Maurits Lammertink is refusing to give up hope of continuing his career as a professional cyclist, but faces a long road to recovery with no guarantees following the horrific brain injuries he suffered earlier this year.
Back in June, the Dutchman, who rides for Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, was hit by a motorbike outside an ice cream parlour in Hangelo while spending time off with his partner and children.
He was left with a fractured skull, causing multiple haemorrhages and a coma, with emergency surgery required to relieve pressure on his brain.
Six months on, Lammertink has given an interview to the Dutch publication Tubantia, who visited him at the rehabilitation centre in Roessingh where he spends his days between sessions in speech therapy, movement therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychotherapy.
He is apparently well but is easily overwhelmed mentally, and the report describes a moment when he had to go outside because the lights and noises in the hall became too much for him. He is taking medication to help him process stimuli, with his partner explaining that without it he can barely read bedtime stories to his children.
Lammertink, 31, finds himself in a position where he is fighting simply to be able to live a normal life again, but he has not given up on his career.
“I want to return to a professional level,” he told Tubantia, although there are numerous complications.
In addition to brain injuries, he also suffered a blow to his jaw and ear canal, which has left him partially deaf and damaged his vestibular system, as well as required major shoulder surgery and still suffers loss of sensation in his hand.
Furthermore, his contract with Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert expires at the end of the year and he says he has not yet been offered an extension. In fact, communication between him and the team appears confused, with the team publicly stating that Lammertink was training again and a director indicating he could continue on the roster next season.
“I got congratulations about that, but I didn’t know anything about it,” Lammertink said. “We keep the team management informed of all developments, but we have not discussed a contract extension until now.”
His partner added: “Let the team offer him a contract with a clause, but at least give him that chance to work on it.”
As for riding his bike, Lammertink has been able to get out but to nowhere near the level that could be deemed decent exercise for a professional rider.
“I love cycling for an hour or two, but you can’t call it cycling,” he said, adding that he has suffered a couple of crashes due to his head problems. “Stupid stupid falls, because I just wasn’t concentrated anymore. Towards the end of the ride I made simple mistakes due to the mental fatigue.”
Despite all the hurdles in his way, Lammertink is not prepared to give up.
“I can’t accept it until I know where my ceiling is. That’s why I’m here now, to expand my mental capacity, to be able to function in normal society, and in the cycling peloton,” he said.
“The question is, will I ever be able to do that again? I do not know. I keep training, keep working hard. I can not do anything else. Time will tell what is possible.”