'It’s good to be back in the game' - Laurens De Plus returns to strength after Vuelta a España TTT crash

Belgian fractured hip in August and returned to racing at the Tour Down Under with Ineos Grenadiers

Clock17:50, Thursday 18th January 2024
Laurens De Plus is back racing at the Tour Down Under this week

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Laurens De Plus is back racing at the Tour Down Under this week

Laurens De Plus (Ineos Grenadiers) has described his shape as “like nothing happened” as he returns to racing after he fractured his hip in a nasty crash during last year’s Vuelta a España team time trial.

De Plus was one of several riders to go down on the wet, dark roads in Barcelona, but came off worse than most with a non-displaced hip fracture.

The crash ended his season, dropping out of his key role of supporting Geraint Thomas, and saw his off-season become a period of rehab. He started his first race back at the Santos Tour Down Under this week.

“Rehab has been tough but it’s always hard work to come back,” De Plus told GCN in Adelaide before the Tour Down Under.

“But once you’re on training camp and you feel that you did the right job then you know that it was worth the suffering."

Read more: Ineos Grenadiers under ‘no real pressure’ at Tour Down Under, says DS

The Belgian is, unfortunately, no stranger to injury rehabilitation, having previously gone through two big crashes and periods of recovery, meaning hearing of the initial injury was a particularly scary moment.

“You’re in a different country, so I wanted to go back as quickly as possible to Belgium because I didn’t want to make mistakes. But of course, when you hear there’s a fracture it’s always scary. But I had good doctors and everybody said ‘it’s going to be fine’. You always think ‘of course you’d say that’ but in the end they were right,” he explained.

That experience of having come back from injuries twice before may have helped the Belgian, though, as he was able to streamline his recovery process and speed up his return to cycling.

“First, I rested to let the bone heal, and then I went every day in the car up and down to a rehab centre. It has quite a good reputation in Belgium with a lot of football players, so they had experience. So it was every day up and down for four or five weeks.

“Actually it was quite smooth with no setbacks or anything, it all went according to the plan, even ahead, so I can’t complain.”

In fact, De Plus’ recovery was so ahead of schedule that he was already back on the bike three weeks after crashing, as he combined riding with gym work and other rehab activities before beginning training again.

“It was really quick, but I did it easy and I never had a problem,” he said.

“The real, proper training started in November. Before it was just spinning the legs and focusing on rehab, and then after I did a one-week rest because I needed it, it was quite tough. So I had a one-week holiday and then in November, I started like a normal season.

“I feel like nothing happened. I can’t really notice a difference. I’m not going to run a marathon, but I wasn’t before either.”

Returning after a big crash and a fracture would usually be a big talking point around a rider like De Plus, but the Belgian said that it’s almost already forgotten within the Ineos Grenadiers camp, even just a few months later.

“People don’t even ask anymore,” he said. “The staff in December at the training camp, they didn’t even ask anymore. In the end [of camp] I had a big crash and no one even asked any more, so that’s a good sign - you don’t see anything different. Only in the massage you see a scar and the rest you don’t see a different Laurens or anything.”

The only thing that’s changed for De Plus, who usually shapes his season around domestique duties in the Grand Tours, is that he’s starting his season early in Tour Down Under, partly motivated by wanting to get back to racing after his truncated 2023 campaign.

“It was a request from me because I’ve done so many Tenerife camps and Sierra [Nevada] camps in January, so I wanted to challenge myself and get a bit of new energy,” he said. “I think it’s a good decision, but after this, I do altitude camp so in the end nothing really changed towards Grand Tours. But definitely, it was a good choice, also to get back in the fighting and rhythm. It’s good to be back in the game.”

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