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Pozzovivo undergoes elbow surgery after risk of gangrene

SAN DANIELE DEL FRIULI ITALY OCTOBER 20 Domenico Pozzovivo of Italy and NTT Pro Cycling Team during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 16 a 229km stage from Udine to San Daniele Del Friuli 249m girodiitalia Giro on October 20 2020 in San Daniele Del Friuli Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling) on stage 16 of the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

NTT Pro Cycling climber Domenico Pozzovivo has undergone successful surgery on his left elbow after an inspection revealed a risk of gangrene to his wounds.

The 37-year-old had initially fractured the elbow after being hit by a driver while training in July 2019, also suffering a right tibia fracture and subsequently undergoing five surgeries to his injuries, including the insertion of screws and plates into his elbow.

Pozzovivo was involved in a crash on stage 1 of the Tour de France this year, reopening the wound, with pain in his arm reappearing during the Giro d'Italia and putting paid to what looked like a bid for the podium. He underwent a six-hour surgery in Lugano and hopes to be back on the bike in two weeks' time.

"The operation had already been planned for some time," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It was only brought forward because gangrene was a real risk. All screws and plates have been removed and my elbow is now stable.

"They took a biopsy to find out what kind of bacterium had entered the body and now we are waiting for the results. I'll leave hospital on Monday or Tuesday and then I hope to be on the bike in 15 days, though the doctors advise caution."

Pozzovivo said that his aim in the Giro was to repeat his 2018 placing of fifth overall. He'd end up 11th in Milan after a promising start to the race ended with a tough final week, saying – as fellow veteran Vincenzo Nibali did – that "young riders had made a great leap in quality" at the race.

"There are phenomena like Pogačar and Evenepoel around and nobody disputes that. But I wouldn't look too closely to what happened in 2020. It's been an anomalous year.

"It could have penalised older riders like us, who are used to doing many training kilometrese to find the right form. Next year you'll see that we can take some satisfaction too; we can count on our experience and inventiveness."

Pozzovivo crossed the finish line in Milan with a solid 19 th place in the final time trial and said that the races against the clock were the toughest stages of the race for him – tougher even than stage 18 over the Stelvio, where he lost eight minutes on GC.

"From a physical point of view the time trials [were toughest], especially the one at Valdobiaddene since it was also the longest," he said. "I had an abscess on my arm and putting my elbow on the aero bars was very painful."

As things stand, Pozzovivo is under contract for 2021, having signed a two-year deal with NTT Pro Cycling last year. He's one of only five men at the team with a contract for next season though, with the team under dire threat of closure after the title sponsor announced they wouldn't renew back in September.

A handful of riders, including Giro stage 17 winner Ben O'Connor, have already announced deals elsewhere, though others – including Victor Campenaerts, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Michael Valgren and Giacomo Nizzolo – are still in limbo. Pozzovivo said that some hope remains, however. 

"Actually, there is a chance this won't happen. The managers are working to keep the team going. There's a window of opportunity and I'm holding onto it. There's nothing left to do but hope.

"Otherwise I hope to reach an agreement with some other team. If somebody wants a reliable Grand Tour rider who never gives up, they know where to find me."

Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in August 2019 after working as a freelance journalist for seven years, including time spent working for Cyclingnews and sister magazine, Procycling.