Vincenzo Nibali has undergone surgery on the T10 vertebra he fractured during stage 12 of the Tour de France in order to speed up his recovery in the hope he can ride the Vuelta a España and so target the World Championships road race in Innsbruck, Austria.
"Vincenzo underwent percutaneous bilateral vertebroplasty surgery of the 10th thoracic vertebra. It consisted of the injection of biocompatible cement into the body of the vertebra," Bahrain-Merida team doctor Emilio Magni explained after being present during the brief surgery in a private clinic in Milan.
Nibali will leave hospital on Tuesday afternoon and will soon be able to start training on a stationary bike before starting more serious training on the road.
Percutaneous vertebroplasty surgery involves injecting a special bone cement into the fractured vertebra, with the goal of creating an internal cast to stabilise the bone and so ease any pain.
Nibali crashed hard four kilometres from the finish of the stage to L'Alpe d’Huez, with a spectator's camera strap blamed for the incident. Social media videos captured the moment of the crash and showed how fans and police motorbikes invaded the road, with flare smoke reducing visibility.
Despite an apology from Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme, Bahrain-Merida team manager Brent Copeland has confirmed to Cyclingnews that the team is considering legal action against the Tour de France for the damage caused by the crash.
Nibali considers himself fortunate that he suffered only a non-displaced fracture of his T10 vertebrae in the middle of his back.
"I hope the surgery helps ease the pain and so speed up my recovery. I hope to ride the Vuelta because it’ll be very important for my fitness," Nibali told Italian television.
"Time is tight. I was lucky that it was a non-displaced fracture. It could have been a lot worse, I could have even lost the use of my legs.
"I haven’t been able to ride even a stationary bike since the crash. Now I hope to be back on my bike next week."