Trek-Segafredo directeur sportif Steven de Jongh says that he will be back behind the wheel of a team car in a race by the beginning of February.
De Jongh is still recovering from the after-effects of a training crash in mid-October but believes his current recovery progress means he will be back in action at the five-day Etoile de Besseges, which starts on February 6.
“I think that Etoile de Besseges will be my first race in the team car, but there’s still a big window to there,” De Jongh told Cyclingnews at Trek’s Sicily training camp earlier this week. “It’s progressing now, I don’t think that there is an issue for doing my job when the season starts.”
De Jongh had spoken to some members of the Trek-Segafredo team since the incident but this week provided him with an opportunity to meet up with almost the whole outfit for the first time at their training camp near Syracuse in Sicily.
Much of the team arrived in the on Monday and a day of meetings and catch-ups would follow on Tuesday. It gave De Jongh an opportunity to get back to normality.
“It’s really nice that things are getting back to normal,” explained De Jongh. “I was quite excited but also a bit nervous to come down because there are so many people. I still struggle a bit with concentration if there are a lot of conversations going on in the room but that has improved a lot over the last 10 days. It was a bit emotional to see everybody again because I’d only seen some of the sports directors and management, but not everybody.”
De Jongh crashed heavily while training near his home in Girona, Spain. He was unconscious and lying in a ravine for several hours. The Dutchman was found after an extensive search by the emergency services and a plea by his wife Renee on Twitter. Strava data proved valuable in helping locate him. While he avoided any serious injuries, De Jongh was left with a concussion as a result of the accident and the recovery process has not been easy for him.
“It has been tough. Not only for me but for my wife and my family,” De Jongh told Cyclingnews.
“From being a very active person I went to being a very inactive person. I was responding really slowly, it wasn’t a typical me. People would ask me something and I would reply too slowly. It was hard to see for my family that I was so low on energy. I didn’t realise it so much, I just felt tired all the time and that was also strange, but I was not irritated by it because I was too tired to be irritated.
“After five weeks, I did a bit of a run and that was my first activity and then I started to do a bit more walking and running. Then, I went on the rollers. I used Zwift a lot, which was a very good solution. Now, I'm starting to feel a bit more normal. In the evenings I still feel a bit more tired, but I see progress.”
Another step forward came during the Sicilian training camp when he took his first bike ride outside in almost two months. He might be a former professional but it was a big moment for De Jongh and he admitted to feeling a little worried about it.
“The memory hasn’t come back for whatever reason. That makes me a little bit scared because if you know what happened then you know what to avoid but I don’t know what happened so it makes me a little scared,” De Jongh said.
“I’m still a bit scared to go out on the road and it was my first ride outside. It was nice to go in a group.
“The first 30 minutes were strange, like going on skis when you haven’t been on them for a year. It felt a little bit uncomfortable at first, but afterwards, it was good.”