Jumbo-Visma have said that it is not yet clear when Wout van Aert will be able to return to racing following the crash that forced him to abandon his debut Tour de France. The Belgian remains in hospital near his home in Herentals, where staff have noted that it will be two months before he can begin intensive rehabilitation.
In a statement released by Jumbo-Visma on Monday, orthopaedic surgeon Toon Claes described Van Aert’s recovery as a "slow, favourable evolution." Van Aert is expected to leave hospital later this week.
“There are no signs of any infections and the wounds are healing nicely,” said Claes. “The extent and complexity of the injury call for a slow, meticulous rehabilitation. Intensive rehabilitation is only started after two months, when the injury has healed sufficiently.”
Van Aert received a deep gash to his right buttock when he crashed into a roadside barrier during the stage 13 time trial in Pau. He underwent surgery and spent four days in hospital in Pau, before transferring to AZ Herentals in his native Belgium, where it was established that he required a second operation on the wound.
“I had an operation in Pau and afterwards, I stayed in the hospital for four days,” Van Aert said last week.
“Everything went well. I could walk on crutches and the doctor said I needed some time to recover. After that, I was transferred to another hospital. Over there, they examined me again. It seemed the first operation wasn’t enough to ensure the recovery. That’s why I needed a second one.”
Still only 24 years of age, Van Aert was enjoying a fine Tour debut, capped by a stage victory in the reduced bunch sprint in Albi.
The three-time cyclo-cross world champion stepped up to WorldTour level on the road this season and was a consistently strong performer in the spring Classics, placing second at the E3 BinckBank Classic, third at Strade Bianche and sixth at Milan-San Remo, while also catching the eye with a stirring but ill-starred display at Paris-Roubaix.
Van Aert resisted calls to ride the road Worlds in Yorkshire in September and was instead planning to once again race a full cyclo-cross programme this coming winter. It remains to be seen when he will be able to return to action, though Van Aert acknowledged last week that the recovery process would be a slow one.
“At home, we have a hospital bed ready, but there’s no point going there if I can’t leave my bed,” Van Aert said. “The crash has had a bigger impact than I initially thought.”