More than a hundred days after his serious traffic collision in Italy, Sean De Bie is ready for his comeback in the peloton. “I’ve never won more than two races in a season. Who knows if that’s still in the cards for me.” On Sunday, he’ll ride the Schaal Sels Merksem, three days later the Druivenkoers in Overijse.
On Monday, May 13, Sean De Bie ended up in Brescia’s municipal hospital after being hit head-on by a car that was riding on his lane during an individual training camp. The verdict was tough: six broken ribs, a crack in the sternum, a broken left shoulder blade, a fracture in his pelvis, a bruised left lung and a bruised spleen. He spent four days on intensive care, only a week later he was repatriated to Belgium, where a long recovery awaited him. He wouldn’t touch his bike for a month.
The 27-year-old, who just welcomed a baby boy, worked hard on his return. He spent ten days training in Livigno in July, and a week in the Vosges about ten days ago. Now, more than a hundred days after his accident, he is finally ready for his return to professional cycling. His last race, Nokere Koerse, already dates from March 20.
How do you look back on your accident now?
“I think I was lucky. It could have been much worse. No surgery was needed, everything healed naturally. There are still some small issues, but nothing that bothers me too much. Of course, I had hoped to be back sooner after the accident but the body said ‘wait a little longer’. Mentally I managed to accept it because I couldn’t undo it anyway.”
It was the first time you were injured for so long. How did the recovery go?
“If you start training again, you want it to go well right away. It was frustrating that it didn’t go smoothly in the beginning. For example, I could do four or five-hour training sessions, but I needed a few days to recover from them. From the moment that I knew I could train for five hours without being completely exhausted the next day, I could start building. From then on it suddenly started running much smoother.”
“I started training at height in Livigno in July. There were many professional riders. I wanted to ride with those guys, but their level was still too high. When I returned home afterwards, things suddenly got better.”
You just had your son when you had your accident. That didn’t make it any easier, neither for your wife.
“Especially for my wife. It was tough. Also at home I slept in a hospital bed up to a month after the accident. The pain was not too bad, but sleeping was difficult. I could only sleep on my back. Those were also days in which I slept four hours, two hours before noon and two after. I needed a lot of rest.”
You were in the Vosges until last week. How did you feel on the bike? Ready to start racing again?
“I think I am. The question is whether I can ride finals again. But because I haven’t raced yet, I’m physically and mentally fit. This can be an advantage over the rest of the pack. I’ve mainly limited myself to endurance training with the occasional sprint. The first two hours in the coming races will be the most painful for me for sure.”
“I don’t think I’ll fall short physically. Last year in Frankfurt I hadn’t raced for four weeks. I finished fifth merely on fitness and a bit of muscle tension. Look at Nick (van der Lijke, ed.) who finished third in Veenendaal, purely on fitness and morale. Usually the second race is tougher than the first one.”
Your had back issues before you had your accident. Is it still bothering you?
“I hope that’s all gone. I no longer suffer from it on training or at least relatively little. We’ll see how it goes in the races. It already went better before my accident, but I didn’t get the chance race without those back issues. I left for training camp in May for ten days and then I already had my accident on day one. But I now have a better feeling on the bike than before I left for that training camp. ”
And now, get the best out of yourself in what remains of the season?
“Yes, I can still do at least a dozen races. I’ve always had a weakness for the GP Jef Scherens in Leuven. I’ll be very motivated if I can be at the start there. It might be my first goal, but the race is already in a week. For the rest … September and October aren’t usually my months because I’ve already had a long season then. Now it’s the other way around. I’m curious how it will work out for me.”
“Normally there are always some races that should suit me in the upcoming period. Usually, I’m already exhausted, but now I may have an advantage. I’ve never won more than two races in a season. Who knows if that’s still in the cards.”
On Sunday you’ll ride the Schaal Sels in Merksem, on Wednesday the Druivenkoers in Overijse.
“Yes. I DNF’d in Overijse in the last three years but finished third in 2015. The course has changed in a good way. It’s a tough race. Not bad for me because I’ve done a lot of endurance training and less intensive training. Maybe it will be too hard for me there in the last laps. Anyway, it’ll be a good race for me in view of the races that follow.”
“There’s an open space in my agenda in mid-September. I’m thinking of doing another training camp abroad. Spain this time, because by then the weather will be perfect for cycling. I think there are still some interesting things on my agenda, while a large part of the peloton has had it this season.”