Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale) has returned home after surgery on one of the four vertebra he fractured during his terrifying crash at Il Lombardia, revealing he was lucky not suffer more serious injury.
The Belgian rider was diagnosed with seven rib fractures, two dorsal (thoracic) fractures and two lumbar fractures. He will know in a month if surgery has been successful and if he will able to race again.
"The doctors are confident, but of course they cannot give a 100 per cent guarantee. Now the hope is that my body recovers. Only then can I start planning about what could be the old me again," Bakelants told Sporza in an interview at home at the weekend.
Bakelants posted a photo of him lying in bed, with his baby daughter nearby and wrote: "So good to be home."
The 31-year-old Belgian crashed out of Il Lombardia two weeks ago and spent several days in hospital in Italy before being transferred to Leuven for surgery. Like Laurens De Plus, Simone Petilli and Daniel Martinez, Bakelants flipped over the roadside barriers at high speed on the descent of the Sormano.
De Plus’ crash was caught on television but he avoided serious injury. However, Petilli and Bakelants both came out with a litany of injuries. The latter hit a rock and suffered multiple fractures.
"I don’t know exactly what happened. I came to that corner where De Plus had fallen and I suppose someone had stopped," Bakelants recalled of the crash.
"I wasn’t so far behind him, I was just behind the group of favourites. I could see them but all that I can remember now is that I flew over the barrier and I went down.
"I'd fallen six or seven metres deep and landed on my back on a rock. I immediately realized that it was serious. I felt I couldn't stand upright but I could still move my legs and that made me feel better."
The risk of further injury
Bakelants remembered the difficulty the paramedics and race doctors faced to get him out of the ravine and into an ambulance. He was worried about suffering further injuries and revealed that someone even rode over his leg on a scooter.
"I think I can say I was lucky that nothing serious happened after the fall. All the conditions to make it worse were there," he said.
"When I was on the road again someone lost control of their scooter, thinking that he had put it in neutral. Instead he drove over my leg. I think it beggars belief that this can happen in a WorldTour race.
"I was also surprised that there were no helicopters, the evacuation had to be done with an ambulance. I was very worried. I was in shock and had a lot of pain and still had to do a long descent in the ambulance. It took a long time."
No rush to ride again
Bakelants is already able to walk, with some careful movement actually helping his recovery, but has no plans to rush his comeback during the winter.
"I've done some physio in hospital and perhaps I could ride a little indoors but it's not necessary, riding a bike will not affect my current condition. I think it's more important to take my time because it's a delicate injury," he said.
"I'm glad I've been give a second chance. It was perhaps a matter of millimetres. I realise that I've escaped the worst. That was hard to take at first but I'm over it now. I've realised that cycling is definitely not everything in life. It would be a pity if I can not ride a bike, but my girlfriend, my daughter and my family are much more important."