Leif Hoste: “I still have splitting headaches”
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Leif Hoste: “I still have splitting headaches”

by Ben Atkins at 4:17 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Injury
Belgian rider still suffers from the after effects of Driedaagse De Panne crash

leif hosteIt’s been almost three months since Leif Hoste (Katusha) crashed out of the first stage of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, but the Belgian Classics specialist is still feeling the after effects. He came down heavily as the race approached the climb of the Eikenmolen, hitting his head on the road, sustaining a deep gash to his eyebrow and breaking both his front teeth.

In an interview with Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, the 33-year-old explained his struggle to fully recover from the crash, and the reasons that he has not raced since abandoning Paris-Roubaix back on April 10th.

“If I go out on my bike, I’m back home after two hours, guaranteed; with a splitting headache,” he said.

“I can ride my bike, but an experienced cycletourist wouldn’t have much trouble with me. I can’t continue, no intense training. I tried once to do five hours at a stretch, but then I had to lie down here in the office. Two days at a stretch, doing nothing.”

Having had extensive tests to find out what the problem is, Hoste is happy to say that his condition is not serious, although he doesn’t know when the headaches will end.

"The good news is that there is no injury,” he explained. “I’ve had all kinds of brain scans done, and there is no permanent damage found. But the EEG scans show that I still have the after effects of a concussion. How long that will last, I do not know.

“Apparently it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he continued. “When I first saw my neurologist in May, he smiled. ‘You’ll be okay to compete in a few weeks’, he said, ‘When I saw the pictures of the crash and heard that you would still ride the Ronde [van Vlaanderen], I knew you’d ride.’ It would actually have surprised him if I had not.”

Hoste’s crash happened on Tuesday, March 29th and by Sunday, April 3rd he was racing again; at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, in support of teammate Filippo Pozzato. Although less than a week had passed, he still felt it was the right thing to do.

“The race doctor at the Driedaagse called me the day after the crash, out of concern,” he said. “‘will you be able to start Leif?’ And also within the team; they were cautious. Andre Tchmil literally called me and said: ‘Are you sure? Because we don’t want to cause any more misery afterwards by you riding these two races.’ But no, I was sure, I had no second thoughts about whether I should start.”

He finished the Ronde in 56th place, in the second big group, but abandoned Paris-Roubaix the following week, and hasn’t raced since.

“You know, the crash was hard, but I’ve experienced it before,” he said. “I responded as always: on the ground, straight back up, get on your bike and ride on. Until the teeth fell out of my mouth, and I felt the blood on my eyebrow... ‘Ah, I’ll stay here’, you know.

“But I didn’t doubt [I’d be at] the Ronde,” he grinned. “Not even when I saw myself in the mirror. The next day I lay in my bed; Thursday I got on my bike and went out training for five hours.”

At 33 years of age Hoste is heading towards the end of his career and he admits that, with each crash, he might be about to end it a little prematurely.

“Sometimes [I worry],” he admitted. “This is my third serious crash in three years, and each time it has come when I was finally on top form. Then you think: ‘is this it now?’ Certainly this year because I had just joined the Katusha team; I really wanted to prove myself. It’s not fun to call Jef [Braeckeveldt, Katusha sports director] and say: ‘I have a headache.’

“It sounds strange for a rider; a broken leg or a torn muscle you can at least see. Headache, that’s so… You can’t prove it.

“[I worry about my career] a little bit,” he continued. “I have a contract for next year, but even when I go to races I won’t stand straight. So yes, I think about it; though I’m past the stage where I worry about my condition or my programme.

“First I want to sort out my body. Period,” he concluded. “Then the races themselves will follow.”


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