Steve Cummings faces a race against time to be fit for the Tour de France this summer, as he suffered a setback in his recovery from fracturing his collarbone, scapula and sternum in a crash last month.
The 36-year-old Dimension Data rider has been on the sidelines since he came down on stage four of the Tour of the Basque Country on April 6. He had an operation on his shoulder that went well after the incident, and was back on a bike the day after. However, he slipped on a wet floor and fell while recovering at his home 10 days later and doctors have now said he requires more complex surgery next week.
The surgery takes place exactly two months before the Tour kicks off in Dusseldorf on July 2, and Cummings admits he’s unsure yet if he will be on the start line.
“I’ll have to see how the surgery goes, it’s the second of May the surgery and the Tour is the second of July so it’s eight weeks,” Cummings told Cycling Weekly. “There’s time but there’s no real space for error. It’s possible but if something else… you have problems or you have a bad surgery, or you can’t ride the bike like you want.”
Cummings enjoyed the most successful season of his 13-year professional career to date in 2016, winning stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour of the Basque Country, the Criterium du Dauphiné, before taking his second Tour stage victory in two years last July and securing the Tour of Britain overall in September.
However, he’s endured a frustrating 2017 so far, falling ill while racing at the Tour of the Algarve in February, before suffering this injury in April when he returned to racing.
Despite fracturing three bones in the initial crash, Cummings originally only needed surgery on his clavicle. Doctors believed his scapula fracture (shoulder blade) would heal without surgery, however his second fall has caused the fracture to worsen and now requires a plate being put in.
“The surgeon said three months for a full recovery but it’s a more difficult surgery because they have to go in behind the shoulder blade,” Cummings explained. “They put a plate in at the front but you’ve got more muscle and stuff behind so it’s more complex.
“A collarbone is nothing – he said a three out of 10 difficulty, whereas this is like eight or nine out of 10 difficulty so yeah, not that nice.
“It depends how I am after the surgery what I can do. In theory once the plate’s in it’s stable, but obviously they’ll have to cut through muscle and stuff to get to it so I don’t know. I might be a bit more limited to what I can do – I don’t know, I’ll have to see.”
Cummings has been back in the UK with his family where he will continue his recovery.
"It's pretty difficult to be honest, now it's better but even my good arm I couldn't use too much because it was attached to the sternum," he said. "Every time I used that arm it was just pulling on the sternum so my poor wife. Honestly it's incredible, she's taken care of two people - well three, the baby as well."
While Cummings said he was “hopeful” still of making the Tour, his injury comes at a time Dimension Data’s other key rider for the race Mark Cavendish is also off the bike for an unknown time. The sprinter was diagnosed with infectious mononucleosis – better known as glandular fever – caused by the Epstein Barr virus earlier this month, and hasn’t raced since Milan-San Remo on March 18.
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