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Israel Start-Up Nation riders Greipel, Sutherland and Hermans slowly recovering

New Israel Start-Up Nation signing André Greipel at the 2020 Tour Down Under
New Israel Start-Up Nation signing André Greipel at the 2020 Tour Down Under (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

While WorldTour outfit Israel Start-Up Nation so far has a trio of race victories – thanks to Rudy Barbier's stage win at the Vuelta a San Juan, Mihkel Räim's stage win at the Tour of Antalya and Hugo Hofstetter's victory at Le Samyn – it has also had three long-term injuries to André Greipel, Rory Sutherland and Ben Hermans.

Greipel is out with a fractured shoulder, Sutherland broke his leg in an electric-scooter accident in December, while Hermans broke his collarbone and fractured his shoulder at the Tour Down Under. All three riders are now well on the way to recovering – and will soon be ready for when the season restarts, whenever that proves to be.

Thirty-seven-year-old Greipel crashed while training near his hometown of Cologne, Germany, in early February, but said on the team's website last week that he should be able to ride outside again by the end of March, which suggested that he'd already been able to do some work on his home trainer.

"Missing the Classics is more painful than the shoulder," said Greipel, who nevertheless first got his season under way with his new team in Australia in January at the Tour Down Under, followed by the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. "It's not easy to stay optimistic right now, since I would have liked to have started the Classics, and I know how long the rehab will be."

The likely cancellation or postponement of most of the Classics due to the coronavirus threat, however, should perhaps help ease some of that frustration as Griepel continues his recovery after undergoing successful surgery last month.

"Until March 23, everything remains the same – I must continue to keep my arm still," he said. "As of then, though, I can start actively working on the muscle, and hopefully I can then ride outside again."

Sutherland: I'm incredibly driven to pay back the team

Sutherland – another new signing to the team, after joining from UAE Team Emirates – got injured before having even turned a pedal in anger, crashing on an electric scooter after going out to dinner at the team's get-together in Tel Aviv, Israel, in December.

The 38-year-old Australian broke his femur in the accident, and remains upbeat, three months into his recovery, although neither he nor the team gave an indication of when he might return to racing.

"You can't change what has happened but you can change the trajectory," Sutherland said. "I'm incredibly driven to pay back the team for their help and trust in supporting me through the injury the way they have. There has been no pressure and so much support.

"At 38 years old, I have the capabilities to deal with it," he continued. "Someone who is 24 years old, with all the ambition and excitement still to come, might have had a harder time. I have the experience to deal with complications. I honestly have nothing to lose and, in the end, this has given me a different outlook and perspective on the sport.

"In those first days, I actually wasn't aware of how long I would be out of competition. For sure, the first week after the surgery was the hardest, with pain, but also mentally, as I knew it would take a long time to get back to a good level."

He added that he had "the benefit of a long and fruitful career", although he was also never worried – as others perhaps were – that it would spell the end of his long career.

"I've achieved what I wanted in the sport, so it's not like I'm missing some piece," Sutherland said. "I think that creates more calm about it, which allows me to recover better than I would have with stress and angst. I have always been an 'it is what it is' person."

Physiotherapy for Hermans

Hermans was one of the riders that crashed near the end of stage 2 of the Tour Down Under in Stirling in January, which also saw Deceuninck-QuickStep's Elia Viviani and Mitchelton-Scott leader Simon Yates come down, although both riders were able to continue the race.

"It's quite hard to see other riders racing now and get rewarded for the efforts they did in November, December and January," said Hermans, speaking just ahead of the upcoming race postponements and cancellations due to the coronavirus.

"Some of my favourite races and goals of the year have passed already, and it's still a long time before I can race again. I will miss a lot of good races, and I'm trying not to think too much about which races I'm missing," he said, although he of course may not now miss as many as first feared.

The 33-year-old Belgian is already training on his home trainer, and is starting physiotherapy to stabilise his shoulders, which means that he should be able to train on the road again within the next few weeks, according to his team.