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Stijn Steels says he’s lucky he’s not more seriously injured following a high-speed crash in the Six Days of Ghent track racing event.
The Belgian rider somersaulted onto the boards after riders crossed wheels during a handoff at the first night of racing at the Kuipke Velodrome.
“All in all, I’m doing pretty well,” Steels told Sporza. “The support of the public was very good, but being carried away from the track in such a way is difficult for a rider. It was an awful feeling.”
Link to video here.
Steels was transported to a local hospital on a stretcher and was diagnosed with fractured ribs and vertebrae, and a lung contusion.
Steels received an ovation from the packed house as he covered his face with his hands as health officials carried him out on a stretcher.
The 33-year-old is thankful he doesn’t have a more serious injury but admits he’s facing a bleak future after his contract with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl was not renewed going into 2023.
“I had worked very hard for this six-day race because there was a good chance that it would be my last race. My condition was good and I wanted to surprise,” he said.
“But when you lie on the floor, you realize that there is a chance that it was done on a stretcher. And you don’t like to stop like that.
“I wasn’t really panicking because I could move my feet and head, but I couldn’t lift my body off the ground. I just couldn’t leave.”
Steels, whose uncle is ex-pro and Quick-Step sport director Tom Steels, said his career might have ended in the worse way possible.
“You have to be realistic,” Steels said. “I still like to race very much, but if there are no good offers, then you have no choice. I don’t feel like messing around.
“I would regret it, but I am also satisfied with my career. I will not be frustrated, because a racing career is finite.
“I’m used to the highest level at Quick-Step. Then I don’t want to go back to a team where you sign to launch your career in your twenties. If you stop, you should be able to stop nicely.”
Steels was realistic about his professional racing prospects and said if his career is over, he will return to his studies.
“If I have to stop, then so be it. Then I’ll look for something new in life,” he said.