Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervelo) will be unable to defend her Flèche Wallonne title on Wednesday, having suffered a fractured collarbone during training.
The accident happened close to her home in Switzerland last Tuesday. “It was a stupid crash on a bike path,” said Pooley.
“Someone pulled out in front of me while I was training, and I was pretty sure it was serious as soon as it happened,” she continued. “As I stood up I could feel the bones move in my left arm. Fortunately it happened right outside the hospital, but it was a stupid crash and not a great time for it to happen with Flèche Wallonne coming up.”
The sense of bad timing is compounded by Pooley’s strong start to the season, with her solo victory in the opening World Cup, Italy’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda, followed by tenth place in a race less suited to the Englishwoman’s strengths: the Tour of Flanders.
“I was very pleased with the first couple of World Cups,” Pooley said. “I had a very bad experience at Flanders a few years ago. It wasn’t great this year from a team perspective, and I’d have preferred if one of my teammates had won, but from a personal point of view it was encouraging.
“I didn’t expect to stay in the front group, but that showed me how far I’ve come in three years. I knew what was happening in the race, what I was doing and even the cobbles weren’t too bad.
“I’m never going to be a cobbles specialist, I’m not built for it,” added Pooley, whose 50kg frame puts her at a distinct disadvantage on such roads. Yet her performance in Belgium also suggested, perhaps, that recent efforts to improve as a rouleur and sprinter could be starting to pay off.
“I think everybody works on their weaknesses, it’d be silly not to,” she said. “I’m never going to be a true all-rounder and I’m never going to be a sprinter; all I can do is be less bad at it,” said Pooley. “But other things - my positioning in the bunch, my riding on the flat - I’m working on. It’s also a matter of experience and confidence and having a good team around you.”
Pooley is reluctant to name a date for her return, pointing out that, “It’s up to the doctors. But it’ll definitely be a couple of weeks of not racing.”
The 28-year-old is down to ride the GP Luxembourg on 29 April, but Pooley, who hasn’t suffered a broken collarbone before, stressed that she will only return there if she’s fully recovered. “I’m not going to rush back. There’s no point in racing if you can’t race properly and I don’t want to take someone else’s place in the team if I’m not 100%.
“The Giro [d’Italia, 1-10 July] is my main goal this season,” added Pooley. “If someone in the team is in better shape for the Giro then I’ll ride in support of them because we want to win it. You never know what’s round the corner, as this injury proves. But it’s the race I want to be in top form for.”