Daniele Colli returns to peloton after fighting knee tumor
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Daniele Colli returns to peloton after fighting knee tumor

by Bjorn Haake at 3:19 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Injury
Italian averts amputation and is back with Geox-TMC team

Daniele ColliDaniele Colli will race the Giro della Toscana on Sunday, June 19th, marking his first race of the season for his Geox-TMC team. Just making the start line will be his biggest victory so far, having suffered from a tumor to his knee in November. He risked losing his left leg, but fought the illness successfully. Colli is now looking forward to resuming his racing career that started with Liquigas in 2005.

The prospects of racing as a professional again make him feel great. "I'm really happy, it's like being born again," says Colli. Darker days are behind him. "The diagnosis was brutal: tumor to the knee with the threat that not only wouldn't I ride a bike again, but I could have lost the use of the leg." Colli fought hard and beat the odds.

Still, the return to the top level was a difficult process. "I had to learn to walk again and finally I managed to get back to pedaling a bike." Being involved in a team sport, Colli knows what counts. "I have to thank all the people who supported me during these difficult months; my family and friends have been wonderful." He also thanked his team and the sponsors, who had faith in him. "They had the patience to wait for me and help me get back to doing what I love best - cycling."

After three years with professional continental teams, Colli was back with a big team in 2011. The illness delayed his start, but he was stubborn. "At the Geox-TMC presentation in Padua in February, I showed up on crutches." says Colli. "All my teammates came on stage on their bikes." The plan was for Colli to walk up to the podium, but he was determined to ride. "I wanted to get on a bike and pedal at all costs. The leg was still hurting but I grit my teeth and carried on. Although I only pedaled for a few meters, it was an immense joy."

His first training ride was a big hurdle. "I started working out ... with ten kilometers, which seemed endless." He improved to twenty, then thirty kilometers. "Every day I set myself a new goal." He increased his distance until he passed the 100-kilometer mark. "It was fantastic. I've never felt so happy to exert myself and work out." The efforts showed and the recuperation was really hard. "But it took less time than we thought. The doctors say it's thanks to cycling, which gets you used to suffering, persevering and never giving up."

For the past two months he was back at training like a professional. The medical staff gave the green light for a start at the Giro della Toscana. Colli looks back at the hard times and finds something positive about it. "This experience has taught me a lot; when you're healthy you don't think about it, but then you realize that life is a precious gift to enjoy one hundred percent."

Colli's mind was on a famous Texan the last few months. "When you think about cancer and cycling, it is inevitable not to think of Lance Armstrong's story. I may not win seven Tour de France races but I've already won the most beautiful victory in my life."

Team supportive

Team Manager Mauro Gianetti says that the when Daniele told the news to the team, everybody was devastated. "In these cases cycling, racing, everything gets pushed aside; what counts is to beat the cancer and get back to living." Geox fully supported the rider during his difficult time. "He showed us that he's a strong, determined guy. Guts and determination helped him get better and get back to high levels in a short time. To see him on a bike again is our greatest triumph."

Colli's career started at Liquigas in 2005, where he spent two years. He showed promising results, finishing second in a stage of the Tour de Suisse his first year. In 2006, he was second in the Down Under Classic. But health troubles and a bad crash in Spain kept him out of the ProTour for several years. He raced for professional Continental teams like Ceramica Panaria - Navigare, P-Nivo, Carmiooro - A-Style, and Ceramica Flaminia - Bossini Docce. After a long struggle, Colli is finally where he always dreamt to be - riding in the top class of professional bike racing.


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