Omega Pharma - Quick-Step's Tom Boonen undergoes surgery on infected elbow
Tom Boonen's preparations for the spring Classics have suffered a setback after a mountain bike crash.
Last Updated: 22/01/13 3:04pm
The 32-year-old Belgian sustained the initial injury in a fall during a training ride on his mountain bike on January 13.
It appeared to be an innocuous cut at the time, but then began to swell six days later, prompting the Omega Pharma - Quick-Step rider to check himself into hospital.
After antibiotics failed to reduce the inflammation, doctors decided to operate.
Boonen said: "Of course, this problem could not have come at a worse time, what with the upcoming Classics.
"I didn't even think about it. It was just a little scrape to the elbow, which I cleaned and disinfected once I got back home.
"During the week everything was going well, I wasn't having any problems. Then suddenly, on Saturday, January 19, my elbow started swelling.
"I started to get concerned and so, together with the team medical staff, I decided to go to the hospital in Herentals [near Antwerp, Belgium].
"After specific checks and therapy and a prescription of some antibiotics, I went home.
"The following morning I went back to the hospital for a check-up. When the doctors saw how swollen my arm was, they immediately decided to operate.
"I have to thank the medical staff who understood right away that the infection was spreading and who organised things to solve the problem in no time."
Boonen has remained in hospital for a few days for observation and to undergo further treatment with antibiotics.
He added: "That was a really close call for me. Now, fortunately, the situation is improving.
"Now I want to recuperate as soon as possible and then, next week, I will be thinking again on my training and competitive schedule."
Boonen had been due to race at the Tour of Qatar in February, but Omega Pharma - Quick-Step will monitor his condition before deciding whether to revise his schedule.
He is hoping for a repeat of his Classics success in 2012, when he won the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Gent-Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke.