Team Sky’s Luke Rowe says that he could be sidelined for up to a year after breaking his leg while whitewater rafting during his brother’s stage weekend in the Czech Republic.
The 27-year-old broke his tibia and fibula in what he told BBC Wales Sport was a “freak accident” while on the trip with family and friends ahead of his brother Matt’s wedding to 2012 Olympic team pursuit champion Dani King.
Rowe, who is one of Team Sky’s key Classics riders – last year he was fifth at the Tour of Flanders and in 2015 finished eighth at Paris-Roubaix – has also helped Chris Froome win the past three editions of the Tour de France.
He told BBC Wales Sport: "It was a freak accident. It wasn't like I was swinging from the rooftops drunk, but there is only one person to blame.
“I knew straight away how serious it was, it was excruciating pain and there are quite a few broken bones.
“It was a case of trying to get out of the water as quickly as possible and into an ambulance.
"I've broken a fair few bones in my career but this was significantly worse than any of them. It was double the pain - add the pain of a few broken bones together.
"I lifted my leg, but my foot stayed still, it was kind of hanging off, limp.
“The bone didn't break the skin, but it is pretty scary when you look down and see that when you are on the side of a riverbank.
“It was a freak accident but it was a mistake. The water clearly wasn't deep enough to jump into, but hindsight is a beautiful thing. Other people were jumping with no problems, but I hit a rock.”
Rowe said he realised immediately how bad the injury was and that “it is hard to predict a race, a point in the season or even a year when I will be able to come back.”
The Welshman, who has returned home to Cardiff, has been pressing doctors to let him know when he can get back to training and riding, but accepts that he needs to be patient and let the treatment, which will involve a series of operations, take its course.
“It's a moment in your career where your back is against the wall and you really need to roll your sleeves up,” he admitted.
“It's going to be a tough few months for me and it could be up to 9-12 months – that's realistic.
“I have to live my life,” he added. “I'll be on crutches at my brother's wedding in seven weeks' time and I don't think I will be spending much time on the dance floor."
Rowe was at the stag weekend with Team Sky’s permission, and they flew out one of their doctors to Prague after they were informed of his injury.
In a post on the team’s website, performance manager Rod Ellingworth, said: "Obviously it's a serious injury and so Luke's going to be off the bike for a while.
"An injury like this is a test of character for anyone, but character is something Luke has plenty of.
"He’s a really important part of our team and, as a team, we'll be right behind him throughout his recovery."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.