Wout Poels is cautiously optimistic about his return to racing. The Vacansoleil-DCM rider suffered serious internal injuries in a crash near the end of the sixth stage of the Tour de France this summer, but hopes to be back in the peloton at the Tour of Algarve next year.
He was one of those caught up in a mass crash on that stage of the Tour, and was diagnosed with a ruptured spleen and kidney, bruised lungs and three broken ribs.
"But I have always been convinced that I can return to the top as a cyclist,” he told De Telegraaf, even though at one point his future career seemed to be in doubt.
For a time it was thought he would lose a kidney, which, a doctor told him, would mean he must find a news sports, as “cycling with one kidney at he highest level was impossible, according to him. I was just panicked. I immediately called my brother Norbert, but he knew within half an hour to announce that Maarten Tjallingii and Christophe Brandt also have only a single kidney.”
Now, six months later, examinations have showed that 25 percent of the kidney is dead, but the remaining 75 percent has a good supply. Further examinations of the kidney's functionality must be undertaken, but the prospect that he will lose the kidney is now gone.
He is slowly making his way back into the routine, as he knows he has a long way to go. "It's not like I was out with a broken collarbone. My condition was really far below zero. Four surgeries under general anesthesia, plus weeks on morphine and being bedridden. There was barely anything left of my muscles. I literally had to learn to walk again.”
Poels' first step, after first getting back on his bike the end of September, was a training camp in Spain two weeks ago with teammates Lieuwe Westra and Bert-Jan Lindeman, where he “assumed that I could not follow my colleagues during that first training camp.” While he was unable to do any of the lead work, he was able to keep up with them.
“That's a huge boost,” he said. “It shows that I can live as a professional cyclist. But I also understand that in the short term I can't expect too much from my body.”
His sight is now turned to Portugal in the middle of February. “I hope to return in the peloton at the Tour of Algarve. Without expectations, but full of ambition. "