Jan Bakelants finally put nearly a year of battling injuries behind him with a strong showing in the final two toughest stages of this year’s Tour de Pologne. Next up for the AG2R La Mondiale breakaway specialist will be the Vuelta a España.
Last October, Bakelants suffered a major back injury while racing at Il Lombardia, where he skidded out badly on a rainsoaked downhill in what was a dramatic crash. He was stretchered out of the race and later diagnosed with four broken vertebrae and seven broken ribs.
But after months of fighting his injuries and battling to return to racing with the best, Bakelants took a decisive step in the right direction when he made it into an early, long-lasting, 18-rider breakaway in the final stage of the Tour de Pologne, briefly becoming the overall leader on the road.
The break did not work out as Sky and CCC Sprandi Polkowice drove hard to bring back the move, but even so, AG2R La Mondiale came home with the Tour de Pologne’s best team classification and a very satisfied Bakelants.
As the former maillot jaune of the Tour de France recounted to Cyclingnews as the rain teemed down after stage 7, his injuries from Il Lombardia were so severe that he was unable to walk, let alone ride a bike.
After two operations, and a first, unsuccessful attempt to get back into racing in the Vuelta al País Vasco, Bakelants believes that the Tour de Pologne proved that he can be in the thick of the action at the highest level again.
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