Wout van Aert: I felt like I was burned alive

Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has for the first time watched a replay of his horrific crash during the individual time trial at the Tour de France in July that left him with extensive injuries, including a deep gash that tore through skin, capsule and muscle across his upper thigh and hip. 

In an interview with Eric Goens during the Flemish documentary television series Het Huis, Van Aert said that following the crash he felt like he was burned alive.

"It felt like I was lying there forever," Van Aert told Goens during the interview that took place roughly one month after his crash. "I didn't feel much of the wound, but I was lying on really hot asphalt and it was just as if I was burning alive. I can still perfectly remember that feeling. It seemed to last forever."

Van Aert made his debut at the Tour de France in July as part of the Jumbo-Visma squad that won the stage 2 team time trial. He also won stage 10, and went into the stage 13 individual time trial as one of the favourites.

Van Aert crashed with one kilometre to go during the time trial after he clipped the road-side fencing through a righthand corner. The fencing caught his hip and pulled him off his time trial bike. He suffered a serious wound to his right hip that crossed around to the back of his leg. 

Medics treated Van Aert on the side of the road before Jumbo-Visma announced that he would be forced to abandon due to the seriousness of his injuries.

Van Aert's crash during the Tour de France was aired on live TV along with online streaming channels. The footage also showed Van Aert as he received road-side medical treatment before medics were able to safely transfer him to the ambulance.

"That really has all been on TV?" Van Aert said in his interview with Goens. "There are also pictures that were made with a dashcam from the team car. There you can see it even better. And you also see the piece of muscle that has disappeared.

"You can also see it perfectly from my injuries. The hole in my muscle is really a knife that went through. I had never seen that before. In my experience it took a long time for the doctors to arrive."

Van Aert was taken to nearby hospital in Pau where he underwent an hour-long surgery to repair the torn skin, capsule and muscle of his upper thigh and hip. 

He was then transferred to a hospital near his home in Herentals where he underwent a second operation and spent the first part of his recovery process. Doctor Toon Claes, who performed the surgery, said it would take two months before he could begin intensive rehabilitation.

Van Aert confirmed that he will race the Azencross cyclo-cross race in Loenhout, Belgium, on December 27, which will mark his first race since the crash. It was reported that he will use a series of cyclo-cross races to help build form ahead of the 2020 road race season with Jumbo-Visma.

"If the recovery continues as it is now, I will make my comeback in Loenhout on December 27. My rehabilitation has progressed much faster this past month, and I can now train and increase the load," Van Aert last week.

Van Aert's interview with Eric Goens for the Het Huis documentary is scheduled to air on Tuesday.

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