McEwen won green with back fractures

X-rays have confirmed that points champion Robbie McEwen spent the last two weeks of the Tour riding

X-rays have confirmed that points champion Robbie McEwen spent the last two weeks of the Tour riding
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE With a second Tour de France points title safely pocketed, Robbie McEwen has admitted that he spent the last two weeks of the race suffering dreadfully with the effects of two fractured vertebrae. The damage was done in the final kilometre pile-up at Angers on stage six, making the Australian's subsequent stage win at Guret and victory in the points competition especially remarkable. Speaking to Cycling Australia as he confirmed that he will be participating in the road race at the Athens Olympics, McEwen explained: "I crashed within the last kilometre and landed on everything. I had skin off from head to toe and then something hit me in the back. Not sure if it was a bike or a rider but it left a couple of very nasty bruises and fractured my L1 and L2 lumbar vertebrae." McEwen went to a Dutch hospital today (Thursday) for an x-ray and cat scan which revealed the fractures, known as transverse process. "Today was the first chance I found time to go to the hospital and I have to say I was relieved to hear the diagnosis because it explains why I was in so much pain in agony for much of the Tour," he explained. "The two fractures are in the bones which are like little wings that come off your vertebrae," he said. "The scan also showed that new bone is forming so the healing process has begun." McEwen is adamant the injury will not disrupt his bid for Olympic glory. "Hey if I can ride the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Champs Elyses and win the green jersey with a broken back then one day in Athens is no problem. I can ride and after a couple of easy days this weekend I'm going to keep riding and everything should just get better and better. "The pain was bad and I was really suffering in the last days of the Tour but I didn't want to tell anyone because I didn't want my rivals to get a sniff of it," he said. "Victor Popov (physiotherapist) was able to work on everything around it to get me good enough to start each day but after one big sprint my back was stuffed again and for the last sprint in Paris I could hardly ride." McEwen says the diagnosis was not a complete surprise because Popov had told him it was the likely problem. "Victor said he was pretty sure it was fractured lumbar vertebrae," said McEwen. "We decided it was probably better not to know for sure until after the Tour because with or without treatment the injury would heal itself eventually."
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