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EUROTRASH News Round Up Thursday!

Lots of cycling news in today’s EUROTRASH Thursday. Bradley Wiggins U-turns on Lance Armstrong – Top Story. Sad news of Jonathan Cantwell, Rik Verbrugghe new Belgian coach, doping control and awards at the Flandrien Gala, Wout Van Aert legal battle, Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish to start in Argentina, contract news, Manzana Postobon ProConti for 2019, Roger Hammond to Madison Genesis, Lars Boom keen for next season, Lotto Soudal U23, Silvelle’19, Petr Vakoc in 100 days and UAE Team Emirates training camp video. Coffee?

TOP STORY: U-Turn Wiggins!
British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, famously said “The lady’s not for turning” in 1980 at a time when the British economy was in recession and unemployment exceeded 3 million by 1982. She was also famous for stopping school milk, decimating the coal, steel and ship building industries and sinking an Argentinian battle ship as it sailed away from the battle zone, but she wouldn’t perform a ‘U-turn’. Another Brit; Bradley Wiggins has performed a stunning U-turn in the World of cycling.

In Wiggins’ latest book, Icons, the tour winning multi-Olympic champion has a chapter on Lance Armstrong and has described the American as: “iconic in some way,” in interviews. It was only five years ago in 2013 that Wiggins said Armstrong was a lying bastard, and that dopers were: “pissing on my sport and my dreams.” That is quite a ‘U-turn’.

Of course this could all be the plan to sell more books, and I, like just about every other cycling journalist has jumped on the story, giving Sir Bradley the publicity he wanted. The irony that his books bought on the internet will probably be delivered in a jiffy bag will hopefully not be missed.

Wiggins and ‘friend’ Lance Armstrong:

Jonathan Cantwell Dies at 36
Jonathan Cantwell has passed away on Tuesday at the age of 36. The ex-pro who rode for Jittery Joe’s, Fly V Australia, Team Saxo Bank and Drapac died on Tuesday evening in the presence of family and friends. Little is known about the circumstances of his death, but there are no suspicious circumstances. After his career, testicular cancer was diagnosed, but he overcame the disease.

Cantwell made a name for himself in American and Australian as a criterium rider, but the fast man managed to win pro races. When he moved to Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank-Tinkoff team in 2012, Cantwell immediately won two stages in the Tour of Taiwan. The highlight of his career came in the same season, when he rode the Tour de France. He finished the French stage race and took 6th place in the stage 4 bunch sprint to Rouen. Riis was happy with Cantwell in 2012 and extended his contract for 2013.

In 2013 Cantwell was not so good and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff did not offer him a new contract. After a good autumn where he was second in the World Ports Classic, Drapac took him on. 2014 was his last season with the professionals as Drapac didn’t extend his contract, although Cantwell felt he deserved to continue.

Everyone at PEZ send their condolences to Cantwell’s family and friends.

Rik Verbrugghe New Belgian Coach
Rik Verbrugghe becomes Belgian national team coach from 1 December 2018. The 44-year-old ex-pro may combine the position with his job as a sports manager at Bahrain-Merida. Verbrugghe, who will be assisted by Sven Vanthourenhout, was chosen over other top candidates such as Axel Merckx and Peter Van Petegem.

Rik Verbrugghe, partner of Claudia Van Avermaet (sister of Greg), became a professional with Lotto in 1996 and stayed with the team until 2004, after which he made the switch to Quick-Step – Innergetic, but only had one year with Lefevere. In 2006 he moved to Cofidis where he finished his riding career in 2008.

In 2000 he became Belgian time trial champion, but his best season was in 2001, he won the final classification in the Criterium International, Flèche Wallonne, the prologue in the Giro and rode the Tour de France. In 2002 and 2006 he also succeeded in winning a stage in the Giro d’Italia.

A year after he hung up his bicycle, Verbrugghe returned to Quick-Step to become a DS. In 2011 he moved to BMC. He became a sports manager for the first time in 2014, at the Swiss IAM Cycling. After the team ceased to exist, Verbrugghe disappeared from view for a while. At the beginning of this year he became a sports manager at Bahrain-Merida and should continue with that function. Verbrugghe speaks French and Flemish and will take care of both the pros and the young riders. Sven Vanthourenhout has been the cross coach since last year, will be his assistant.

