Saturday, July 4, 2009
Christian Vande Velde, one of a few aspiring successors to Lance Armstrong as the next great American cyclist, found himself in an Italian hospital in mid-May with seven broken bones: his pelvis, five vertebrae and one rib.
The culprit was a tricky section of the third stage of the Giro d'Italia. At 30 mph, the native of Lemont, Ill., clipped the wheel of another rider and was tossed to the pavement.
Seven weeks later, Vande Velde, the top American finisher in last year's Tour de France, will be back at the starting line for this year's edition.
"I'm making serious strides in the last moment," the 33-year old said in a conference call Monday.
Vande Velde finished fourth last year. His rapid recovery to be included in this year's Tour featured his completing the Tour de Suisse, a challenging one-week race through the Swiss Alps in June.
After that, he was tabbed as the top rider for the Garmin-Slipstream team that features four Americans, the most of any in the race.
"It's pretty impressive that he's even here," said teammate David Zabriskie, a Salt Lake City native who won the opening stage of the 2005 Tour. "If he could get through [the Tour de Suisse], he should be on his way up."
-- Jonathan Brand