By Martin Hardie
Just when things seem to be looking up for the Euskadi gang after David Herrero's brave win in Alcobendas last Sunday, everything just suddenly fell flat in an instance when Alberto Lopez de Munain touched the wheel in front of him during the final 50 km of yesterday's second stage of the Giro d'Italia. Cyclingnews caught up with manager Miguel Madariaga on the direct orange line this morning to see how Alberto was getting along.
"When I saw him on the ground I thought the worst, the first thing I thought was that he was dead or that he was dying," Miguel Madariaga told us. "He was unconscious with his eyes open... It was very painful to see him in this position with his face all destroyed."
"The doctor arrived a minute or so later and he told me to move away because he said Alberto didn't look very good. He put Alberto on his side, on the asphalt and he put his fingers in his mouth and freed his tongue and he yelled to the ambulance that he needed a Guedel tube so that he didn't choke... When they put the tube in a whole lot of blood flowed out of his mouth and he started to breathe and then they put him on oxygen."
A deeply affected Madariaga continued that "I got into the ambulance with him, at the start he was still unconscious. After a little while he began to see things. I asked him 'Alberto do you know me?' and he replied 'Where am I?' I told him 'be calm, you are in the Giro d'Italia and you have fallen, we are going to the hospital and everything will be OK'. He told me 'I am in a lot of pain... don't leave me alone.' That was all he said until we arrived at the hospital - it only took 8 minutes."
There is no doubt, Madariaga said, that "the helmet and the tube the doctor inserted saved his life. We arrived at the hospital at 4.30pm. At 8.30pm he went into surgery to reduce the hydropneumothorax [fluid and air in the pleural space - ed.] which was the most worrying thing for the doctors. He had a small haematoma in the lung and they were trying to reduce it. He spent the night in intensive care. Today there will be more medicals and he will stay in hospital a few days and I will stay with him. The Giro is finished for me. With what has happened I will not move from his side ... when I said good night to him he was conscious and speaking a little, but he can't move much, he is in too much pain. His face is all cut and bruised, his left eyebrow is cut and swollen, his nose has lost all its skin".
Madariaga who is father to so many of the team related to us that "it is so painful to see poor Alberto this way. The CAT scan has revealed that there is no cerebral damage, he has a broken collar bone and shoulder blade along with the broken ribs. The worst is the internal injuries but they have assured me he will be alright..."
Alberto Lopez de Munain was diagnosed with a hydropneumothorax caused by nine broken ribs, a broken left collar bone, a broken shoulder blade, damage to the left shoulder as well as grazes and cuts to his back, knees and face. He is conscious, in a stable condition and out of immediate danger, as he is getting drainage to improve the hydropneumothorax. Euskaltel-Euskadi expresses their deep gratitude to the Giuseppe Iannelli hospital staff, the race organisers and the local authorities for their fabulous treatment and support.