Verbrugghe with Vincenzo Nibali in Flanders:
Oudenaarde - België - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - NIBALI Vincenzo (ITA) of Bahrain - Merida talking to VERBRUGGHE Rik (BEL) Ass. Sports Director of Bahrain - Merida during a training session prior to the Flanders Classics UCI WorldTour 102nd Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling race with start in Antwerpen and finish in Oudenaarde - photo NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2018

Doping Control at the Flandrien Gala for Pieter Serry
At first it seemed a silly joke by Flandrien Gala presenter Karl Vannieuwkerke, but it was very seriousness. Just before the start of the Flandrien presentation, Quick-Step Floors rider Pieter Serry was called to the entrance of the Ostend Casino Kursaal by two doping controllers. “You are spoiling my evening”, sighed Serry.

It was just after 8 o’clock when Karl Vannieuwkerke opened the Flandrien Gala with the statement: “This is not a joke. But I have to ask Pieter Serry to go for a doping test.”

The East Flemish rider did not feel like it, but he did go to the front of the Casino Kursaal anyway. There were indeed two foreign doping inspectors waiting for him. “They had already been at my home,” Serry said. “But I had already left for Ostend when they got me on the phone. Each pro must give an hour when he is definitely at home. For me that is between 7 and 8 in the morning. But now they were at my door in the evening. They asked me if I wanted to return, but I really did not see why. Then you should come to Ostend “, I told them.

The testers took him at his word and came to the casino in Ostend. Serry clearly showed his displeasure. “You come here to spoil my night, I was checked two weeks ago and that was out of season. Pure money waste,” he said. “I just feel like a convict with an ankle tag.”

The check – both urine and blood samples were taken – took quite some time, so Serry missed more than half of the Gala. Eventually he was able to take his seat in time to see teammate Yves Lampaert receive the Flandrien prize.

Pieter Serry:

Sniper Cycling Wants Compensation for Wout Van Aert
Sniper Cycling does not intend to give Wout van Aert the option of racing for another team in 2019. If it is up to the manager and lawyer of the 24-year-old Belgian, the cyclocross World champion would be with LottoNl-Jumbo from 1st March 2019. “We do not agree if we do not receive financial compensation from Wout van Aert first”, says Rudi Desmet, the Sniper Cycling lawyer in Het Laatste Nieuws.

The Belgian split from Sniper Cycling/Veranda’s Willems-Crelan in September due to ‘urgent reasons’. Meanwhile, the world champion is riding for the one-man Cibel-Cebon team, but from the 1st of March, 2019 he hopes to wear the yellow and black kit of LottoNl-Jumbo and a day later be on the start line of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Van Aert has a contract with the Dutch WorldTour team from the 1st of January, 2020.

Manager Jef Van den Bosch admits that he has already had discussions with LottoNl-Jumbo, but before anything happens, Sniper Cycling will have to agree. “We will not get that agreement from Sniper, we do not count on that”, says Walter Van Steenbrugge, Van Aert’s lawyer. “But in view of the urgent reasons, we have presented the case to the UCI.” Van Steenbrugge has asked the UCI not to apply its own regulations. “If that agreement of the UCI is there, there is nothing that prevents Wout van Aert from signing with LottoNl-Jumbo. I expect news in the course of November.”

At Sniper Cycling they are aware of their power. No agreement from them means that Wout van Aert is unemployed in 2019. Unless the Belgian pays a sum of money. “We have lost sponsors due to Van Aert’s breach of contract”, states lawyer Desmet. Bike supplier Stevens has resigned and Crelan is also retiring after this season. In addition, Desmet does not expect the UCI to make an exception to the rules and allow an early transition to LottoNl-Jumbo, as Van Steenbrugge suggests. “Then a contract is worth nothing. If the UCI goes along with that, cycling has a big problem.”

What will Wout Van Aert do in 2019?
Roubaix - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Wout VAN AERT (Belgium / Team Verandas Willems - Crelan) pictured during the 116th UCI World Tour Paris - Roubaix cycling race with start in Compiegne and finish at the Velodrome Andre-Petrieux in Roubaix on April 08, 2018 in Roubaix, France, 8/04/18 - photo Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos © 2018

Van der Poel, Dumoulin, Lampaert, Cant and De Gendt Receive Flandrien Prize
Two Dutch riders; Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Dumoulin walked away with prizes at the Gala of the Flandrien 2018, organized by the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. Van der Poel won the Flandrien for cyclo-cross and Dumoulin the International Flandrien.

Mathieu van der Poel took the trophy from his rival Wout van Aert. Van Aert became World cross champion, but the rest of the 2017/18 cross calendar was dominated by Van der Poel. Van der Poel was not present at Ostend to receive his accolade.

