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Slippens and Stam reunited in Hasselt

By Laura Weislo and Hedwig Kröner

After months spent rehabilitating injuries from a crash last August, Dutchman Robert Slippens made his comeback on the track at the Hasselt Six Day this Thursday. Slippens crashed last summer while riding a kermesse in Flanders, and endured ten broken ribs, a broken leg and a punctured lung, but was finally ready to return to competition for the last Six Day of the season. "It feels like I'm going to ride my first Six Day", Slippens told ANP. "I feel in good shape. But there is that uncertainty: have I trained enough? Am I ready?"

Slippens made an appearance at the Amsterdam Six Day last fall, but watching his longtime partner, Danny Stam, win that event was a mental blow. "I had difficulty with that week. I saw Danny winning and thought: this is not right. Only in the weeks afterwards I started to realise that it would be a lost winter for me." Slippens was determined to make a comeback in Rotterdam, but recovery from such severe injuries never goes as expected. "I said then that I would race in Rotterdam [in the beginning of January - ed.]. It must have been the influence of the opiates", he laughed.

But the crash wasn't the only thing that turned his life upside down last summer. A few days after his fall, he became the father of a baby daughter - his wife Marina gave birth in the same hospital where he was treated for his injuries. "That was the most emotional week-end of my life," he said.

Slippens rounded out his training with the Dutch national track team in California in January, but he still didn't expect too much from himself in Hasselt. "I will race, but not for the victory," he predicted. "I want to improve my form there, but I certainly will lack the edge that only competition can bring." The only hope Slippens and his long-time partner Stam have left this season is a rainbow jersey at the Track World's in Mallorca on April 1. "If everything goes as planned, I will race the World's, but I do look at Hasselt as a test," he added. "If it doesn't work out there, then the season will be completely over for me."