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Vande Velde is in pain but optimistic about Tour de France

May 13, 2009 | 10:04 am


Christian Vande Velde has broken one arm and several ribs and fractured his collarbone more times than he can count in cycling accidents.

And he said he has had scarier crashes than the one Monday that knocked him out of the Giro d’Italia.

"But as far as pain, this was the worst without a doubt," he said Wednesday from his European training base in Girona, Spain. "The best part was I didn’t hit my head, and no organs were damaged. But I have never had any pain close to this. I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy."

For all that, the cyclist from Lemont, Ill., said that, based on the initial reading of a CAT scan, he feels "very, very, very optimistic" about being at the July 4 start of the Tour de France. Vande Velde finished fourth in the Tour last year.

"Two days ago, I couldn’t even sit up," he said. "Today, I was walking around Girona. Even if I was walking like an old man, the difference already is night and day."

Coughing, laughing, sneezing and even opening a refrigerator door were still "horribly painful," Vande Velde said. But he hopes to be doing some sort of fitness work within a week.

He said he expected his Garmin-Slipstream team to issue an official statement on his condition after doctors in Girona did further study of the CAT scan later Wednesday.

Initial reports were that he had two broken ribs. He said only one broken rib, Lumbar 7, has been confirmed and added, trying not to laugh, "one, two, three — what’s the difference now?"

The difference between this and his past rib injuries was that this time Vande Velde landed on his back.  He said that the rib break is near the spine and that there still is a "huge amount of inflammation."

The crash occurred, he said, when another rider got so close that his derailleur "instantaneously" tore out all the spokes on Vande Velde’s front wheel as they were going downhill at about 35 mph.

"That has never happened to me before," he said.

The wheel collapsed, then the front fork gave way, and Vande Velde flew over his handlebars and landed on the road at the 87th mile of the 123-mile third stage of the three-week race.

"I’m really all right now," he said about his frustration level. "Watching the Giro on television today [when the race had its first serious climb], I know I could have been climbing with the best. I didn’t say much about my chances before the race, but I was fitter than I ever have been for the Giro." (He finished 52nd last year while using the race mainly to get in shape for the Tour de France.)

"I’m not going to rush this and get back on the bike too soon. I need to relax and not worry."

No wonder they call cyclists "hard men."

— Philip Hersh

Caption: Christian Vande Velde gets medical care after Monday's crash. Credit: Alessandro Trovati / Associated Press