More surprising was Tom Dumoulin taking the International Flandrien award. The Limburger received the most votes from the jury of Het Nieuwsblad cycling journalists for his second overall places in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, plus a stage win in each. Dumoulin also took silver at the World Championship time trial and 4th in the road race.

The prize for the best Belgian rider, which is elected by fellow riders, went to Yves Lampaert. The West Flemish rider, who took the Belgian title also won the Dwars door Vlaanderen and together with his Quick-Step Floors teammates, won the Worlds time trial. “This trophy means a lot to me, especially as it comes at the end of my best season since turning pro, one on which I am very motivated to build in 2019. I want to thank Patrick Lefevere and Quick-Step Floors for their trust and opportunities I get here, because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. I will continue to ride for the team and seize every chance that arises. I’m young, can still improve and I am confident that many more satisfactions will come in the near future,” a delighted Lampaert said after taking home the trophy.

World, European and Belgian cyclo-cross champion, Sanne Cant, took the Flandrienne award for the second year in a row. The prize for the best Belgian female cyclist in all disciplines went to Cant ahead of Nicky Degrendele. Thomas De Gendt also took an award. The Vuelta KOM was elected by the public ahead of Jelle Wallays and Tim Declercq.

Thomas De Gendt – Vuelta’18 KOM:

Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish to start 2019 in the Vuelta a San Juan
Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish will start next year in the Vuelta a San Juan Internacional which was announced by Jorge Chica in the Diaro de Cuyo. Chica is the sports director of the Cuyo region, where the 37th edition of the Argentinean stage race will take place.

“We are glad to confirm they are the real stars that will take the race to a higher level, we have been talking to them for months, and today we can finally say that they will appear at the start,” said Chica.

Both Cavendish and Sagan have raced in Argentina previously. Cavendish rode in the Tour de San Luis in 2013, 2014 and 2015, he won a stage in the first and last events. Sagan also rode the Tour de San Luis three times; 2013, 2014 and 2016, but has no wins.

No overlap with the Tour Down Under
Earlier, the organization of the Tour Down Under announced that Sagan would start the Australian stage race in 2019. Normally the Tour Down Under overlaps with the Vuelta a San Juan Internacional, but the race organization has decided to change the race by a week. The Tour Down Under takes place from the 15th to 20th of January, while the Vuelta a San Juan Internacional will be held between the 27th of January and the 3rd of February. This makes it possible for Sagan to include both races in his program.

Six WorldTour teams on the Start Line
In total, the organization welcomes six WorldTour teams. Besides Dimension Data and BORA-hansgrohe – the teams of Cavendish and Sagan – Deceuninck-Quick Step and UAE Team Emirates will also send teams to Argentina. The Belgian team should include Remco Evenepoel, while UAE starts with Fernando Gaviria. The two other WorldTour teams are not known at the moment. The Vuelta a San Juan Internacional was won by home rider Gonzalo Najar in 2018. The 24-year-old Argentinian was suspended in May after being caught with CERA in a dope control.

Cavendish seems happy in Argentina:

Astana Pro Team extends with Andrey Zeits
A very experienced Kazakh rider Andrey Zeits will stay in Astana Pro Team in the upcoming season of 2019. The new agreement was signed recently.

“Of course, I am very happy to extend my contract with Astana, for me it is a special team, a national project close to me in spirit. I feel that I still have a lot of strength and motivation; there is a great desire to continue to perform at the highest level. I am ready to continue to help my teammates in achieving the biggest team goals, but I will also strive for further progress in terms of personal results, in particular, representing Kazakhstan at the continental and world championships,” said Andrey Zeits.

Andrey Zeits has spent in Astana Pro Team 11 successful seasons. The most experienced Kazakhstan cyclist has repeatedly held one of the key positions, helping the team leaders to achieve success in the Grand tours. In the season of 2018, Zeitz provided invaluable support to Miguel Angel Lopez on his way to the podiums at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. In addition, this year Andrei Zeits won a bronze medal in the individual time trial of the Kazakhstan National Championships, became 11th in the final classification of the Tour of the Alps and showed himself really good during the World Championships in Innsbruck.

“Andrey Zeits is one of the strongest and most experienced Kazakh riders in professional peloton. His support for the leaders at the Grand tours is always very important and valuable, this year he held a high level at the Giro and La Vuelta, and we count on him in the new season. Of course, Andrey has personal ambitions, he always rode well for the national team of Kazakhstan. I hope that in the future he will be able to honorably represent our country at the most important competitions,” said general manager Alexandr Vinokurov.

