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By Andrew Hood
Jens Voigt is one tough customer and the German all-rounder is determined to return to racing following his harrowing accident at this year’s Tour de France.
Recovering nicely from his high-speed fall, the hugely popular Voigt could mark his return to competition at next month’s Tour of Missouri, where his Saxo Bank team is among the starting teams.
“I was eager to participate in the Tour of Denmark but the doctors and Bjarne wisely asked me not to go. However, I will hopefully get the green light next week by the doctors to train at full speed again, and I hope to do the Tour of Missouri,” Voigt said on the team’s Web page. “First of all, (I want) to convince myself that I am still able to compete. I want to get out there and show the world and my fans that I am OK and I appreciate the support I have received during my absence.”
The 37-year-old Voigt crashed horribly on the descent off the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard during stage 16 at this year’s Tour. Despite the high-speed fall, Voigt was lucky and didn’t suffer as serious injuries as he might have. He was hurried away by an ambulance and later evacuated by helicopter, and despite numerous cuts and scrapes, he “only” suffered a fracture to his right collarbone and a concussion.
Voigt says that his helmet probably saved his life.
“I remember absolutely nothing from the crash. The last thing I remember is that we just made it over the climb and Bjarne (Riis) asked me to drop back in the group and let the others pull in the chase before the final. I was then planning on retrieving bottles for my teammates,” he said. “The next thing I remember I was awake in an ambulance where my very first thoughts were: Why am I here? I want to go back to the race. I want to go to Paris with the team. But soon the pain told me that there was a reason why I was on my way to the hospital. Apparently I had landed face first with an ugly fracture of my cheek bone as a result. If I had crashed without my helmet the outcome would have been far more severe. My skull would have fractured instead.”
Voigt later underwent extensive rehabilitation, where he realized how lucky he was.
“At the rehabilitation center I was in good hands. My brain was tested in so many ways and my body was re-generated by doing water gymnastics. But at the center I was forced to turn the focus away from myself as I witnessed the fates many times worse than my own that I felt guilty about having escaped so easily from the crash,” Voigt said. “After doing 80 km/h hitting the asphalt head first I got away without permanent injuries. And here I was walking around watching a father motionless sitting in a wheelchair, from which he was fed by his wife after a fatal fall from the chair he was standing on while changing a light bulb. It certainly provides food for thought”.
Voigt says it’s going to take more than a harrowing accident to keep him off the bike.
“I am not a quitter and never was. I’m not the kind of guy to give up because of external circumstances. After having watched the crash several times, it is clear that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the fall,” Voigt said. “The crash was accidental and accidental incidents should not determine whether I should put an end to my career. I will stop my career when the time is ripe, and I am not done competing for the best cycling team in the world.”