If you mention the name Jesper Skibby among Flemish cycling enthusiasts, there’s a good chance they’ll immediately think of the unforgettable photos from the 1987 Tour of Flanders.
“I drove 200 kilometers on the attack and saw Koppenberg looming over the horizon.” What is that? You can’t drive there, can you? “It was so steep that I couldn’t ride the bike anymore,” Skibby recalls at Vive le Vélo, Long Live Ronde.
“Then that car came from the race management and destroyed my bike. The next year they removed Koppenberg from the Ronde, which I thought was really a shame.”
Skibby saw more disasters in the 1993 Tirreno, when he crashed hard at a racing group. “My skull was broken and I had internal bleeding in my brain.”
“Because of that fall I got epilepsy, and I’m still on medication. But in the end I still won a tour stage in the same year.”
Since that incident in Tirreno, Skippy’s life has been dominated by grain. This is how he got his soothing Valium grip. “That was to stop the noise.”
“I’ve already started on steroids at that time and it makes you more energetic.” Why not take two sleeping pills with your Valium? “I thought. Then I got 2 Valium and 2 sleeping pills. Then 3 Valium and 3 sleeping pills.”
This abuse continued after his career. “Nothing suddenly. Black hole. Valium, alcohol, … you name it.”
Skippy bottomed out on New Year’s Eve 2002. “I sat alone and thought: Damn it! I had a box of painkillers and a lot of vodka.” Now I’m going to die, “I think. But I woke up.”
His wife eventually directed Mate Skippy. “She stood over my bed and gave me an ultimatum: Elizabeth (his daughter) and me or the pills.”
Skippy chose his family, although the balance remains fragile. “Now it’s going really well, but I don’t need much to go off track again.”
The majestic Skippy ram tattoo reminds us of this dark period. “The ram means strength. He can live anything. I’m not shy about this episode, but I’m proud. People who walked the same path and yet came out as a normal person should be proud.”
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