Carlos Sastre of Cervelo TestTeam received results today of an MRI which revealed the extent of his back injury caused by crashes at this year's Giro d'Italia.
After undergoing tests at the Santa Teresa Clinic in Ávila, the 35-year-old Spaniard was diagnosed with a posterior spinal disc herniation and a central extruded disc of the L5S1 disc. Although Sastre completed the Giro d'Italia in eighth place overall, his injuries may prevent him from starting the upcoming Tour de France.
"I don't plan to go if I'm going to feel burdened from day one. If I do end up competing in the race, it will be because I'm fully recovered," said Sastre.
"What I do know right now is that, in theory, I have time to recover [and be] ready to ride in the Tour, but I don't want obsess about participating in it. I agree with what the team manager said: the most important thing is my health and to be able to do my job in normal conditions."
Sastre will undergo physiotherapy to provide relief from the injury and is cautiously optimistic about resuming training for the Tour. "We will see how the work goes with the physio," said Sastre. "He thinks that with his assistance, he can control the area so that the disc doesn't rub against the nerve nucleus. He said that with a series of exercises, the right diet and a good recovery period, we can make it.
"I can sacrifice a few more training days, but not too many. I don't want to make any predictions before I know for sure. I want to ride in the Tour, but the pains have to disappear for that to be possible. The area that I hit has improved because I'm not making the same effort that I was doing during the Giro, but I want to take it quietly and I don't want to impose targets on myself."
Heavy hits mar Sastre's Giro
Sastre revealed the extent of the injuries he sustained throughout the Giro's first week, the opening stanza of the race that claimed plenty of victims, including Caisse d'Epargne's Marzio Bruseghin and Garmin-Transitions' Christian Vande Velde.
"It was a hard fall," he said of the crash during stage two. "I returned to the team bus with severe pain in the lumbar region. The physio tried to put the hips, pelvis and the last lumbar vertebrae [back in place] without much luck, because everything was very swollen and it was difficult because of the structural damage," he explained.
Of the following day, Sastre said, "I wanted to ride up front but couldn't. I felt helpless, but at the same time happy because I lost 45 seconds when I could have lost eight or 10 minutes... for me it was very satisfying."
Despite treatment from the physio during the first rest day, Sastre found the team time trial a difficult test of his body but was able to recover somewhat before his second fall on stage seven, which prolonged the pain.
"I quickly noticed that I had hurt myself, both in the left calf and my back. And especially the wound... A deep cut, with loss of flesh, in the last lumbar vertebra. When I arrived at the hotel the physio found that [I had suffered] a sharp blow on the lower back, pelvis plus the hip and spine were in poor condition," he explained.
"The next day I finished the Terminillo pleased to lose just over a minute with the best, because on a stage like that, not being able to force the pace is a really bad feeling. The next day I had an injection and, although I really wanted more, I was still able to develop the strength that I wanted to do on the bike. There was great discomfort from the lumbar 'dragging'," he added.
"After the fall on stage seven I felt like I had a dagger in my side, above the left hip, and I felt it radiate down both legs; both the outer quadriceps and on the outside of the leg to the ankles. I endured these conditions to the Zoncolan stage, basically" he explained.
"I had to open the bindings of my shoes and leave them completely loose because when I had my feet straight it caused me severe pain in the buttocks, because I was pressing the sciatic nerve, which prevented me from pedaling with ease, " said Sastre.
And while Sastre said that his condition improved sufficiently to finish the Giro, he wasn't at his best and the only now realises the extent of his injuries, which may force him out of next month's Tour de France.