Petr Vakoč has started his comeback to the peloton in earnest, labelling his return to racing the 'Back to the Pack' tour on Twitter. The 26-year-old Czech suffered a severe spinal injury in January and missed all of the 2018 season, but he's vowed to return to racing in 2019.
Vakoč was training in South Africa with Quick-Step Floors teammates Bob Jungels and Laurens De Plus when Vakoč and De Plus were stuck by a truck. The two riders were transported to a hospital, where De Plus was treated for several abrasions and a minor pulmonary and kidney contusion, while Vakoc was diagnosed with six fractured vertebrae and underwent surgery.
The recovery required a two-week hospital stay in South Africa before Vakoč could return to his home in Prague, where he underwent two more surgeries and had metal substitutes for his first lumbar vertebrae implanted. He was already pedalling his bike in March - albeit from a supine position with his bike suspended from the ceiling - and was able to ride outside on the road by the end of June.
Vakoč, who is under contract for 2019 with Deceuninck-QuickStep, declared earlier this month that he planned to return to racing in "100 days," which would put him in line to start at either the Tour de la Provence one-day race in France or the six-day Tour Colombia stage race.
"I was hit by a truck and I am lucky to be alive," Vakoč wrote for a blog on his team's website. "After three surgeries, months of rehabilitation and gradually increasing the training load, it seems I might be able to come back. Not just back to normal life, but back to racing. My goal is to be on the start line again in 100 days from now."
After several early setbacks, a successful block of training in Colorado in September convinced Vakoč he could indeed return to competition, and the 'Back to the Pack' tour (with a #backthepack hashtag) was initiated. So far Vakoč's informal tour has included more than cycling. He's been lifting weights, including heavy squats, cross country skiing, mountain biking and even meditation.