Andrey Zeits in the Vuelta’18:

Cofidis Completes 2019 Recruitment by Hiring Natnael Berhane
Cofidis Solutions Crédits has finished its recruitment for the 2019 season with last man hired; Natnael Berhane (28 years old on January 5th) who will wear the Cofidis colors from January the 1st, bringing the team to 28 riders with a professional contract for next year. Recent 10th overall in the Tour of Guangxi, the Eritrean is no stranger on the roads of France, having raced for Europcar in 2013 and 2014 before joining the Dimension Data team.

Returning to Asmara in his country after the last race of the season in China, Natnael Berhane is ready to take up a new challenge at Cofidis Solutions Crédits. Berhane has already ridden five Grand Tours (Tour de France 2016, Giro 2017-2018 and Vuelta 2014-2015). Winner of stage and general classification of the Tour of Turkey 2013 then of La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in 2014, the double champion of Eritrea (TT 2014 and road 2015) has continued to progress over the seasons.

“I am the happiest of men because I really wanted to come back to France after the two beautiful years at Europcar. Cofidis Credits Solutions was in my viewfinder and I did not hesitate long before signing my contract. The team has performed well throughout the season and ended very strongly, including La Vuelta. As I am a versatile rider, I will have the opportunity to serve the leaders in different events, but I can also show in the stage races where I got my best results. Sure, I’m going to give my best for the team and I’m confident about our performance.”

Manager of Cofidis Solutions Credits, Cédric Vasseur expressed his satisfaction at being able to count on an all terrain rider who could make a name for himself and perform well in the overall rankings of stage races. “Planning the next season, my desire was to expand and strengthen the level of the group. It is for this reason that I turned to riders evolving at WorldTour level. Natnael has proved his ability to compete at this level and especially to take on several roles due to its versatility. He has reached maturity and we also want to give him the opportunity to become a winner after serving his leaders. Cofidis Solutions Credits with its 28 riders of eight different nationalities will therefore have the best assets to win at all levels and the entire group will enjoy this cultural wealth.”

Natnael Berhane in Amstel’16:

Manzana Postobon has ProContinental License for 2019
Manzana Postobon will carry on as a ProContinental team in 2019. The Colombian team announced on Tuesday. Manzana Postobon had previously submitted an application, but according to the UCI the paperwork was not in order.

The team reported in a press release a month ago that the UCI gave the team until 15th October to put everything in order. On November 1st, a second evaluation followed, after which the UCI came to a final decision.

Now that Manzana Postobon has everything in order, the team will receive a ProContinental license for 2019. In 2018, the Colombian team triumphed eleven times, all on Chinese soil. Hernan Aguirre won the Tour of Qinghai Lake and Juan Sebastián Molano won the in the Tour of China.

Manzana Postobon will start the coming season with a considerably modified selection, losing Aguirre (Interpro Stradalli Cycling), Molano (UAE Team Emirates) and Fabio Duarte. Dutchman Jetse Bol left for Burgos-BH last July. Fernando Orjuela and Hernando Bohórquez also leave the team. Jhonathan Restrepo, Daniel Jaramillo, Carlos Quintero, Diego Ochoa, Omar Mendoza, Bryan Gómez, Luis Carlos Chía and Nicolás Saenz will join.

DS Roger Hammond Changes from Dimension Data to Madison Genesis
Roger Hammond will leave the WorldTour Dimension Data team at the end of 2018 to take up the managers position with the British Continental team Madison Genesis. Hammond made his debut as a DS with the British team in 2012.

The 44-year-old has been working with the South African Dimension Data for the past three seasons. During that time, Dimension Data took seven stage wins in the Tour de France. The 2016 edition was the highlight, with four victories by Mark Cavendish and one from compatriot Steve Cummings.

Hammond has been keeping a close watch on the British Continental team. “With an immense amount of pride in the fantastic reputation of the team,” said the former British road and cross champion. The CEO of main sponsor Madison, Dominic Langan, is also enthusiastic about the arrival of Hammond. “Roger was the key in the creation of the team. He is both a fantastic ambassador for our brands and the sport, and a great mentor for our riders.”

The Madison Genesis team line-up will be announced soon, but should include Connor Swift, Jonathan McEvoy and Neil Van der Ploeg.

Roger Hammond:

Lars Boom Wants to Ride a Good Spring for Roompot-Charles
Lars Boom will be riding for the ProContinental Roompot-Charles next year after twelve years in the WorldTour, riding for Rabobank, Blanco, Belkin, Astana and LottoNl-Jumbo for the last two years. But in an interview with the Brabants Dagblad, he is feeling up-beat after the disappointment of 2018.

