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Daryl Impey: ‘It’s been a long road back from pelvis break’

South African had “to learn to walk again” after sprint crash at Ruta del Sol in May 2021.

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SAINT-CHRISTOL-LEZ-ALES, France (VN) – Almost nine months after the crash in the sprint on the final day of last year’s Ruta del Sol that left him with a broken pelvis and collarbone and effectively ended his 2021 season, 11-time South African national champion and Tour de France yellow-jersey-wearer Daryl Impey admitted he’s still feeling his way back into racing.

“I think that once I can get over the fear of racing in the peloton and forget about all the bad crashes and things like that, I’ll have a change of perspective and will start thinking about winning races,” Impey told VeloNews.

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Speaking to VeloNews just before lining up for the second stage of the Étoile de Bessèges, the Israel-Premier Tech rider agreed that at his best he would probably have fancied his chances in the previous day’s uphill sprint into Bellegarde, which was won by Mads Pedersen. But his form and confidence aren’t quite at that level yet.

“I haven’t raced since May really. I did one or two races at the end of the year in Italy, but I spent most of the season on the sidelines. It was a big injury: a broken pelvis and a broken collarbone, and it took a long time to get back up and running. I had eight weeks completely off the bike, I had to learn to walk and everything again,” he revealed.

“It’s been a long road so just to be here is good. Yesterday wasn’t too bad, I’m feeling good and getting more confident as I go along, as I do more races.”

Impey turned 37 in December but says that he never had any thoughts of retiring during his long lay-off.

“It was more a case of having doubts about whether or not you’re going to come back to the level that you were previously at,” he explained. “When I started riding, I thought, ‘Jeez, I’ve got a long way to go.’

“But I didn’t take a break in the off-season and just kept working. Just to be around the mark yesterday was a bit of a confidence boost. I think that until you stop enjoying what you’re doing, you must keep on doing it. And at the moment I’m still really enjoying riding my bike,” Impey said.

Reflecting on that opening stage he added, “It would have been a stage I would have liked to have competed in. We don’t have a pure general classification rider here, so we really just roll the dice. It got away from us at the end there yesterday, but I wasn’t really in the shape to put up my hand and say to bring it back for me. It was a tough day, pretty gnarly with the crosswinds, so I’m just happy to have finished it with all my skin on.”

Looking ahead, the punchy South African’s focus will be on the classics.

“I still have the same ambitions as last year really. The Ardennes classics will be the focus from Catalonia onwards,” he said. “I really want to be going well. I go to UAE after this, so hopefully, that’ll be a nice introduction back into WorldTour racing, and then I’ll get a better idea where I’m at.”