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Two of Israel Start-Up Nation’s most experienced riders are on the mend and are plotting their return to competition.
André Greipel and Rory Sutherland both had their respective seasons thrown into disarray with injuries. Greipel broke his shoulder in a training crash in February while Sutherland broke his leg during a team camp in January.
The calendar disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak came at a good time for both, and with racing set to resume next month, both riders are planning out their comebacks.
“I honestly had my doubts whether I ever could get to WorldTour-fitness again, but now I know that I can do it,” said Sutherland on the team’s Facebook page.
“There have been moments that I was unsure whether I could ever return to my former level,” the 38-year-old Australian said. “Recovering from this injury is the hardest thing I have had to do in my sporting career.”
Sutherland said the coronavirus race stoppage came at a good time, allowing him the time and patience he needed to properly recover. He hasn’t set a date quite yet for a return to racing, but said the extra time is a blessing.
“I could race now, but another month of training will allow me to rise to a competitive level,” Sutherland said. “I’m very fortunate as I have had the time and the patience to be able to do it properly. Having no racing has allowed me to do things correctly and build, together with my trainer [Paulo Saldanha] in a slow but constant manner.”
Greipel, who recently penned a contract extension with the freshly minted WorldTour team, also did not put a firm date on his return to racing. He also said the break in the calendar took pressure off his return.
“Now, with competition in sight, it’s easier to work towards certain goals,” Greipel said on Facebook. “I’ve been working full-time on my recovery. After 10 days, I was on the rollers with one arm. I could train a lot for base miles during the lockdown.”
The team is set to return to competition in late July, at the Sibiu Tour with its development team, and at the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain with its WorldTour team, where Ben Hermans and Dani Navarro are expected to race.
Hermans, also on the injury comeback after crashing out with a broken collarbone at the Santos Tour Down Under, said his recovery has gone well.
“I nearly have 100 percent of the range of motion with my shoulder, and I don’t foresee many problems during races,” Hermans said. “The only thing that might be difficult is putting on a rain jacket on top of a climb. I am definitely on my way back.”