FLORENCE (VN) — After undergoing six hours of surgery following a head-on collision with a car, Italian rider Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) promised to return to racing.
Pozzovivo, fifth overall twice in the Giro d’Italia, was training on Sunday near his home of Cosenza for the Vuelta a España when a car traveling in the wrong lane around a curve hit him. Among other injuries, he suffered a fractured leg and arm, and a punctured lung.
“Our glances met just before the incident,” Pozzovivo told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I realized that the impact was inevitable and I just thought not to hit my head.”
The 19-year-old driver immediately tried to help 36-year-old Pozzovivo at the scene in Italy’s southern region of Reggio Calabria. Pozzovivo’s friend arrived soon after on his bike and called Pozzovivo’s wife. Then the ambulance came for him.
“He’s taken a good hit,” Team Doctor Emilio Magni explained. “Domenico has fractures in his clavicle, humerus and ulna of the left arm; the right tibia and fibula.
“The fractures of the humerus, ulna and tibia are open. At this time and with this clinical snapshot, it is relatively serious. There is a lung contusion, but at the moment there are no ventilatory problems.”
On Wednesday, Pozzovivo will be airlifted from the south of Italy’s boot up north, just over the border in Lugano, Switzerland, where he will receive specialized care for his injuries.
On Tuesday, Pozzovivo recounted the injury to reporters, saying he was awake for the entirety of the horrific collision.
“I never lost consciousness and I remember everything. I had a lot fear,” Pozzovivo said. “I found myself in front of a car coming in my lane. The guy who was driving didn’t see me.”
After the collision, Pozzovivo said he knew his injuries were serious.
“I didn’t look at the wounds because I was afraid to see them,” he continued. “The boy was shaken. He feared for me and for himself. But I looked at him and told him: ‘Look what you did! You ruined me. You ended my career.’
“I don’t even know how I did it and where I found the strength [to yell at him], because even my breathing had stopped. But I wanted it to be a warning: ‘I’m broken. It is not right.'”
Pozzovivo has had support from the cycling peloton, including his star teammate Vincenzo Nibali who lives in Lugano. Many followers in Italy immediately thought of Michele Scarponi, who died after a car struck him in 2017.
Pozzovivo had just finished 12th overall in the Tour of Poland behind winner Pavel Sivakov (Ineos). He was due to lead Team Bahrain-Merida at the Vuelta a España starting next week, aiming for stage wins or the overall. Like Chris Froome (Ineos) who fell training, Pozzovivo’s season is finished. However, he promises a return.
“Now I’m already thinking that my career cannot end like this. I will come back,” he said. “You will see that I will make it.”