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Six months after life-threatening crash, Drizners back in racing in Pologne

UAE Tour 2022 - 4th Edition - 4th stage Fujairah Fort - Jebel Jais 181 km - 23/02/2022 - Jarrad Drizners (AUS - Lotto Soudal) - Xandres Vervloesem (BEL - Lotto Soudal) - photo Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Jarrad Drizners (Lotto Soudal) at the UAE Tour (Image credit: Luca Bettini/SprintCyclingAgency©2022)

For any first-year pro, every race is a new adventure, but in the case of Jarrad Drizners, his first few days riding in the Tour de Pologne this August have likely felt far more exceptional.

Six months ago, the Lotto Soudal rider was just weeks into his rookie season when he was caught up in a terrible crash on the second last day of the UAE Tour that left him with a badly lacerated liver and at risk of losing his life.

His return to racing hasn't been straightforward, with additional surgery needed a few weeks after the crash when the recovery process had a brief but severe setback. In total, he spent the best part of two months off the bike recovering.

But Drizners would not be swerved from his goal of returning to pro racing and even if much of his rookie pro season has been spent in far from ideal circumstances, he's now back in the game at the Tour de Pologne.

"It's taking a little bit of getting used to, obviously, after such a long time away. But it's great to be back in the team and back in the environment and I'm loving it," Drizners told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 3.

"These first two sprint stages have been a good introduction to get the feeling of being back in the bunch. I've had lots of time to train and prepare, but it's been three months training full gas now so it's been a long road back .I'm feeling pretty good so far, though."

Getting back into racing was never going to be straightforward after such a dramatic experience, but Drizners is being as upbeat as possible.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said, "so I've taken the time to re-set and focus. There were some struggles and stuff but I'm taking the positives from what I can."

The former U23 Australian national champion said that from the moment the crash happened through to his being present at Pologne, the team has provided constant, "amazing" levels of support.

"The whole organisation has been phenomenal," he said. "I worked with physios back in Nice, the team set that up obviously and I had full support from them in Dubai. I can't single out an individual really: just everyone."

On top of that, he said, he has been able to count on backing from his family, with his mother flying to Dubai to be with him during the recovery process. "Without her support, I wouldn't have made it through."

So where does he go from Pologne? Rather than set himself specific targets, Drizners said he's taking it "race by race."

"After here [Pologne] I'll reassess and then look forward to the rest of the season. Hopefully I'll be able to make it back into the sprint train for Caleb [Ewan], that's one goal of mine."

The important thing, in any case, is that he's managing to race again. Training in his new base in France, he says, has gone well, and after getting the all-clear from the doctors to ride again three months ago, "since then it's all been fine."

It is true, he said, that after breaking his nose and hurting a finger in the crash as well, he has a few "battle scars" as he jokingly put it. But crucially his body, overall, has got over the crash.

"I had multiple checkups and scans, everybody's given me the green light," he said, "and that's why I'm here racing today."

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Alasdair Fotheringham
Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.