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by Dane Cash
September 15, 2020
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Just under a month after a scary crash at Il Lombardia that left him seriously injured, Remco Evenepoel has provided an update on his status as well as an account of the fall itself in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws and VTM.
“I am doing better every day,” Evenepoel said. “Movement is better every day and I am not as dizzy anymore. It’s good to finally be moving because when I am lying down my hamstrings, calves, and glutes play up. I am not cramping but need to move. I can put 30 percent of my weight on my right leg, about 20 kilograms. That is still not a lot but better than nothing at all.”
Evenepoel suffered a broken pelvis and a bruised lung after he crashed and fell into a ravine with some 40 kilometers to go in his Monument debut at Il Lombardia. He had been descending the Muro di Sormano, an especially tricky downhill that has seen riders involved in serious crashes before.
As Evenepoel told Het Laatste Nieuws, he had tried to prepare accordingly.
“It’s a shame I wasn’t wearing a GoPro so I can prove what happened that day. Now everybody has to believe me when I say what happened,” he said. “The day before, sports directors Geert Van Bondt and Davide Bramati and I studied those two turns for 20 minutes. I have done them at least two or three times again to get the ideal line. We even stopped traffic for a while so I could race them at race speed. I really knew those corners.
“During the race, Bramati said, ‘Drop five or 10 meters back, Remco. Take no risks, you know how dangerous these turns are.’ That’s what I did but that proved to be the wrong decision.”
Evenepoel said that he crashed while trying to avoid colliding with others on the descent.
“Two riders in front of me made a mistake in the first turn. I don’t know who but there are only six options,” he said with a laugh. “I was startled and thought, ‘Oh no, this is not good for them.’ Luckily, they corrected but because I was faster in the turns I rode straight at them. That made me panic brake a little. My rear wheel slipped a little and I had to correct. It was close, five centimeters more and nothing would have happened.”
Instead of making it through the corner unscathed, Evenepoel hit the wall of a bridge and fell over the edge, dropping several meters onto the ground below.
“In a first reaction I looked straight into the depths. Don’t ask me why. I saw a black hole, probably due to the shade,” he said. “At that moment I didn’t know how far I would fall and how I would land, hard or soft. I ended up on my right foot. The first 10 seconds after my crash I could not breathe. That was because of the bruised lung. I wanted to get up but couldn’t due to the pelvic fracture. I looked up and thought, where am I? I saw the bridge and yelled for help but my voice was not strong. No one heard me. For a while, five minutes, I felt left alone.”
Fortunately, Evenepoel remained conscious and help did eventually come as his sports directors arrived at the scene and then medical personnel worked to get him up and out of the ravine.
It was in that moment that Bramati was seen removing an unknown object from Evenepoel’s jersey pocket, an episode that led to the UCI calling for an investigation. That topic was not addressed in the interview, but Evenepoel has expressed frustration with the situation in past interviews, with the team insisting that the object “was a small bottle containing nutrition products and was removed in order to help him to be placed more comfortably by medical staff on the stretcher.”
After he was lifted out of the ravine, Evenepoel was taken to a hospital in Como, where doctors were able to assess the nature of his injuries.
Having suffered both a fracture to his pelvis and a bruised lung, Evenepoel was told that he would not likely race again in 2020, missing what would have been his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d’Italia.
Evenepoel is now recovering at home, and looking forward to being able to get back on the bike very soon. Exactly when he will return to training and ultimately racing is not yet clear but Evenepoel hopes to have a bit more clarity in the coming weeks.
“On September 25, there is another scan,” he said. “I will maybe get good news again and then and I can look further forward. Making steps, making goals. No big ones, but day by day.”
José Been contributed to this report.