A horrifying high-speed crash at the Italian Championships may have knocked him down but will not knock him out
If your life’s ambition is to become a professional rider, the ability to cope with traumatic events is a prerogative. Turning these into opportunities for growth, however, is a special quality that not everyone can boast. Such people are defined as resilient. People like Jacopo Mosca.
One month ago, Jacopo suffered a horrible fall during the Italian TT Championship in Imola. In a downhill sector, traveling over 70 km/h, Jacopo came into a turn with a bad line. In order not to lose control and hit the wall, he tried to redesign his trajectory. “I realized the mistake right away and I tried to fix it with an unnatural maneuver. The front wheel locked and I flew in the air, falling to the ground like a sack,” Jacopo explained.
From the team car, team director Paolo Slongo and general manager Luca Guercilena witnessed the accident. Their concern was evident: Jacopo was alert and conscious, but he had taken an extreme blow. He was quickly transported to the nearby hospital, but his trauma required a specialized center in Cesena. There, Jacopo underwent a series of examinations that, unfortunately, gave a merciless result: bilateral pneumothorax, fracture of the right clavicle and scapula, fracture of eight ribs, cranial trauma, fracture of the spinal processes of three vertebrae and of the transverse processes of two others. For Jacopo, it was the beginning of another long climb.
The medical report was terrible. Every exam he did, a new problem came out.
“The first twenty-four hours were the ones that went by quickly. I was motionless in bed, pain everywhere, but there was a lot of movement around me. Doctors and nurses, treatments and tests. There was nothing I could do but go along with it,” Jacopo remembered.
“The medical bulletin was terrible,” acknowledged Dr. Emilio Magni, the Trek-Segafredo physician responsible for Jacopo. “Every exam he did, a new problem came out. But Jacopo was unconcerned; he only focused on recovery time.” Magni shook his head, “Unbelievable.”
Mosca could barely move his legs in bed but with a healthy recklessness that many riders share, he was only thinking of getting back on the bike. “The TT would have set the end of the first part of my season. I finished the Giro d’Italia with good condition and the Route d’Occitanie with two podiums. The plan was to have a break and then a series of important races were waiting for me. I had spoken also with the Italian Team coach Cassani for the European Championship. I was very happy with my season, I thought it could be my best one as a professional. So, even if I was immobile in bed, I didn’t want to give up that thought.
“Then, with the passing of the days, I had to face the rude reality. The only ambition I could nurture was to pin the number at least once by the end of the year. Otherwise, I had to think about next season,” added Mosca.
I came home bringing with me many pains and several thoughts. For many nights, I couldn't sleep. It was a very difficult period.
Dr. Magni explained: “The most sensitive issue was the pneumothorax, which was functional to the recovery of the respiratory system. The shoulder fractures were reduced with surgery. For ribs and vertebrae, the only treatment is the time needed for consolidation. With this picture, our goal is to have him at 100 percent of his performance’s capability by 2022. I don’t exclude he can resume racing this season, but we have to be realistic and to consider it only as an opportunity to feel again the taste of pedaling in the peloton.”
For Jacopo, the news was a cold shower. “I came home bringing with me many pains and several thoughts. For many nights, I couldn’t sleep. It was a very difficult period. It’s certainly not my first bike accident. In 2017, I broke my elbow but after two days I was already pedaling on my stationary trainer. This is undoubtedly the ugliest accident suffered so far.”
“The first days at home I looked to the bike thinking when would I be back on it? It was a nail in my heart and I can’t deny that the prospect I was facing scared me a little. I had a few special people around me who helped me a lot, but I also had to find the strength to react within myself. I don’t know if it’s right to say I was lucky, but it wasn’t the first time I had to get back up.”
Jacopo Mosca’s cycling life has been anything but simple.
In 2016, after solid growth in the U23 category, Jacopo had his first approach to pro cycling with Trek-Segafredo. “Due to few injuries we needed to add a stagiaire and he stood out with Viris Vigevano, one of our reference teams for the young riders at that time ” explained Luca Guercilena. “He showed great attitude as a team player, but for the following year our roster was already full and so we helped him to find a different solution with another team: Wilier Triestina.”
With the Italian Pro-Continental team Mosca raced the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Two fruitful years, with three victories at the Tour of Hainan and Tour of China. But in late September 2018, the team surprisingly informed him that they would not renew his contract. “When I think back on it, I’m still puzzled. I was told I didn’t have the skills to be a pro-rider,” Mosca remembered.
Without a contract at age 26. For most, it would have been an easy decision to hang up the bike. But Jacopo hit the reset button instead. He started again from the lowest step with D’Amico-UM Tools, a Continental team, who offered him the chance to race in 2019. There were only a few big races to show off his skills, but Jacopo went all-in.
In August, an unexpected call came from Guercilena. “Irizar had just retired, and we were a bit short of riders for the Vuelta a Espana. We needed a solid and reliable rider, we immediately thought of Jacopo. We offered him a six-month contract with the commitment to reserve a place for 2020 if he did well. And he did,” said Guercilena, who extended Mosca’s contract for another year.
Jacopo was back on top. But now he needed to prove he warranted a longer stay.
“In 2020, I had one year left on my contract and the Covid pandemic comes along. Certainly not the ideal situation to show I deserved the renewal, but after so many years fighting for a place, I couldn’t let it discourage me. I put myself completely available to the team’s and the leaders’ needs. I carved out my own role and I was able to prove to myself and others that I deserved to be where I was. The greatest gift was the confidence my teammates gave me in races.”
There are only a few reliable and valuable riders like him around, so we're holding him tight.
Mosca’s commitment was rewarded in September 2020 with a contract renewal for 2021 and 2022. And, as soon as the 2021 Giro was over, Guercilena informed him of the intention to extend even further.
“We decided to upgrade and to extend the contract until 2023 during the Corsa Rosa, and now we have signed it. We did this not because he asked, but because he deserves it. There are only a few reliable and valuable riders like him around, so we’re holding him tight,” said Guercilena.
“The first two-year renewal came almost unexpected,” responded Mosca. “It was the best proof of confidence I could have received from the team. The additional renewal until 2023 dispelled any insecurity I had about being a pro-rider. In my heart, I said to myself, ‘I am worth something!’”
A career filled with a seesaw of emotions continues as Mosca begins a long recovery path in order to resume his place in the Trek-Segafredo team.
“All things considered, it’s going well,” confirmed Magni. “There has been a slight slowdown in the schedule due to an inflammation of the pleura (two thin layers of tissue that protect and cushion the lungs) and a modest infection of the surgical wound, but nothing worrisome.
“The priority was the pneumothorax and we are happy that, amongst everything, it is the aspect that from the beginning has given the best results. Looking at the examinations it’s practically resolved.
“After the consolidation of vertebral and costal fractures, we will look to the physiotherapy phase, first passive and then active, to regain the functionality of the scapula-humeral articulation. Then he will be able to pedal on a stationary trainer. Patience and caution are always needed, but overall, everything is going well.
“Accidents like the one that happened to Jacopo tell a lot about how tough riders are,” Magni continued. “They’re always focused on recovery, never complaining. In the many years of my career, I’ve seen a lot of cases, but I never take this attitude for granted, or in recognizing special people like Jacopo. His strength of mind is incredible; an enviable mental and physical ability to react.”
“In the harshness of this moment, there is still something positive,” Jacopo added. “Each experience is a piece that I add to my baggage because I never forget that getting to the top was a one-shot push and staying there is a daily challenge.”
Resilient words from a resilient man.