Team Sky rider Ian Stannard has been ruled out of the Tour de France due to the broken back he sustained in March.
The 26-year-old Briton fractured a vertebra in a heavy crash at the one-day Belgian race Gent-Wevelgem and has not been on a bike since.
Stannard had hoped to be back fully fit to help Chris Froome’s bid for a second successive Tour victory this July, but his injury was worse than initially thought and that is now out of the question.
He told teamsky.com: “In the week after the crash I visited a neurosurgeon and had CT and MR scans. When the results from those came through, [team doctor] Phil Riley booked me an appointment with a pure spine specialist in London and he was the one who detailed the extent of my injuries. He said I had been really lucky not to suffer any permanent damage because my vertebra had been quite badly damaged.
'Hard to take'
“It was really hard to take, especially when it became clear that I wouldn’t be riding the Tour de France. At the same time, it was nice to get a definitive call - a clear-cut decision. There was no uncertainty about what I should and shouldn’t be doing.”
Stannard was catapulted off the road after a touching wheels with a fellow rider 69km from the finish of Gent-Wevelgem and eventually came to rest at the bottom of a ditch.
He spent the night in hospital and the severity of his injuries emerged the following day, but he admits he has been largely pain-free since the incident.
“It was sore for the first week or so after the crash, but since then I have felt absolutely nothing,” he added. “There has been no pain or restricted movement whatsoever. If I had pain, it might have actually meant it was less frustrating, but in my mind I feel fine.
“As far as I understand, if I had surgery on it, it would have ended my cycling career because the spine and joints would have stiffened up to such a degree that I wouldn’t be able to get into the right position for cycling.”
Stannard is now targeting making his comeback to racing before the end of the season.
He said: “I have got to have another X-ray at the 12-week mark to check everything is healing OK and they can guarantee I won’t be putting myself at risk by riding again.
“We are confident I will be riding again before the end of the season, though, so that’s what I’m focusing on. I’m eager to get back in the saddle but it’s in the hands of the experts.”