Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) could be out of cycling for as long as six months following his crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Belgian came down heavily on stage two, hitting his head and suffering a temporal bone fracture.
"The doctors speak of six months of doing nothing, for safety. But I believe it is more like a month," Sporza reported Boonen as saying. "That's about the time that a break needs to recover. They are especially afraid of the trauma, but when I'm back in Belgium, I will be examined thoroughly once more."
It is the second big crash for Boonen this season after he suffered a dislocation of the AC joint at Paris-Nice and was forced to miss out on the spring Classics. A six-month spell off the bike would likely mean that he would have to miss the Classics in 2016 also. Boonen's Abu Dhabi crash came around 60 kilometres into the second stage on a straight stretch of road after Theo Bos went down, leaving the Belgian with nowhere to go. Some thought perhaps that Boonen had come down first but he reports it differently.
"Someone rode over a piece of reinforced steel, which duly went into the wheel of Theo Bos," he said. "Bos was on the ground with someone else. I followed in line, I tried to avoid the collision and caught Theo sideways. I went over the bike and I went into the ground head first."
The Belgian rider could be seen lying motionless on the road and the team initially feared the worst when they saw blood, which was a result of the temporal fracture. "After the fall I apparently recovered consciousness, but I remember nothing of it. It was only in the ambulance that I came to. There was blood on my hand that ran from my ear. I did not know where I was, what had happened. I was definitely gone for half an hour."
Boonen has since been given the all clear and he is confident about his recovery. "I quickly got my memory back, I know where I was before the fall happened, I remember everything after I had returned to consciousness, and my motor skills are good. I can talk normally, I can see everything.
"All that was reassuring. If there is no pressure on the brain in the first five hours, the greatest danger has passed."
There is still some blood around the site of the fracture and Boonen is also suffering with hearing problems in his left ear. While he has been given the clear, as a safety measure, he will be forced to remain in Abu Dhabi for another one to two weeks. He had hoped to travel home last weekend but doctors are reluctant to let him fly as it could cause a blood clot. He will undergo a further CT scan on Thursday, which also happens to be his 35th birthday. His girlfriend and children will fly out to the Middle East to join him while he recovers.