Boom had been looking forward to a strong Classics season, but had to have an operation due to a cardiac arrhythmia. “The heart problems took longer than I thought”, the 32-year-old Dutch rider commented. “At the beginning of this year I thought I could pick up the thread in the spring. Not so. It took me a whole year.”

The Dutchman rode for LottoNl-Jumbo for the past two years and with his expiring contract, Boom was looking for a new team. Despite an offer from Sunweb, Boom opted to step down a rung on the professional ladder to the ProConti Roompot-Charles team. “The fact that Wout van Aert let things drop, made that happen,” says the former World and Dutch cross champion and National road and TT champ. “I am eager to ride a good spring.”

Boom plans to start his 2019 season for Roompot-Charles in a cyclo-cross. “It is certain that I will be riding a number of cross races again,” concludes Boom, who gave interviews at the European Championships in Rosmalen last weekend. “It is also a goal of Roompot to get on TV in the cyclo-cross. This is important for the Belgian market on which it wants to focus. So that’s possible when I go riding cross.”

Lars Boom wins BinckBank’17 Tour Stage 5:
Sittard-Geleen - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Lars BOOM (Netherlands / Team Lotto NL - Jumbo) pictured during the BinckBank Tour Stage 5 from Sittard-Geleen to Sittard-Geleen (167,3 km) - photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017

Kurt Van de Wouwer on the 2019 Season for the U23 team
Today Kurt Van de Wouwer, head of the sports department of Lotto Soudal U23, looks back on the past season. The U23 team gathered 26 victories and a lot of other top results this season, but also had to deal with several injuries.

Last year Bjorg Lambrecht triumphed in the U23 version of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, this season the team won a Classic race again thanks to the victory of Stan Dewulf at Paris-Roubaix. Dewulf had already won a time trial and a stage in the Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux and later this year he also triumphed in a stage of the Tour of East-Flanders. Alfdan De Decker won three stages and the GC of the Tour of East-Flanders after he had obtained two stage victories in the Tour de Solidarité earlier in the season. At the end of February De Decker had won Brussels-Opwijk, the first race of the season. Gerben Thijssen collected three victories including the Belgian Road Championship. Aaron Van Poucke, good for four victories, obtained the last victory of the year at the Zandberg Classic in Harelbeke end of September.

Kurt Van de Wouwer: “The victory of Stan Dewulf in Paris-Roubaix end of May sticks out in terms of quality. Besides, it marked the end of a very good spring. Of course, the Belgian title of Gerben Thijssen in August is also one of our most beautiful moments this season. Alfdan De Decker, a pure sprinter, put a significant step forward last winter. He started the season with a victory in Brussels-Opwijk, our first race of the new season, and he was able to maintain his shape throughout the whole year. In July he won two stages in the Tour de Solidarité and as a trainee at Wanty – Groupe Gobert, he also did well in the last months of the season.”

“Besides the 26 victories, we also took a series of other top results. This year Stan Dewulf got second in the Tour de Bretagne, one of the most respected stage races of our program. Not only U23 riders participate in that race, but also a small number of French professional teams with older guys in their ranks, so it was a great result. The silver medal of Brent Van Moer at the U23 World Time Trial Championship was unexpected. Beforehand the ambition was a top ten place but with his place on the podium he exceeded all expectations.”

“The past few years it is typical for our team that we perform strong in general. Sometimes the victories overshadow the other top results, but we certainly value them. Next year these guys can continue to develop further inside our team.”

“In the Lotto Top Competition, which consisted of five races, we got second this year after we won the team classification six years in a row. The many injuries have certainly played a role, ten of the twenty-five riders have been out for a longer period this season. Because we rode a triple program at that moment, we participated in the first race with two riders less than was allowed. We couldn’t catch up the difference anymore in the following races. Arne Marit won the individual classification, which was a nice compensation.”

Kurt Van de Wouwer:

Smooth Handover Between Netherlands and Silvelle is a Done Deal
After the official ceremony at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the 2019 Cyclo-Cross European Championships in Veneto has began its journey. Zamprogna: “We are going to face a year of hard work”.

