Léandre Bouchard’s 50 km/h crash in Brazil
Canadian national champ updates his condition, his recovery and why he's still positive about the 2022 seasonPhoto by: Joé Dufour
Léandre Bouchard was rolling into the first World Cup of the season hot. He has a new team and, for the first time, the elite national championships title. Coming into the Petrópolis race weekend, he already had several international podiums, both in Europe and in Brazil at the pre-World Cup CIMTB race.
That all unraveled in an instant when, during final Short Track practice on the Friday, Bouchard crashed hard. The Foresco Holdings ProCo RL team rider estimates he was going about 50 km/h when he went over the bars, with the maple leaf of his national champ jersey hitting the ground first.
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An initial check up at a hospital in Brazil indicated he’d somehow walked away from the fall uninjured. He sat out the weekend’s racing, both the XCC and XCO World Cups, before flying back home to Quebec.
Once home, the diagnosis changed significantly.
I caught up with Bouchard over the phone at his home in Alma. We talked about his injury, what happened, his recovery and why he’s still really positive about his 2022 season.
Canadian MTB: So, prior to the World Cup – you were on the move. You had good results in Italy and in Brazil at the C1. How were you feeling going into the World Cup season?
Léandre Bouchard: I was feeling that I had everything going in the right direction. I had good momentum going.
What happened in your crash? It was in practice for the XCC?
Yeah, we have access to the course before racing. I knew the course from the previous weekend, but I wanted to see the small course changes and the dirt conditions. On the first lap, it went smooth. At the end of the lap I went a bit to fast on an easy, but fast downhill. That put me a bit too outside and I just went over the bars quickly and smashed into the ground.
What was the immediate diagnosis in Brazil?
In Brazil: nothing broken. They sent me back home with some painkillers. The diagnosis changed quite a bit in Alma.
What changed when you got back home?
I had five broken ribs and one broken piece on the spine (Transverse Process, one of the little spikes off the vertebrae*). Two subluxacation next to the collarbone, each side was stretched a bit, Grade 1 and Grade 2. And some blood in my lungs.
The surgeon was surprised because, in my condition, I should not have been flying. But they sent me back home in Brazil, said I was fine and I flew home after the races. Thankfully I have a good medical support team with me.
*Bouchard has a degree in the physical health and education and, as an elite athlete, keen understanding of his injury. Apologies if my translation of his description is not 100 per cent.
That’s rough. That’s way worse than it sounded at first. How are you feeling now? Are you able to ride again?
I’m feeling much better. It’s a small improvement everyday. Now I’m training inside and I can ride easy only on the trainer. At the beginning it was 20 minutes a day. Now I can ride 30-40 minutes a day, but still really easy. But that’s feeling great.
Even if there’s no sign of blood in my lungs on the x-ray anymore, I still have to improve slowly so my lungs get better at transporting oxygen and all that. Right now my lungs are not as efficient, my breath is still short. So I still have to keep training easy so I can keep enough oxygen in my organs. But it’s also helping, because it’s bringing blood to where my body impacted the ground.
Did you hit your head at all, going over the bars?
I don’t think I hit my head. The helmet was fine with just a few scratches from the gravel. My physio doesn’t think I had a concussion or, if I did, it was a very minor one. The only concussion symptom I had was a loss of consciousness. But I don’t think I hit my head in the process. The first impact was on my mid-back. I think that was it.
How does this change your season going forward?
So its put me in the recovery process for a little while, obviously. I don’t think it’s that bad. I can see advantage in it. But it took me out of competition for four weekends of racing I had planned. The World Cup, then I was supposed to be in Arkansas and the next two World Cups in Germany and Czech Republic.
Right now, I’m planning my return for the Baie-St.-Paul Canada Cup in the first week in June. From there, I’ll be in good shape. I thought I could be back earlier, but there’s not really any races. Nove Mesto is just a bit too early to consider racing there.
So no Albstadt or Nove Mesto World Cup, then?
No, I have to cross out that trip. But I’ll be there in Baie-St.-Paul. I might also change my calendar to include the Leogang, Austria World Cup, which I’d planned to miss.
The advantage is that I might be a bit fresher by the end of the season and maybe stronger in the middle part of the season after missing out a big block of racing.
I also get to see progress every day, which is really motivating. Even if I don’t feel really fit right now, it’s still encouraging. I get to see progress every day, like I’m a beginner. In high level competition, it’s sometimes hard to see improvement. But I’m seeing that all the time,that feels good.