Paris - Belgian cyclist Jan Bakelants is set to end his near
six-month injury nightmare by saddling up at the classic Loire Atlantique
one-day race on Saturday, his AG2R team announced.
Bakelants, a former Tour de France stage winner who wore the
yellow jersey in 2013, suffered multiple fractures after a heavy crash at last
season's Tour of Lombardy.
After fighting his way back to fitness thanks to hours of
gruelling sessions on his home-trainer, he is now taking inspiration from
Alejandro Valverde and Ion Izagirre, both of whom returned to top form
following serious injuries.
"I don't know what to expect," said Bakelants,
who, when he lines up on Saturday, will end a 168-day injury absence.
"It was a difficult time for me, but thankfully I had a
lot of support.
"I hope to succeed on my return. Valverde won again
after serious injury and Ion Izagirre had a great Paris-Nice campaign despite
suffering a fracture in his back on the Tour de France last year.
"So, I'm feeling confident."