Tom Boonen has revealed that he came within hours to having to have his arm amputated as a result of the septic infection he contracted after sustaining an apparently innocuous cut during a training ride near his home in Belgium last month.
Speaking earlier this week at the Tour of Oman, the 32-year-old said: "I'm happy I've still got my arm. That's a bit more important than having good form,” reports Yahoo! Eurosport.
Boonen had visited a hospital in Herantals to have the cut checked out after it became infected, and went home with a course of antibiotics.
However, when he returned to the hospital the next morning, his arm was so swollen that doctors decided to operate immediately, and Boonen has now said that any delay could have had grave consequences.
"That's what they told me, eight hours. If it hits the bone, the arm was gone and it was only a few millimetres from the bone.
“On the Friday there was nothing but then on Sunday they told me that if I hadn't done anything, Monday would have been too late."
He said of the infection: "Everybody has it on their skin but if it goes in your body and your wound closes and the crust forms, it starts breeding."
"Your elbow is probably the worst place to have it because there is no blood circulation. Otherwise the white cells kill it. But it had time to breed and got strong enough to attack the rest of my body."
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider spent a week in hospital recovering from his operation and missed the Tour of Qatar, which has become something of a barometer of his Classics form.
The last three times he’s won that race, he’s gone on to win the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, and last year, both.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.