Photos: GettySport, Anderson Bonilla and Oskar Scarsbrook
Just after the feed zone at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the first race of the iconic, grueling Belgian sprint classics series, Pier-André Coté found in a bind. Going 45 mph, keeping the frantic pace and navigating the dramatic twists and turns of the Flandarian course, the road suddenly narrowed and a group of ten crashed hard. Coté was caught in the middle and went down hard.
“There’s such a build up to it. I trained the whole winter. I raced a little bit in January and early February, but the real goal was Opening Weekend and the spring classics. Crashing thoroughly in Omloop and slowly realizing that I might be missing more than just that one race was tough.”
It wasn’t until he got back up on his bike and tried to race another 100km on the cobblestone streets of Flanders that he realized something was seriously wrong. Unable to hold onto his bars without severe pain, he pulled out of the race and headed to the hospital. Through x-rays of his hand, doctors determined he had broken his scaphoid; a small bone in the wrist that often requires surgery to help aid in recovery.
“The doctors told me it’s quite a small bone and the way the blood flows through it, it actually goes around the bone and gets back in it. So it’s badly vascularized. It’s pretty hard to get blood to go through it and facilitate recovery. That’s why I needed surgery.”
The road to recovery began almost overnight. Coté crashed on a Saturday, was in surgery the following Monday night and had his post-op appointment Tuesday, where doctors fitted him with a custom brace that allowed him to continue riding his bike, albeit on the Wahoo Kickr smart trainer.
A few weeks later, Coté sat down with Joel Totoro from Thorne to create a plan that would support bone regrowth. The goal was to help Coté understand how to keep energy levels up and aid the bone’s healing process, all while sleeping at altitude and training at sea level. Coté lives in Girona, Spain, which is well below the heights required for altitude adaptation. So he uses an altitude tent to reap the widely-sought rewards of cardio training in thin air.
Living at altitude, or at the very least sleeping in simulated altitude, and then training at sea level is an effective way to make gains, but puts extra stress on the body. Totoro suggested Coté up his electrolyte intake to mitigate this.
“You’ll dehydrate a little bit faster at altitude. And it’s one of those things where, especially if you’ve been used to it for a little while, you don’t notice. But you are just kind of losing a little bit more through your breathing and just existing in that world. So that’s one where you just want to make sure you’re kind of super diligent on your electrolytes, not just the fluids.”
To support bone regrowth, Totoro said, “Certain nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium are specific to bone health. Those are the main supplements we’ll add to your diet since they’re not easily found in a lot of foods.”
Joel also suggested that Coté start taking creatine and beta alanine to help replenish energy in his muscles.
“As your energy system in your muscles gets back to a higher training load and you gain intensity, those are things we’d be giving to you anyway. We’ll start now so that they’ll be fully saturated in your muscles by the time you’re ready to really flip over into race mode.”
With a solid plan in place from Thorne and on the road to recovery after surgery, Coté started feeling less disappointment and more inspiration to get back to racing. His Wahoo trainer helped the transition.
“For my rehab, having the whole Wahoo ecosystem is perfect. I can set my trainer up by my desk and use my computer while training inside during recovery. That, plus the built-in fan on the trainer, makes training more enjoyable, even when you have a broken bone.”
Totoro also felt inspired by Coté’s positive attitude toward his recovery and training plan.
“You never want to see an athlete get injured., But it comes with the sport. Knowing that we can give them the right tools for recovery and get them back on the bike doing what they love gives me peace of mind. I have full confidence that Pier-André will be racing again soon at his highest potential.”
After making a full recovery and eager to get back in the game, Coté did just that 46 days later at the Giro di Sicilia in Italy. And eight weeks post-crash, Coté found himself at one of the highest points of his young career – fighting for gold from the lead group at the Panamerican Championships. The Canadian, racing for his national team, was able to take the win in a reduced bunch sprint that blossomed from a breakaway he and his Human Powered Health teammate Charles-Étienne Chrétien helped instigate.
After taking home gold, Coté said, “I’ve been rolling on my wrist for a week and I could easily forget I’ve ever broken it. I’m back to 100% strength and mobility. [Sunday] I won a sprint and did the same numbers I always did, if not better. Honestly, it’s really amazing what medicine can do these days.”
Taking the trans-continental title is a huge achievement, and to do so after being hurt was the icing on the cake for Coté.
“If someone had told me that I would be the Panamerican champion at any time in my career, I would not have believed it. I never even dreamed of it because I considered it out of reach.”
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What supplements should I take for a broken scaphoid?
Joel Totoro and the Thorne team recommend the following products for a quicker recovery after injury.