Domenico Pozzovivo has explained that the crash that saw him suffer a fractured tibia and fibula was caused by a cat running across his path as he descended the Stelvio during a training ride on Sunday.
The Ag2r-La Mondiale climber has been on the Stelvio for the past week training for the Vuelta a España, and he was set to continue his build-up to the race by competing at the Vuelta a Burgos this week. Instead, Pozzovivo's season is over as a result of the compound fracture he sustained in the crash.
"I was descending towards Malles, on a long, steep straight, at 70kph," Pozzovivo told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I saw a cat coming from the left-hand side of the road, out of the grass. Let's say that we looked one another in the eyes. I tried to avoid him but he bumped my front wheel.
"The bike went flying and he ran off. I slid for twenty metres on the left side of my body and I finished up against the guard rail. I could see where I was going and I change direction. I curled up but I hit the guardrail with my right leg, just under the knee."
Pozzovivo remained conscious throughout his ordeal, and after shouting in a failed bid to attract the attention of mushroom pickers in a nearby wood, he devised an ad hoc support for his leg and called his father, who had been due to motor-pace him for the final hour of his ride.
"I took my helmet off and I managed to put it under my leg to support it," said Pozzovivo. "I called my father on my mobile phone and he came within ten minutes with the ambulance and they brought me to Silandro."
X-rays confirmed that Pozzovivo had sustained season-ending fractures to his tibia and fibula, but within hours of the incident, he was already keen to put the injuries in perspective.
"Fortunately it’s a compound fracture, so I could even not have an operation," he explained. "They’ve put a light cast on it, but I can’t spend months like that, so I’ve decided to have the operation."
Pozzovivo finished fifth overall at the Giro d’Italia in May, despite suffering from bronchitis at the beginning of the third week of racing, and was optimistic about his prospects of improving on that showing at the forthcoming Vuelta. Helped by a surprisingly strong outing in the Tarazona time trial, the Italian finished sixth in his debut Vuelta last season.
"In Spain I wouldn’t have been content just with a top five place. I was aiming for the podium," he said.
The man from Montalbano Jonico in the southern region of Basilicata had also been hoping to be part of Italian coach Davide Cassani’s plans for the world championships road race in Ponferrada, where he would have raced in support of Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali.
"My season is over, what bad luck," Pozzovivo said. "Nibali as leader of the national team was great news for me, I would have been very useful to Cassani to make the race hard, like he wants it to be. It’s a shame."