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Boeckmans to race again after crash, coma

In what’s a testament to determination and love of the sport, Kris Boeckmans — who crashed horribly in last year’s Vuelta a España — returns to competition Friday at the Handzame Classic.

Last September, the Lotto-Soudal rider was quite literally a broken man, but his spirit was not part of the bargain. After suffering terrible injuries, which led to a spell in a medically induced coma as well as reconstructive face surgery, Boeckmans returns to competition this week just as he said he would.

“I never thought of quitting as a cyclist,” Boeckmans said last fall. “Cycling remains an important part of my life, and one day, I want to be the rider that I was before the crash. When I was watching the world championships, I could imagine myself riding in the peloton.”

That dream comes true in the one-day semi-classic Friday in Belgium. The team hasn’t yet outlined the remainder of his racing schedule, but returning to the peloton is an important milestone for the 29-year-old Belgian.

Boeckmans crashed in stage 8 at the Vuelta a España, apparently hitting a pothole while taking a drink, and landed heavily on his face and chest. Boeckmans lay crumpled on the ground, prompting fears of the worse, and suffered a concussion, a torn lung, and severe facial injuries. He was in a medically induced coma for two weeks, and then underwent facial reconstructive surgery last fall.

He was able to return to training over the winter, and linked up with teammates during training camps to rebuild his form.

“The team is very pleased that Kris can set this new step, but will give him all the time he needs to get used to the competition rhythm again,” a team release read Tuesday.

A seven-year pro, Boeckmans enjoyed his best season in the first part of 2015, with eight victories, including Le Samyn, Nokere Koerse, two stages and the overall at the Tour de Picardie, and a stage and the overall at the World Ports Classic.

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