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Quick-Step Floors’ Petr Vakoc Is Back on Track After Gruesome Spine Injury

By Frantiska Blazkova

At the end of this year’s January, a Czech road cyclist Petr Vakoc was enjoying a training ride down in South Africa alongside his teammate Laurens De Plus when a tragedy struck. Both riders were clipped by a closely passing truck that sent them crashing down to the tarmac, leaving De Plus with a fractured pelvis and sacrum and Vakoc with a few life-threatening fractures to his spine. But, luckily, this horrendous incident was met with a happy end – a few months, multiple surgeries, and rehabilitation sessions later, Petr is back in the saddle and happy to show us all.

Both injured riders were treated in Nelspruit, where Vakoc received surgery to stabilise his spine, after which he was transported to a rehabilitation centre in Prague. Laurens De Plus returned to racing later in May, managing to finish the Amgen Tour of California in eighth place overall. For Vakoc, there was still quite the stretch to go. But with the outlook for a near-complete recovery, the 25-year-old pushed his limits and made progress and regained his strength each day under the careful watch of medical experts. He spent the last four months training while lying down – on a bicycle rigged on the wall – and later when he was allowed to sit, on a stationary trainer.

Petr Vakoc rides towards the start line prior to the 171 km second stage of the 69th edition of the Criterium du Dauphine cycling race on June 5, 2017 between Saint-Chamond and Arlanc.

After De Plus’ comeback into racing, Peter said in May: “Since the accident, I have followed the races of my teammates and enjoyed their victories, so now I am even more eager and motivated to be back and do some great cycling races, thus giving you all a show as thanks for all the support and recovery messages I have received since the accident, which have meant a lot to me!”

And on 25th June, five months after the accident, he finally posted an emotionally-packed video to his Twitter, detailing his rehabilitation and the victorious comeback to what he adores the most – road cycling. “This was the day I was looking forward to since my accident,” Vakoc commented, visibly enthused. “After a few months of intense rehabilitation, I’m back on the bike, back riding outside, enjoying what I love.”

Be sure to watch the whole thing because such optimism and resilience is hard to come by. But be careful, mysterious specks of dust are known to get into your eyes while watching the video.