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Hoste returns from endless hangover

  • By Andrew Hood
  • Published Jun. 11, 2012
  • Updated Jun. 11, 2012 at 11:41 AM EDT

“A five-month hangover.”

That’s how Leif Hoste described the debilitating head injury that nearly derailed his career last year.

While the veteran Belgian classics star is only half-joking when he explains the excruciating pain that he had to endure for much of 2011, he’s more than happy to be back in the peloton.

“It was painful. It was not a sharp pain, but a constant, numbing pain. It was like a hangover, but one that wouldn’t go away,” Hoste told VeloNews. “It was just awful. All I could do was lie in bed.”

Hoste crashed hard on his head in last year’s Three Days of De Panne and spent nearly six months trying to figure out why he was suffering dizzy spells and blistering headaches that forced him to retreat into his bedroom with the curtains pulled closed for days on end.

It took a half-a-year for doctors to finally diagnose what had happened. In the meantime, Hoste’s cycling career was in tatters.

“I crashed on my head and I had a fracture on my skull. I lost the liquid that is around your brain,” he explained. “It gave me a lot of problems and headaches. It just got worse and worse. I couldn’t do anything. No biking, no swimming. I couldn’t walk more than five minutes.”

After visiting neurologists in Belgium and Italy, doctors finally determined the cause of Hoste’s endless hangover.

The impact of the crash punched a small hole into the thin sack that envelopes the brain — called the dura mater — and some of the protective liquid that provides cushioning and support for the brain had leaked out.

Hoste’s brain was literally being squeezed inside of his own head, causing nausea, dizziness and numbing headaches.

“The first few weeks, I just had a headache; later it got worse and worse. After one hour on my bike, I had to rest three days in my bed with no lights on,” he said. “It was terrible. In the beginning, it was a bit of a headache; then it wouldn’t stop. There was no end to the headache.”

A week after the crash, Hoste actually managed to race to 56th at the 2011 Tour of Flanders and start, but not finish, Paris-Roubaix.

That’s when Hoste put up the white flag. Those were his last races until his comeback with Accent.jobs-Willems Veranda’s this February.

“I crashed at De Panne and then I raced Flanders and Roubaix. Those are races that I prepared for [with] so many long months of training and I didn’t want to give those up to a crash, but maybe in the end, it wasn’t worth it,” he said. “After that, I was five months without anything. Not even a swim or a walk. Just five months in bed.”

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Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood cut his journalistic teeth at Colorado dailies before the web boom opened the door to European cycling in the mid-1990s. Hood has covered every Tour de France since 1996 and has been VeloNews' European correspondent since 2002.

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