25 April 2016
The 6th of July, 2012 is a day in the life of Wout Poels that he will never forget. It is the third stage in the Tour de France. With 25 kilometres to go, there is a big crash in the peloton. Wout Poels lies on the ground. He is in pain. His chest hurts like hell, but he is determined to go on. After 10 kilometres on the bike again, he stops. He is unable to ride on. In the hospital the doctors discover that his injuries are bad: a ruptured spleen and kidney, three broken ribs and bruised lungs. Dutch doctors told him that his career was over. But ‘Woutje’ is a tough one. After three months of recovery he got on his bike again. Just like he had to learn to walk again, he had to learn to ride a bike again. In the year after his crash, he fought to get back at his level again. However, at the end of 2013, his team Vacansoleil announced that they could not find a new sponsor. Poels moved to Omega Pharma-QuickStep for a year. In the Giro d’Italia he was riding solid in the mountains. Team Sky saw it too. In 2015, Poels went to the team of Chris Froome to support him in the Tour de France and to ride for himself in small races. He went to a training camp with Chris Froome himself and learned a lot of his teammates at Team Sky. He proved that he was getting in shape with a stage win in Tirreno – Adriatico in 2015 and the overall win in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana a couple of weeks ago. Poels was almost there where he wanted to be. Back on a high level again, racing with the best riders of the peloton.
The 24th of April, 2016 is a day in the life of Wout Poels that he will never forget. It is the day of his breakthrough. It is the day that he wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He almost cannot believe it, but after a heroic race with sun, rain and snow he wins the sprint of three other riders. Wout Poels wins his first Spring classic. He smiles on the podium, polite and friendly as always. After the ceremony, he goes to the press conference and after that he takes a shower. Then he leaves in a car. Alone. He likes to be alone for a while. He will think about the crash, his comeback, his first Monument, how proud his dad would have been. He will know that this is his breakthrough in his comeback story.
© Graham Watson
© Han Cock