BMC Racing's Peter Stetina took another step toward his recovery from a serious leg fracture this week with the removal of a plate and 14 screws from his lower leg. The American posted an image of the devices after they were removed, and the team's physician Max Testa said it was impressive how much metal was in his leg.
"He had a big rod and a plate and 14 screws, and some of the screws were just under the skin, so when he pedaled he could feel it," Testa explained to Cyclingnews. "I'm sure it will feel much better without the metal. On Monday they will remove the staples and then he can start riding the bike."
Stetina was involved in a crash on stage 1 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, one of several unfortunate riders who hit a metal bollard that was on the course in the final kilometre of the sprint stage. The high-speed impact shattered the bones in his lower right leg, leading to a four-month rehabilitation before he made his return at Tour of Utah together with teammate Taylor Phinney, who broke his left leg a year earlier.
"The problem was the fracture was going into the joint (near the knee). Taylor's was a little more complex injury that included more soft tissue," Testa said. "Both were as bad as can be for a cyclist. Both being healthy and committed was a big difference."
It was always the plan that Stetina would try to come back to racing before the end of the season, if only to kick-start his preparation for the 2016 season. Testa said he "broke a new record according to all of the doctors involved."
"In Utah he was better on the bike than walking. The bike is friendly on joints, so he was able to do it. After [the USA Pro Challenge in] Colorado - we were concerned he has metal just under the skin in case of crashes. We decided that since we have other riders coming back from injury, we would anticipate the removal of hardware so we don't take risks.
"Colorado is a relatively safe race, there aren't many crashes because the roads are wide open and the peloton is small. Before sending him back to race in Europe where the weather is not so good, we were a little concerned with having the metal. It will project him better into next season - he can start training without having to discontinue training for surgery mid-winter."
Stetina will leave the BMC Racing Team for Trek Factory Racing in 2016.
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