Rémi Cavagna has revealed the injury he suffered at Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl's training camp in Spain on December 8 nearly left him paralysed, with the 26-year-old requiring six screws in his fractured L1 vertebrae.
The team's riders were approaching the final few metres of a training ride when a car suddenly pulled out of a side road hidden by a wall. All of the riders braked hard to avoid the car, but Cavagna fell heavily, breaking his back from the impact. Mauri Vansevenant was also involved in the incident but managed to escape with just a broken thumb.
Doctors at Hospital IMSKE Valencia treated the fracture and also confirmed Cavagna hadn't suffered any neurological damage. However, the Frenchman suggested the fall only narrowly missed a nerve in his back, which would have left him paralysed.
Cavagna told French sports newspaper L'Equipe (opens in new tab): "I'm tough and normally always get up straight away, but this time I was completely blocked.
“I escaped because my nerve was close by. I understand that I might as well not have been able to walk anymore. That fall could have been the end of everything."
He now has six screws in his back to provide stability to the broken vertebrae, and he couldn't sit on a racing bike for six weeks.
While he understands the severity of his injury, Cavagna also claims he is still motivated to perform in the 2022 season.
Back fractures such as the one the Frenchman suffered are generally treated with huge amounts of caution, with people often advised to immobilise their back for up to six months from the injury. However, Cavagna hasn't let the injury alter his mindset or have a negative impact on his preparations.
"Now I'm back at eighty percent of my potential. I shouldn't cancel any of my goals for next season, I'll just miss the base I normally lay in the winter."
Perhaps ambitiously, Cavagna expects to start cycling again at the end of January, with strong performances at the Tour de France and at the World Championships in Australia his main goals for 2022.
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