The symbolic handover from”‘s-Hertogenbosch ’18” to “Silvelle ’19”

A wonderful day with at least 15.000 people celebrated the 2018 Cyclo-cross European Championships showdown in Rosmalen (Netherlands), in ‘s-Hertobenbosch nearby. The successful organization of the 2018 edition opened the doors to Silvelle di Trebaseleghe, that will bring back the main cyclo-cross European competition in Italy next year. Silvelle ’19 organizing committee promoted its event in the Dutch weekend with an official presentation and an info point to give out any detail about the competitions and the touristic locations in the land of Venice.

With the symbolic handover from Mieke Geeraedts, President of ‘s-Hertogenbosch ’18, to Mauro Zamprogna, Silvelle ’19 Technical Director, the 2019 CX European Championships in Italy has officially started with the UEC flag delivered by the UEC President Rocco Cattaneo.

“Congratulations to the UEC and the Dutch organizers”, Zamprogna said. “it was an amazing edition of the European Champs. We had a very fruitful experience to deepen some organizing aspects and get in touch with many people. We come back home with a lot of motivation, aware of the hard task that lies ahead, but aiming to make Italy and Veneto proud host of the event. This is going to be an intense year of work”.

Silvelle ’19 Technical Director Mauro Zamprogna with the UEC flag, given to Silvelle ’19 from the UEC President Rocco Cattaneo (left) under the eyes of Hertogenbosch ’18 President Mieke Geeraedts (center):

Petr Vakoc: Back to the Pack in 100 days
The 26-year-old Czech rider – who will continue with Quick-Step Floors in 2019 – talks of his injury, recovery and future goals.

Why 100 days? I am coming back!
I was hit by a truck and I am lucky to be alive. After three surgeries, months of rehabilitation and gradually increasing the training load it seems I might be able to come back. Not just back to normal life, but back to racing. My goal is to be on the start line again in 100 days from now.

It is a path with an uncertain finish line, but which in itself is a goal. I am passionate about racing again. And not just racing, but winning! I am working hard to get back to the level where I used to be. And even higher. I would like to share my story with fans as well with people overcoming obstacles in their life. I am approaching this path with humility, as you can try really hard, but there are things outside of your control.

Like when you get hit by a car. You can choose unfrequented roads, ride with lights on even during the daylight, and give cars priority even while you are riding on the main road. But in just a small moment, a distracted driver or simply bad luck can send you to the ground and your life might be over. I am grateful to be alive. To be able to return to a normal life, and despite some permanent consequences, to be on a quest to get back in the peloton.

Surely it is not possible to prevent all accidents, but I am convinced that their risk can be reduced. There is unnecessary hostility between drivers and cyclists. People in cars often do not realize how dangerous it is to pass cyclists only by centimeters. For me, this has been a topic of great interest during the recent months. I would like to change the situation for the better. Perhaps by introducing a rule to pass cyclists with a minimum distance of 1.5 meters, as is the standard in many other countries already.

My goal is to jump back to racing in February. I have an immense support from the team. I have the opportunity to take my time to get healthy and fit, without any pressure to prove myself in the last races of this season or to be ready for the very beginning of the next. I really appreciate it, in a professional sport it is not something to be taken for granted. Therefore, I can focus all my energy on getting back to full strength. If everything goes according to plan, in exactly 100 days I will pin the number on my back again and step on the start line with the rest of the Wolfpack.

Wish me luck!

100 days is my blog about my journey back to professional cycling after a serious injury.
My name is Petr Vakoc. I am a professional road cyclist. I race for Belgian team Quick-Step Floors. I competed at the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Olympic Games, I won the Czech Championship, and a bronze medal at the European Games.

In January 2018 I got hit by a truck during our training camp in South Africa. Now I am coming back. I would like to share my journey with fans and with people who are overcoming setbacks. Follow my path from signing a new contract to my return to racing. If everything goes well, I will pin a number again in exactly 100 days.

25 January 2018: Accident in South Africa
I have a feeling I am waking up from a nightmare. I realize what happened gradually. I do not know where I am, what is going on and why I am lying on the road on my back. Bob Jungels, my teammate, is leaning over me. He looks like being in a shock. And the dreadful pain in my back. I just puzzle it out. Africa, training camp, cycling. I must have fallen down…

I learn we were hit by a truck. Laurens! He is here with us. How is he? He will be alright, Bob says. The ambulance is coming. I just realize that I do not feel my legs. I start to fear, but at this moment I only focus on breathing. I am trying to move my legs. It is possible a little. Hopefully it will be fine. The tarmac is getting hard for my back, I can’t stand it. We are in the middle of the mountains, it is 80 kilometers to the nearest hospital. The deck chair is not any more comfortable. The journey seems to be never-ending, but I do not want to get any painkillers. I need to control my body. I know something is wrong with my back. But I still move my legs and I want this to stay like that. Luckily the hospital is well-equipped, and they send me to CT. Before every manipulation with me I tell the hospital staff: “Be careful! Be careful!”

