Juan Mauricio Soler discharged from hospital as he continues the long road to recovery
Next target is for Movistar rider to be able to return to native Colombia - getting back on the bike a distant aim for now
Juan Mauricio Soler, the Colombian cyclist who suffered serious head injuries during the Tour of Switzerland in June, has been released from the hospital in Pamplona, northern Spain, where he has been treated for the past three months.
Soler, who lives in the city with his wife Patricia, had been transferred to the Clínica Universitaria de Navarra three weeks after his crash during Stage 6 of the Tour of Switzerland, to continue his recovery from brain and other injuries sustained in the incident, which happened when he collided with a wall on a downhill section.
In an article on its website, Movistar says that Soler’s discharge from hospital “should not be confused with a final discharge” – the cyclist is still undergoing what is likely to be a very lengthy rehabilitation process.
Both the rider and his team are at pains to underline that it’s Soler’s personal recovery that must come first – with the aim of him perhaps being well enough to return to his native Colombia, where a clinic has already been identified to assist with his rehabilitation – ahead of any talk of his returning to competition.
"Every day I feel that I am improving, although it is true that there are days when I take a step backwards, which is always discouraging,” said Soler. "We must be patient. Only time will tell,” he added. “It would be great to race again, but what interests me now is my recovery. "
That was a sentiment echoed by Movistar’s team doctor, Alfredo Zuniga. “What worries us now is the personal, not sports aspect,” he maintained. “The thought of getting back on the bike is a motivation for him, but it’s still too early to know whether or not it is possible. It’s something that no-one can guarantee.
“Until now, his progress has been favorable and he is on track, but the rehabilitation process will still take many months. The best thing is that all steps are moving forward and that his progress since coming back to Pamplona has been surprisingly good. "
The cyclist’s wife, Patricia, went on to describe how a typical day went while her husband was in hospital, from which it is apparent that while her husband is making progress, the process is a slow one, with landmark events including his being able to shave or brush his teeth unaided.
She added that both she and her husband had been touched by the support they had received from cycling fans around the world, relating how “one day a nurse came with a tower of envelopes – they were from Belgium, Holland, United States, Colombia, of course... and they have not stopped coming,” adding that the letters were “a great motivation in very difficult times.”
“What has happened to us was very sad but also very nice because we could feel the love of many people," she added.
Soler’s near-fatal crash came less than a month after team mate Xavier Tondo had been killed in a freak accident when he was crushed between his car and a garage door as he prepared to go on a training ride, and less than six weeks after Leopard Trek’s Wouter Weylandt lost his life during the Giro d’Italia.