Steegmans: 'I constantly think about Paris-Roubaix'
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Steegmans: 'I constantly think about Paris-Roubaix'

by Ben Atkins at 4:04 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice

gert steegmansRadioShack sprinter Gert Steegmans has been operated on for the broken collarbone he sustained in the Paris-Nice prologue. Just one day afterwards he held a press conference to talk about his immediate plans.

"It's a lot better,” he said of the pain in his shoulder, according to Het Nieuwsblad. “Monday after the surgery I was really drugged up to the eyeballs and I just slept. Now I am still a bit dizzy, but the pain comes and goes. Perhaps the anaesthetic is still somewhere in my body."

Steegmans has had a plate and ten screws inserted to hold together his broken collarbone; he also suffered multiple abrasions and bruises. His memory of the accident is, as one would expect, unclear.

"That it was fast,” he said of what he remembers from the crash. “I still don’t get it. On a descent I suddenly saw a lot of leaves coming down on me and suddenly I was blown off my bike. How can that be? At Paris-Nice I was definitely the heaviest rider in the peloton and yet I was hurled into the air."

"Put me back on my bike"

His initial reaction was that of many – or most cyclists – where his instinct was to get going again, but it didn’t take long for him to realise that this was not possible. "The first thing I said after my fall was ‘Where’s my spare bike?’” he said. “But I quickly realised that I couldn’t continue. I felt that something was wrong with my left shoulder. I cursed, because this I could do without.”

His latest crash comes after the one during stage 3 of the Volta ao Algarve where he suffered a concussion. The incident put him behind in preparation for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad/Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne weekend. All this comes on top of a 2009 season that saw him sidelined by his former team Katusha, over disagreements with it’s internal anti-doping pledge.

“Yeah,” he sighed, “but I'm not depressed. I must keep thinking positively. It's not like I am now going to be lying in bed for three weeks. Tomorrow [Wednesday] in Monaco, I’ll wake up immediately and ride on the rollers, if the pain is bearable, of course. I would still love to ride in the spring, I hope to get green light to train on the road soon. I do not want all my training work this winter to have been for nothing. I really hoped to put in a strong performance this spring."

“But unfortunately I have only trained a lot and been on the ground a lot,” he said. “I had a good Tour Down Under behind me, but then came the crash in the Tour of Algarve. This meant that the Belgian opening weekend was not brilliant, but I started full of confidence in Paris-Nice; until the fall.

“The misery must now cease,” said the Belgian. “If I ever give a press conference, I want it to be after I won a prize. Not because I have once again found myself on the ground.”

Still dreaming of the cobbles

Recovery is important for Steegmans, but as a Belgian the cobbled classics are among the most important races of the year. Consequently he is looking optimistically about making a return in time for the biggest one of these.

"I know it's stupid,” he laughed, “but I constantly think about Paris-Roubaix [on April 11]. This is in a good month’s time. Normally I'd be out for about six weeks, but a cyclist is no ordinary man. All this is new to me; I’d never broken my collarbone before. I don’t know how soon I’ll recover. But I'm restarting my season with Paris-Roubaix in my head, which was really my main race of the spring.”

To make the start line, especially in a fit state to compete with the best of his rivals, would require a very quick recovery indeed.

“We'll see," he smiled.

Back in his own time, hopefully to the Tour

As for his RadioShack team, there has been only concern for his recovery, he says. “There is no pressure,” said Steegmans. “They don’t want to force anything. They advised me to let everything heal and come back when it is correct to do so. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne went a bit adrift for our team, mainly through bad luck. We wanted the next few weeks to go right. That is still possible, only the boys will have to do without me at first."

With his classics campaign all but over, Steegmans is now also looking towards the next season goal. As a two-time stage winner the Belgian sprinter is obviously hoping to make RadioShack’s Tour de France team; but as the primary aim will be an eighth victory for Lance Armstrong, he is under no illusions as to his chances.

“Of course I want to ride the Tour,” he said, “but all I wanted that already before my crash. Only I may not make the selection. The team is obviously built around Lance Armstrong. He already sent me a message with a big ‘shit!’ in it.

“He couldn’t have put it better: ‘Shit happens’."



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