ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — Luke Rowe should have been out for much of 2018 after fracturing his leg at a bachelor party. He beat the doctor’s prognosis by six months and began his return in the Abu Dhabi Tour this week.
Rowe last raced in the Tour de France on July 23, helping his Sky teammate Chris Froome to his fourth title. In early August, 2017, he fractured his leg while on a rafting trip. Thursday, at the Abu Dhabi Tour, he rode clear in the front echelon when stage 2 split in the Arabian winds, just six months after the injury.
“The original prognosis was 12 months, so to be back after six months here is great,” the Welshman told VeloNews.
“I’m lucky that I was in a position, surrounded by amazing staff and having the facilities. I’m grateful for that. That’s a big reason why I came back so soon really.”
After leading Sky’s classics team in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and helping Froome, Rowe took a needed break to celebrate his brother’s wedding. They organized a rafting stag trip in the Czech Republic. When they were jumping in the water, Rowe did so in a shallow spot and fractured his right fibula and tibia.
“It was a freak accident; you could never make it up. It was essentially my fault and I never blame anyone else,” Rowe added.
“I had a weekend planned before returning to racing, then this freak accident. It was just really shallow at one particular point, and that’s where I jumped in.
“The team was great. A couple of hours after the accident Dave [Brailsford, Team Sky’s general manager] texted me and said, ‘Whatever happens, we’ll get you back to where you want to be.’ It was nice to help me put my mind at rest.”
Rowe began to see a comeback was possible but thought it was going to be long-term and said at the time that he considered it “unrealistic” to ride the classics in late-March or early April.
He has featured every year in Sky’s team with Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon. He placed sixth in the Tour of Flanders in 2016.
“I’m at the stage now where I think I can definitely return to 100 percent,” Rowe continued. “In the early stages, much went through my head, if I would return or how good I would be. There were some scary times.”
The Abu Dhabi Tour continues with a sprint stage Friday, a time trial, and Sunday, a summit finish. If possible, the march toward the cobbled classics will continue afterward.
They already start this Saturday with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium, and continue with E3 Harelbeke on March 23, running through Paris-Roubaix on April 8.
“Monday after this, I’ll go home and see how I am. There’s not any point of making a race program because we didn’t know how I’d be [in the classics]. If I’d be all right, or get my head kicked in,” added Rowe.
“When this race is over, I’ll give them a buzz and see what they are saying. Maybe look towards them classics, I don’t know if they are possible or not. It’s realistic to be there. I could be on the start line, but is it realistic to be there in good shape?
“The level is so high. You have to be good, if I’m not good, I won’t be there. But yes, it is realistic to be good there. It’s possible.”
Rowe should not be ruled out considering his rapid return. If he fails to make the roster, he said that he would want to be back in the Tour de France team for Sky.