Tadej Pogacar, a 68-day time trial until the Tour: “These are things that happen” | Sports

Louis Vervaeke, a cyclist who was passing by, spoke of a gate to hell lined with phosphorescent paint, a meter-long hole in the asphalt of the Ardennes that Remco Evenepoel nimbly clears and into which Mikkel Honoré, the Dane from the EF, and the two tires tubeless, tubeless, of its wheels, so fast, so light, so fragile, they burst with an explosion. The squad was descending. 70 per hour. “I heard a horrible noise”, says Remco Evenepoel, who was able to turn around and see his rival on the ground, Tadej Pogacar, also a burst tire, fallen behind the Dane. In the 18 days that the Slovenian competed this year, he had won 12 races, including the Tour of Flanders. In 19 he broke. Before Liège-Bastogne-Liège came to a head, the most anticipated duel, the fight between the two new Eddy Merckx on the ground that suits both of them best, faded. The Belgian, world champion, wins with hardly any competition. “Too bad, too bad he couldn’t finish the race, but that’s how it is. Everyone can fall. I have also had a serious fall… These are things that happen”.

Evenepoel fell off a bridge on August 15, 2020 during Lombardy, breaking his hip and several other bones and did not put on a bib again until the Giro on 21 May, nine months later. Pogacar fell on April 23 and broke two of the eight small bones in his left wrist, the scaphoid and the lunate. He has withdrawn. It is the first time in his career that a fall has forced him to retire from a race. He can almost count without the need for a calculator the days until the Tour begins on July 1 in Bilbao, his number one goal: 68 days.

“These are things that happen,” Pogacar also says in the first post he publishes on Instagram on Monday morning, recently arrived in his Monaco flight from Brussels. The phrases are accompanied by a photo, the cyclist sitting in a van with a splendid laugh –his teeth, intact, were not affected by the fall, at least– displaying a left arm in cast up to the elbow, all five fingers free, the very red thumb, and he looks like a child who has just broken his arm and is happy because in his cast he is going to sign half a class and draw nonsense, and he is going to be the king of the place. “I have been lucky. The fall was tremendous and I only broke my wrist. Congratulations to Remco, the fight will have to wait.”

Immediately after the fall, the UAE doctor, his team, Adrian Rotunno, spoke with a colleague who recommended that he be operated on by Dr. Joris Duerinckx, a specialist hand and wrist surgeon who works in a hospital in Genk, 50 minutes away. from Liège. It has not yet fallen on Sunday when the team publishes the first photos and releases a statement: “The operation has been a success.” “Tadej suffered a comminuted fracture [en varios fragmentos] of the scaphoid bone whose repair required an osteosynthesis with a small cannulated screw, without a head, inserted entirely to realign the bits and the bone remains stable”, explains Rotunno later. “A recovery period of six weeks is calculated, although it will begin immediately with the rehabilitation process and rolling.” The recovery will be directed by the Valencian specialist Víctor Moreno.

When the surgeon explains the procedure to Rotunno, he does it as if he were a goldsmith describing a very meticulous job to align and link small pieces, almost the puzzle of a small semicircular bone, in the shape of a boat, 3 by 1.5 centimeters. Delicate work in a very complicated area for a synthesis of the fracture that allows early rehabilitation by stabilizing the fragments. “And this, the fact that it was a multiple fracture, forces us to take extreme precautions,” says Mauro Gianetti, the owner of the UAE . “Until 10 or 15 days from now, you won’t be able to do rollers and no more than two hours a day,” says Gianetti. “But there is time for the Tour, there is time. We are confident that there will be time.”

After the immediate postoperative period, Pogacar will wear a forearm wrist splint for two or three weeks, with the first finger immobilized. “A couple of weeks of caution and out. From there, he moves forward, ”says González Lago, a Baskonia traumatologist. “One tennis player, a week is playing tennis with scaphoids and cannulated screws. Intraosseous screws stabilize fractures very well.”

“The greatest risk with a fracture of the scaphoid and the lunate, which is next to it, and it is extremely rare for both to break, is that it stops supplying the artery that passes through it. That is why they must be operated and not wait to see what happens. In an elite athlete you can’t risk it ”, adds González Lago, who has operated on the broken bones of many cyclists. “And the lunate is also at high risk of necrosis. The two bones are risk bones. One, because the fracture does not consolidate the scaphoid, and another because the bone becomes necrotic. And, surely, they will have also had to suture the scapholunate ligament, very important because it gives stability to the entire wrist, and its healing requires a minimum of two weeks”.

People on your team repeat the message, correct it, and add to it. “It was lucky that he only broke his wrist and that the fall was the day it was, just when, after Liège, he was going to start a week off, without a bike,” says Andrea Agostini, one of those responsible from the UAE. Instead of spending this week in Washington, where the French ambassador to the United States had invited him to spend a few days and on Friday he was going to throw out the first pitch at the baseball game between the Nationals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pogacar will spend it calm and restful in Monaco lulled to sleep by his girlfriend, Urska Zigart, also a cyclist, and a guitarist. “We are convinced that the fracture will hardly affect his preparation for the Tour or jeopardize his participation in the Tour of Slovenia in mid-June. What it will force will be, perhaps, to redesign the planned concentration in Sierra Nevada”.

In five weeks, the first of June, Pogacar will go out on the road again by bike. Or earlier, because the rule of how different the best athletes are from humans applies to him, more than anyone else, and five weeks can be three or two. “It’s a matter of cellular memory,” says Pedro Celaya, a sports doctor. “With a three-four week break he will lose form, but he has such good genetics and confidence that he will get it back much sooner. Super talents recover faster, nature has blessed them with that too. The good is good at everything.”

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