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.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.