Marina Romoli (Safi-Pasta Zara Manhattan) has spoken to La Gazzetta dello Sport of her arduous recovery from the horrific injuries she sustained in a training crash on June 1, when she suffered deep lacerations to her face and fractured vertebrae. The Italian rider is currently in the Villa Beretta rehabilitation clinic in Lombardy where she is undergoing intensive physical therapy in order to regain the use of her legs.
“I’ve been at Villa Beretta since June 24, and I don’t know how long I’ll be here,” Romoli said. “Every day I get up at 7:30, have breakfast and do breathing exercises. Then I do two hours in the gym to get mobility back in my upper body, because I still feel nothing in the lower half.” The process is then repeated in the afternoon.
“In the evenings, I dream,” Romoli said. “I dream of walking. The other night, for the first time, I even dreamt of riding my bike.”
Romoli remembers the moments prior to her accident, but nothing of the incident itself. That morning she was training with her boyfriend, amateur rider Matteo Pelucchi (Trevigiani), and their friend Samuele Conti (Bergamasca) and had just started doing sprint intervals by herself. “I remember that I was riding alone on the righthand side of a straight road at 35 kph, and then I don’t remember anything else. There’s a gap of a week from there,” she said.
“It turns out that a car cut me off and threw me over the handlebars. I took a real blow to my chest and punctured a lung. I had a bloodied face and serious pain in my back. Matteo tells me that I never lost consciousness,” Romoli said.
The 22-year-old rider was taken first to hospital in Lecco and then airlifted to the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, where she was placed in an induced coma. She regained consciousness on June 9, her birthday.
In the intervening period, the 2006 World Junior Championship silver medallist underwent reconstructive eye surgery and had 500 stitches to her face. On emerging from her coma, she had to endure back surgery before transferring to Villa Beretta for the start of a lengthy rehabilitation period.
Romoli does not blame cycling nor even the driver of the car that caused the incident. “It was chance,” the Recanati-born rider said. “I’m just sorry that the woman who was driving never came to see me, to say sorry.”
For now, Romoli’s primary concern is walking again, and although she is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task, she draws solace from her experiences as a cyclist, dating back to her first races with GS Potentia as a girl.
“Cycling is a tough sport, but it’s magnificent. The beauty of cycling is that after such suffering you feel as though you’ve won even if you didn’t come first,” said Romoli. “The worst thing is falling. Before, when I fell, I always got up by myself. I’ll do it again this time. I don’t know how long it will take, but I know that I’ll do it.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.