WorldTeam Xandres Vervloesem: “I hope to show my potential again quite soon.”
For Xandres Vervloesem, youngest rider of the Lotto Soudal WorldTeam, the start of his pro career was anything but smooth. At Le Samyn, Xandres crashed and suffered a small tear in his vertebra. Two weeks later, Vervloesem hit the deck again at Nokere Koerse. For the 21-year-old rider from Massenhoven, it has been a long recovery process with ups and downs. An honest interview with Vervloesem, who makes his return to racing at the Spanish one-day race Vuelta a Castilla y León this Thursday.
"At Nokere Koerse I hit the deck and crashed on my right hip. I was forced to spend ten days off the bike. When I resumed training, I really had to wait and see how much pain I would experience each time. It often happened that my hip and groin got irritated when I trained for a long time", says the young rider.
At the Ronde van Limburg, Vervloesem thought he could make his comeback, but after only 38 kilometres, he was forced to abandon the race. The pain and continuous recovery kept on haunting the young rider.
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"Because of the hip injury, I often slept badly at night. The combination of a bad night's sleep and less qualitative training means that I was constantly looking for my best form. That search was frustrating. I don't feel guilty towards myself, but I do towards my teammates. I would like to be of added value to the team again. Not being able to meet the expectations of the team, gives me a gnawing feeling of guilt", Vervloesem adds.
His injuries and the current Covid measures mean that the neo-pro still knows few of his teammates at the WorldTeam well.
"Because of Covid, our January training camp took place in different groups. In addition, due to my recovery, I have only taken part in a couple of races. As a result, I know very few of my teammates really well. When I was on the races and had the chance to meet some of my teammates, I either crashed or had to abandon. This gives you even more pressure as a neo-pro", Vervloesem adds.
By spending a lot of time at home, the young rider realized that also in cycling, time is ticking fast and races pass him by. Crashes, injuries or illness are not in anyone's control. According to the young talent, those external factors make it extra challenging to persevere.
"I became a pro cyclist to live from race to race. However, because of my injuries and my slow recovery, I couldn’t ride many races. When you’re recovering at home, the race atmosphere is just gone and you start to overthink things a lot. You can look forward to a race and it can suddenly be ruined by an external factor. By being at home I realized that cycling is a dangerous sport. I lived to race, now I'm becoming more and more afraid to race."
In addition to the physical pain that kept the rider away from his bike, he also carried mental worries. Vervloesem prefers to deal with this himself and thinks it is "part of the job”.
"We are receiving the best possible support and the doctors and trainers are monitoring my situation really well. They want my recovery to be as efficient as possible. The mental aspect is something I often try to push myself through. As a rider you have to learn to fall and get up again. I got down quite regularly the past months, literally and figuratively, but I hope to be able to stand up again and show my potential. Falling down and getting up again is part of my job as a professional cyclist," concludes Vervloesem.
Following a surgery in which Xandres’ wisdom teeth were removed, the 21-year-old could start training again earlier than he had hoped. The Belgian prepared himself for the Spanish races Castilla y León – Clásica San Sebastián during training camps in the Vosges and Alps.
“On June 10th, four wisdom teeth were surgically removed. Originally, the operation was planned to take place at the end of last year, but had been postponed due to whole Covid situation. After the surgery, I could pick up training again sooner than expected. At the end of June, I chose for a training camp in the Vosges, followed by a stay in the Alps. There, I’ve found the good feeling again and I don’t have any more trouble with my injuries. That way, I’ve had a nice build-up and due to the signals my body gives me, I feel ready to race again!”, concludes an excited Vervloesem.
Image: Photo News.