Impatient Hovelijnck returns to racing in Mallorca
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Impatient Hovelijnck returns to racing in Mallorca

by Bjorn Haake at 4:27 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Kurt Hovelijnck of Quick Step has recovered from his bad crash in the spring of last year and will be racing for the first time in 11 months at the Mallorca Challenge, which starts on Sunday. The Belgian is quite happy to be racing again soon, as during his recovery process he had some doubts if he'd ever return again in the peloton.

His manager, Patrick Lefevere, is not alone in being amazed about Hovelijnck's return. "'A miracle,' they still say at the university clinic in Gent whenever I show up," Hovelijnck told Sportwereld. That is the hospital where he lay in a coma for three weeks last spring, after suffering head injuries after falling in a training ride with Wouter Weylandt.

His last race was on March 8, 2009, but already his return has a feel of victory. "You can indeed call this a win," he said. "When I awoke from the coma, there were serious looking doctors around. Racing? That was not the issue. It already seemed a nice present if I could lead a normal life again."

Hovelijnck admitted that the first few months, he was down quite a bit, with the possibility of retirement before his career really started. "I had a ProTour contract with Quick Step. I was the teammate of Tom Boonen, Stijn Devolder. Man, I was so ready to empty my tank to ride for these guys. In the Tour Down Under I even chatted with Lance Armstrong. Or better yet, he with me. And then all of a sudden: It is all over! Don't think about racing again."

But Hovelijnck fought and he thinks others could do the same. "Human beings are stronger than they think," he says. But he also credits his mental toughness for the comeback. "I said point blank that I will come back. Even though there were days when I didn't quite believe it myself."

After a long battle, the good side won. "Of course we will have to see what I can do in the races. But to be honest, I am ready for it. I had to do quite a bit of work for it. Exercises that were no presents." Hovelijnck needed to get back his physical bike racing features. "I went to see my colleagues at the Belgian Nationals. Afterwards, I saw a picture of myself in the paper. Boy, so meager. And my legs - so skinny."

At the last camp, Hovelijnck looked good. "I could easily follow guys like Boonen, Devolder and Chavanel. This gives me some faith." He even has made an astonishing discovery. "It sounds crazy, but I am more explosive than before. It's easier for me to ride uphill." His training partners Weylandt and Nikolas Maes agree. "'What is that?' they say," Hovelijnck laughs.

The Belgian knows that training is no substitute for racing, so he will have to see how it goes. But with all the work he put in to come back, he wants things to move quickly. "I let everyone know that I want to ride the Belgian opening weekend [Omloop and Kuurne -ed]. They put me in as reserve, though. 'Easy pal, you are coming from a long way out,' they said. You know what the problem is? I am impatient!"


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