De Plus: I was very lucky

Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) has said that he was fortunate not to have sustained more serious injuries in his crash on the descent of the Sormano during Il Lombardia on Saturday.

The Belgian was the first of four riders to crash on the same bend, and he sustained a small fracture to his right knee when he plunged into a ravine on the roadside while chasing lone leader Mickael Chérel (AG2R La Mondiale).

De Plus' fellow countryman Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale) suffered seven broken ribs and two fractured vertebrae in his crash, while Simone Petilli (UAE-Team Emirates) broke his collarbone, shoulder blade, two vertebrae and suffered a concussion.

"I was very lucky," De Plus said, according to Belga. "After my crash, I was looked after very quickly and very well by the race doctors. They did their job well in a very professional way."

De Plus endured an ordeal of a different kind that evening, however, due to a shortage of hospital beds in the vicinity.

"At first, they wanted to transport me to the same hospital as Bakelants, but it was full, so I was brought to Cantù but that was full too. I had to sleep in the corridor because the rooms were full," De Plus said. "I arrived at around 5pm after a long journey by ambulance, and I wasn't taken care of until 8.30pm. I was in a lot of pain. I spent three and a half hours on a stretcher. It was terrible, I was counting every minute."

Preliminary X-rays in Italy did not reveal any fractures but the pain in De Plus' knee was such that he feared he had sustained ligament damage. On arriving in Belgium on Sunday afternoon, De Plus travelled immediately for further examination in hospital in Herentals. It subsequently emerged that De Plus had sustained a small avulsion fracture to the tibial plateau inside his knee, where the tendon pulled away a piece of the tibia in his right knee.

"An operation won't be necessary, it will heal by itself. I'll have to use crutches for 10 to 14 days, but within three weeks, I should be walking normally again," De Plus said.

De Plus has a clear memory of his crash, and said that he feared the worst as the incident unfolded. Although he was aware of the perils of the descent from his pre-race reconnaissance, he pointed out that in a race, "the situation is different".

"It was like a film in slow motion. I realised I was falling and time stopped, everything went very slowly," De Plus said. "I was worried it was going to be a very heavy blow, the end of my career. I even thought that I might die, really. Fortunately, I landed on my legs in the undergrowth. It could have been a lot worse: I could have fallen more heavily, or landed further down."

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