Lotto Soudal boss Marc Sergeant admits that the road back for Kris Boeckmans will be difficult but insists the team are 100 per cent behind the rider who could have died as a result of injuries sustained in a crash at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Belgian was in a medically induced coma for several weeks and suffered facial trauma with several fractures, concussion, broken ribs, pneumothorax, laceration and bleeding of the lung, and swollen pulmonary tissue.
Boeckmans is now out of hospital and can ride his bike for a few minutes, although, having gone though such a severe set of injuries, he is only able to take baby steps in his recovery. Sergeant has already offered the rider a contract until the end of 2017, thus providing Boeckmans with time and space.
“I had left the Vuelta a few days before the crash. I’d left this healthy young guy and then all of a sudden when I arrived at the hospital I saw this guy lying there who almost died. He was dependant on machines to keep him alive,” Sergeant told Cyclinngews, reliving the moment he saw Boeckmans in hospital for the first time.
“When he came back to Belgium I was one of the first to go and see him and there was nothing left of him, he’d lost 15 kilos, and it’s all muscle.”
Earlier this month Boeckmans made his first public appearance at a Lotto Soudal event in Belgium. He had lunch with his teammates and vowed that he would do everything in order to return to a competitive level. He had already won eight races before his Vuelta crash.
“The day we came together last week, we invited him to our lunch so everyone could see him and that was good for him but it was a task for him. After an hour he needed a rest so there’s a long way to go for us," Sergeant said.
When asked if he thought his rider could return to the peloton in the future, Sergeant said: “It’s hard to predict but we can hope. For years everyone was saying he was fast, talented and strong but he wasn’t winning races. This year he finally broke through that and was having a good year. For now we just need to see how he recovers."