Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) will return to competition at Paris-Nice in March in what will be his first race since crashing out of the 2011 Tour de France.
The popular veteran suffered a horrible spill in stage 7. Later the whole world saw just how dazed and shaken up he was after suffering what was diagnosed as a concussion.
But it was a blood clot that later formed in the aftermath that became lodged in his chest that proved the most dangerous for Horner.
“I had a blood clot that was in my lung that was caused by my crash in the Tour de France. That’s pretty serious, you could die,” Horner told VeloNews.com. “Was it dangerous? Yes, very dangerous. Luckily, I caught it in time.”
Horner explained that the blood clot formed in the days following his Tour crash. Initially, it looked as if head injuries would be the most serous consequence of the spill. Horner suffered a concussion and crossed the finish line not knowing exactly what had happened.
Bloodied and bruised, Horner finished the stage in a daze and many later questioned whether or not it was appropriate that Horner should have been allowed to continue racing that day.
Fortunately, Horner recovered relatively quickly from the crash, spending time in a French hospital and even dining at McDonald’s before returning to the United States for full recovery just days later.
It was on the long trip back to Oregon that the clot formed, which later traveled to his lungs to cause a pulmonary embolism.
“I had a huge hematoma and that was from above my ankle to my calf. I hopped on a flight a few days after the crash. You have 11 hours sitting still on a flight, plus a couple of transfers, more flights to get home, so that’s probably where the blood clot came from,” Horner explained. “Every doctor said, of course, you got a blood clot, that’s what happens when you fly in those conditions.”
Once home, Horner kept feeling nagging pain in his chest, two weeks after his crash. Thinking it was some banged up ribs, he eventually called his doctor due to the severity of the pain.
That call could have saved his life. Had the clot become dislodged, it could have traveled to his brain or heart, causing serious brain damage or even death.
“I had cracked ribs. At first I thought the ribs were being a bit irritated and then I realized it became painful enough that something wasn’t right,” he said. “I have a good doctor up in Bend looking after me. I called him and he told me to get the hospital directly, which probably saved my career, if not my life.”
Doctors quickly stabilized his condition and put him on blood thinners, which helped to reduce the danger of the clot.
“Since then, I’ve been blood thinners, I will be off the blood thinners right after the training camp,” he said with a laugh. “They do nothing to affect your training, so long as you don’t cut yourself and make sure you don’t bleed out.”
Horner is scheduled to return to competition with Paris-Nice in early March. After that, he’s set to race the Volta a Catalunya (where he was fourth last year behind winner Alberto Contador) and a return to the Vuelta al País Vasco, where he was runner-up to Andreas Kloden last year and the winner in 2010.
“The race schedule remains more or less the same: Paris-Nice, Catalunya, Pais Vasco, California, Tour de Suisse, Tour,” he said. “The only difference is that I added Paris-Nice, but I think I need it because I haven’t raced since the Tour. It will be important to get some racing in before I hit Basque Country.”