The 25-year-old Dutchman Martijn Tusveld has been riding for Team Sunweb since 2018. But the two parties had mutual interest in each other sometime before that: Tusveld rode for the Rabobank Development Team for five years, and in his final year had an internship alongside Tom Dumoulin. Although there was a click, there were no opportunities for the young rider from Utrecht at that point in time. He signed for Team Roompot, where he showed that he was a strong rider in the mountains. A year later, he transferred to Team Sunweb, where he developed into a strong support rider for Grand Tours. Time trials are his speciality, but he is getting better and better riding support on the flat and in the mountains. He also hopes to be able to ride for himself at some point. Here, Martijn writes an exclusive personal account of his recent very nasty crash during Paris–Nice 2019, and his road to recovery.

‘A nervous peloton’

It was the first stage in Paris–Nice and there were very high winds. Because everyone knew that the race was likely to spit into echelons, the whole peloton was really nervous. After 100 kilometres it finally happened: the bunch split into echelons. When this happened every rider had to dig as deep as he can.

Martijn Tusveld

Me before the start of stage 1 in Paris–Nice 2019. Photograph: Cor Vos

I ended up in the first group, speeding down the road at 60kph. Once again there was a crosswind, and the echelons began. But before I knew what was going on, I wa on the ground. I still have no idea exactly what happened. Normally you can react quite quickly during a crash and fall on your hands, but this was totally unexpected and I landed face first. I immediately felt this was not good at all. The result: four fractures in my jaw, both cheekbones broken, several fewer teeth and a lot of scars on my face.

From bad to worse

The time between the crash and the hospital seemed to last for ever. The ambulance took ages, because the whole peloton was split into little groups. Once in the ambulance I felt the pain in my jaw hit hard. It was impossible at that point to swallow pain killers, because my whole face was covered in blood.

At the hospital the nurses had a big job cleaning up my face, but a doctor brought good news: I had no broken bones. After the wave of relief, I realised that they hadn’t even taken any x-rays, so how would they know? When I mentioned this, the doctor looked at my armband and realised he was talking to Martijn Tusveld and not Michael Matthews, who is in the room next door.

After the x-rays, the doctor shared the bad news with me and the team. An immediate operation and a jaw which had to be wired up for between six and eight weeks. Only then did I realise how serious this was. After two nights in the hospital in Versailles, I returned to the Netherlands with my dad. Although I was happy to finally leave the hospital, I could hardly do anything myself. The first week was really hard, and I stayed at my parents’ house out of necessity. At the same time, I realised that I will not be fit enough to ride for my team and help them win the Giro d’Italia 2019, something which I have been dreaming about for years.

Martijn Tusveld

I’m getting better on the flat and in the mountains. Photograph: Cor Vos

After a week and a half, my situation has started to marginally improve. My face is beginning to heal, and I can feel some energy flowing back into my body. Although this means I can now look after myself, it’s still a weird situation. I’m walking around with a broken and swollen face through the supermarket, and talking is really difficult with a wired-up jaw.

A tentative look ahead…

The number of visits to doctors and hospitals can no longer be counted on two hands. The removal of the stitches proved difficult. Because my face was so swollen, I had to lie for up to two hours on the operating table to have just two simple stitches removed… But thanks to the professional treatment by my GP and at UMC hospital in Utrecht, my face is actually doing ok. At the time of writing this, it’s mainly my swollen lips that are a nuisance. And in time I will have to spend a lot of time at the dentist.

Although I’m not on my bike full-time, I am getting a decent amount of exercise. I try and do something every day: walking, a round trip on my normal bike, on the home trainer or a bit of weight training. It’s difficult eating with a wired jaw. Luckily our team nutritionist has sent me a bunch of recipes for liquid meals. You can also be sure that all the milkshakes from all the well-known fast food chains have also been tried and tested.

Slowly but surely it’s all going in the right direction. Although I’m not there yet, I actually can’t wait to get back on my racing bike!