job but his passion.
"Despite everything, I feel I'm lucky, I'll be back doing what I love in September, while other people won't be able to work for the rest of their lives," he said.
"I've seen lots of people suffer due to their problems. Spending some time with them you learn what life is really about and appreciate even the smallest things in life. I wanted to speak today because I want them to see that a 27-year-old guy after months of hard work is going to race again. I'm nothing special but I refused to sit in a wheel chair. I heard of a young German guy who made a full recovery and that inspired me. So now I want to give other people a reason to smile and some hope. They might not all be able to make a full recovery and I'm not a doctor but I want to give them hope and encouragement."
Thanks to Movistar and the specialist doctors in Pamplona
Malori thanked his Movistar team, who helped him immediately after his accident, and in recent months. His initially treatment in the Centro Neurológico de Atención Integral (CNAI) near Pamplona and further work in June and July proved vital in helping make a recovery.
"For sure if I wasn't a Movistar rider, I wouldn't be here to speak now and return to racing so soon. I've got to thank them," he said, admitting he refused to watch racing on television until he was given the all clear to make a come back as a professional. His determination gave him extra mental strength to undergo hours of rehabilitation and physiotherapy and then suffer out on the bike.
"I refused to accept that a simple hole in the road could put an end to my career," he said, convinced that the poor road surface caused his crash without wanting to look back or investigate the cause.
"But in May I really thought I'd have to find a new job. Things only changed then during a medical check up with the team that was needed for legal reasons. I have to thank the head doctor at the CNAI Dr Manuel Murie, and his whole team who treated me fantastically. All the people in there, especially the two physiotherapists - Rebeca Fernández and Tania Iriarte - I shared most of my weeks with them, working to recover. I came into the centre half-paralyzed, on a wheelchair, and I left on 28 April on my own, having even gone on bike rides a few days before being released."
Malori admitted he only started watching cycling on television again when he knew he could make a comeback as a professional rider.
"Before then I seemed to be watching a sport that wasn't mine. But I knew that wasn't true and so it really got to me," he admitted.
"It hurt seeing Cancellara win gold at the Olympics because Rio was my big goal of the season. The course seemed perfect for me and the fact that Cancellara won proved it suited a rider like me. After the time trial I was happy for Fabian because he showed he was the strongest that day but I was angry and frustrated for three days. I'm proud that I've beaten him in the past and all my pride and anger showed that I was determined to come back too."
It seems that Malori could also compete in the world time trial championships in Qatar in October, riding for Italy after missing the Olympics. He is unsure how his body will respond after multiple days of racing but is ready to work hard through the winter to prepare for the 2017 season.
"My career is full of doubts, I know that," he said. "But I feel good on the bike and I'm not scared while descending and I can ride for five hours. But I don't know if I'll be the same rider I was before. For sure if there's 10% missing from my legs, my mental strength will make up for it. Even when I'm suffering now, I can push on thanks to extra metal strength."