Cervélo TestTeam's Carlos Sastre has been diagnosed with a posterior spinal disc herniation and a central extruded disc of the L5-S1 as a result of his two crashes in the recent Giro d'Italia. The Spaniard had an MRI this morning at the Clínica Santa Teresa, and the bad news has now put his Tour de France participation in question.
"What I do know right now is that, in theory, I have time to recover and be ready to ride in the Tour, but I don’t want obsess about participating in it," Sastre said.
He is in full agreement with his team that he should not take the start of the race unless he is healthy. "If I'm in the final selection [for the Tour de France] it will be because I have no discomfort," he explained.
Sastre is optimistic about recovering quickly and says that he has been working with his physiotherapist to develop an exercise program that will keep him fit and help him to heal in time for July's big event. This next week will be a very important one for the rider from Ávila.
"I'll have to see how everything goes with the physio. I can sacrifice a few more days of training, but not many. I don’t want to make any predictions before I know for sure. I want to ride the Tour, but these pains have to be gone to make that possible. The area with pain has improved because I'm not making the efforts made in the Giro. I want to take it [the recovery] quietly, without imposing any goal," he said.
A painful ride in the Giro d'Italia
Sastre also detailed his problems last month in the year's first three week race. The Cervélo leader's problems started on the second day of the Giro d'Italia when he crashed just 7 kilometers from the stage finish in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
"It was a hard fall. It was very fast and I got hit very hard from behind," he explained, adding that there was no time for the riders to react. "That caused my hips and the last lumbar vertebrae to suffer a shift," he recalled.
"I came to the team bus with severe pain in the lumbar region. The physio tried to adjust the hips, pelvis, and the last lumbar vertebrae without much luck, because everything was very swollen and it was difficult," he added.
He said that he had no power during the next stage: "I wanted to go for up front but I could not. I felt helpless, but at the same time happy because I only lost 45 seconds when I could have lost eight or ten minutes. For me it was very satisfying."
Luckily for the Spaniard the first rest day came early in the race, which enabled his physio to work on his vertebrae so he could regain some of his power. He still wasn't 100 percent for the team time trial, but he was able to continue in the race and begin to recover.
It was the second crash, during the epic stage seven between Carrara and Montalcino, that aggravated the injury and complicated things. "I quickly noticed that I had hurt both my left calf and back," he said. This time though, the pain was worse than before.
"After the fall in the seventh stage I felt like I had a dagger in my side above my left hip, and I felt pain radiate down both legs going through the outer quadriceps down the outside of my leg and ankle," he explained.
Sastre said he rode the stage that finished atop Monte Zoncolan with his shoes undone because riding with his feet straight caused him intense pain from rubbing on his sciatic nerve.
"From the second day of rest I began to notice some improvement," he said. "I no longer felt that my back was so blocked and it was easier for the physio manipulate, but my muscles were still not working in ideal conditions," he concluded.