Wout van Aert says Tour de France crash ‘could have been the end of my career’

The Belgian says his initial operation in France was flawed, which has delayed his recovery

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has revealed the heavy crash he suffered during the 2019 Tour de France stage 13 time trial, with organisers forced to cover him with roadside banners while waiting for medical assistance, could have ended his career at the age of just 24.

In the time trial, the young Belgian was speeding towards the finish line, battling his compatriot Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) for the provisional stage lead before clipping a barrier in the final two kilometres, suffering a heavy cut to his leg.

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“That fall could have been the end of my career,” Van Aert told Dutch newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, adding that the operation he was rushed off to on the evening of his crash went wrong, which has further delayed what he thought was going to be a speedy recovery.

“They had simply let go of a tendon, as if that would turn out fine. On one side I do understand how that happened but such an injury is also not that common, not everyone has that know-how,” the Jumbo-Visma rider said.

Taking the positives, Van Aert says he is now pain-free, and doctors have instructed him to learn to walk properly again, which will take time. “Taking stairs is not going well, neither are long walks, but a few hundred metres I can manage. I can also drive my car again. My life is fairly normal,” Van Aert said.

Van Aert still doesn’t have a return date and so the winter cyclo-cross season is up in the air for the three-time world champion, but he’s prioritising his recovery over thoughts of returning to racing.

“I don’t know if [the cyclo-cross season] is realistic. I’m not thinking too much about it yet,” Van Aert said. His Jumbo-Visma team, who he joined for the 2019 season, are also not putting any pressure on him to make a quick return. “We’re on the same page in that regard, I don’t want to ruin myself by restarting too early. I’m going to have to work hard and today I have the feeling that it will take ages, but that is how I want to look at it. I can come out stronger here.”

Also on Jumbo-Visma’s injured list is Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin, who continues to recover from a knee injury suffered in this year’s Italian Grand Tour, which went on to blight his season. Should both Dumoulin and Van Aert make full recoveries in time for the 2020 season, Jumbo-Visma will have a super strong squad also including the likes of Primož Roglič, Steven Kruijswijk and Dylan Groenewegen.