I am trying to fix the middle of my body as much as possible. Six vertebrae are broken, a tendon torn and a concussion. Tomorrow I will undergo a surgery. I meet Laurens at the Intensive Care Unit. He has a chipped hip, but otherwise he is OK.

26 January 2018: The first surgery
I was operated in the afternoon, not earlier. I did not care. I had swallowed so many painkillers that I slept for most of the time or did not know about the world. I wake up the following day in the morning. My legs! I am trying to see if I can move them. Yes, I can, uh. I am relieved. I will be fine. I will get out of this. I am connected to devices and everything hurts, but I know I will be alright. My brother and Mum will come in a while. They bought their flights before I was taken to the hospital. They are crazy, I say to myself. But thinking about it now, I can’t imagine being in Africa without them. My Dad stayed at home to be able to take their place later. I do not know now how long I will stay here. My family is fantastic!

29 January 2018: I am walking!
I am given a corset. I can stand up for the bed for the first time. I make first little steps. It is a great feeling to stand on my feet again. I need a support, I manage to make only a few steps, but it is better every day. My competitive character is shown, I must manage to do more and more every day. Once I overdo it and faint. Luckily, I asked my brother to hold me and help to lie down on the nearest table. A nurse took me back to my room on a berth. I decide to slow down a bit.

8 February 2018: Back to Czech Republic
I am flying home. I am thinking about a few options how to continue with my recovery. I decide to be in Prague. The specialists in Motol hospital are one of the best in treating spinal injuries in all Europe and I want to be close to my family. I do not know yet what is in front of me. I am aware of the further surgeries that I might need, but I hope they won’t be necessary. The transport from the airport is like a bad movie story. They carry me as if I was a sack of potatoes not a man with a broken vertebra.

Now I realize how lucky I was to meet the health professionals who took care of me after the accident. Nothing was prepared at the airport. There should have been a berth for me, but they ask me to go to the plane walking with crutches. I have not managed to walk for a hundred meters yet, so it is not possible. The nurse does not speak any English at all. But my Mum is there with me and arranges everything at the very last moment. Then everything goes smoothly. The flight is never-ending, but a medical plane is waiting for me in Frankfurt. I always wished to fly in a private jet, but never thought of this way. The ambulance is at the airport so the whole journey from Frankfurt to the hospital takes only less than two hours.

21 February 2018: Another surgery
I have had another surgery. I did not think for long. My body would possibly recover without any further surgeries, but it would be risky. It would mainly mean to forget any sport forever. There was no other option, if I want to be fully fit. I had a week to get some rest and then here comes the third operation. As it is said, I save the best for last. I wake up with a madding pain in my chest. I lost a part of my rib, but I have a metal structure instead of the first lumbar vertebra. I am amazed what modern medicine can achieve. Every breath is painful and every little move too, but I have gone through it. I have lost a lot of blood, so I get blood transfusions. My first thought – I must inform the anti-doping office.

17 March 2018: Going home!
You may imagine how much I have looked forward to this day. I spent almost two months in hospitals. Especially the last days were very long. But I feel well, I must stay in hospital only for the rehabilitation. The exercises are perfect and there is a superb team of physiotherapists who take care of me. But to be at home is to be at home. I am looking forward to my comfortable bed, healthy food and fresh air.

At home we think with my brother about a way how to adjust the roller trainer that would allow me to ride on it when lying down. I am still not allowed to sit. The pushing on the pedals is not that important as training but it helps to speed up the recovery. And I enjoy that a lot! The endorphins help keep my mind in a positive way. Of course, I follow my performances and I try to add a bit every day. I lie down so I do not need to be afraid of fainting. I add two hours of exercises and they take me to rehabilitation in a trunk of a car on a mattress. I feel again like being a professional sportsman.

14 May: Off with the corset
Finally! I can take off the corset. And I can sit. Freedom! I can go to a restaurant for a meal, go by car, travel and the main thing – ride my bike. For the meantime only the ergometer, but it is superb anyway! I start moving my back. My wild ideas that I will go for yoga and will get my back moving were too optimistic of course. After four months without any movement, I must be careful. I add new exercises. I enjoy watching the progress. I manage to be in good mood, I follow the progress since the accident and I do not compare the performances with the time before my injury.

