After breaking his back in a horrific crash at Il Lombardia in October, Jan Bakelants says that he hopes to be back on his bike soon, and be riding outside by the new year.
The Ag2r La Mondiale crashed over the barrier and into a ravine at the same corner as Laurens De Plus on the descent from the Muro di Sormano on October 7, breaking four vertebrae in his back as well as seven ribs.
At the time Bakelants said that he was unsure whether he would ever be able to race his bike again, criticising some of the medical care that he received at the side of the road when a motorbike apparently ran over his leg.
However the Belgian rider is now spending three days per week at a rehabilitation centre in Leuven to do stabilisation exercises, with doctors soon being able to tell if his broken vertebrae have healed, meaning that he can plan to return to the bike.
"If the healing has gone according to plan, I can cycle outside again from January 1," Bakelants told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "Soon I will maybe be able to ride on the rollers."
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After spending a few days in Italy immediately following the crash, Bakelants was transported to a hospital in Belgium, where he had metal rods inserted into his back. These rods will remain in place for the next few months, but will apparently not impair Bakelants' riding, with there even being the possibility that he could return to racing with the metalwork still in place.
If he were to make a return, Bakelants would be far from the first rider to race with metal rods holding his bones in place, with Vincenzo Nibali racing the whole of the 2017 season with a pin in his collarbone, and José Joaquin Rojas recently proudly displaying the rod that he had put in after breaking his leg at last year's Vuelta.
No timeline has been set for Bakelants' return to the sport, although he is likely to miss at least the first few months of the 2018 season.
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