1 June: First time cycling outside
After a fortnight I am given a green light from the doctors – I may go cycling outside. Fantastic! I feel like when I was before the start of the season ahead of the first race. Excited, a bit nervous, full of expectations. I feel the wind, I enjoy watching the road passing under the wheels, I watch the changing landscape. I feel like cycling for the first time. I fully realize why I love this sport so much. The fear what would it do to me to see a car passing me is gone. I am not afraid. I feel the pure joy of being able to turn the pedals. I am grateful that my body is getting fit.

26 June: Czech Republic Championships
I know it is not far enough to restart racing. I help with the preparations. Together with Roman Kreuziger, Pavol Habera and Jirí Langmajer we shoot a video about the safety on the roads. It is a very urgent topic for me and something I want to devote my energy to in the future. I am involved in the design of the trophy for the winner and I have a chance to watch the fascinating process of its production in the Moser glassworks. I enjoyed the race as a forerunner and a spectator. The atmosphere is wonderful. I can’t wait to start racing again!

July 2018: Training sessions in Livigno
I leave for Italy a week before the rest of the team to get used to the high mountain environment. I am really looking forward to the arrival of the boys. I meet most of them after half a year. It is a very emotional experience to train with them again. I hope to be able to go through at least a small part of the training sessions. I am making a fast progress in my performances. I go cycling every second day and manage to go for almost four hours. Sometimes I had myself driven uphill by car, but otherwise I manage it quite well. I am in euphoria and convinced that I will restart racing at the end of the summer.

July 2018: Tour de France
I leave the Alps straight for the Pyrenees and I meet the rest of the team on Tour during the rest day. I watch a stage from a following car. It is a very intense day. Philippe Gilbert has a horrendous accident when he falls into a ditch. I sit in a car and watch a group of people getting down the gorge for him. I am stunned, everything that I had gone through in the last months comes through my mind and I hope Phil is alright. After a couple of minutes he comes out and covered by a blood stain he finishes the remaining 60 kilometers, although it is revealed later that he has a broken kneecap. The final phase of the stage is amazingly exciting. We are just a few meters behind the leading group, but we have almost no information how the races is going. The television is out of order, the signal is too weak to follow the race online, so we only get partial information from the radio. Julian Alaphilippe is going superbly. And he wins! I can’t describe the feeling when you witness your teammate and a great friend winning a stage of the Tour.

August 2018: Setback
I did not expect that. The medical scan in Belgium confirms that I have damaged nerve pathways in my left leg. It was weaker since the beginning. The hamstring does not function well. I am not able to run. It is not shown so much when cycling, but a few per cent of the performance is missing. I feel it is getting better gradually, but nobody can predict if the leg will fully heal. The return to peloton is postponed. I will not race this year. But I am willing to get fit and prepare for the following season. This will not break me down.

September 2018: United States
I leave for America to train there. My brother had permanently moved to Seattle in the spring. It is a great chance to visit him. I enjoy that we may spend some time together and we train in the Washington Mountains. I spend the next two weeks in Colorado with a friend of mine at the altitude about 2000 meters above sea level. It is a fabulous place for training. My training results come close to the racing values.

October 2018: New contract and return
Another medical scans in Belgium. I have made a great progress in training but it is still unclear whether I will be able to race. The nerves in my left leg are still damaged and the healing process is slow. The development is positive, and mainly, the performance tests end well. It is not clear how much it will limit me during the races and if I will be able to get back to my previous level, but the team is behind me. I should restart racing at the end of February. I am grateful for all the support of the other riders, coaching team, doctors, management. I can devote all my energy to rehabilitation and training to be able to return in the best shape. I do not feel pressure from the team. This is not a rule in the professional sport. I sign a one-year contract. The adventure continues!

Video: UAE Team Emirates Training Camp
UAE Team Emirates has released a short video, highlighting all of the team’s activity that took place during their recent UAE training camp.

In the minute-long piece, the team can be seen taking part in a range of activities including: a ride through the desert at Al Qudra with co-title sponsor, Emirates, hosting a coaching clinic with pupils at Al Yasmina School in Abu Dhabi, taking in a desert safari in Al Ain and topping it off ‘on top of the world’ at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Following their visit to the world’s tallest building, riders were privileged enough to meet HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai (pictured below).

UAE Team Emirates’ participation on the UCI World Tour gives the region’s community the opportunity to come together and support world-class athletes as they aim to become one of the top cycling teams in the sport. To find out more about UAE Team Emirates, visit UAETeamEmirates.com.

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