Things have been tumultuous since my last tumultuous post over on MarathonMTB.com. At that stage, I was coming back from illness and trying to formulate plan C or maybe D of my Europe trip. I think I’m up to calling the situation ‘fluid’ now! After a bumpy start to the trip, I was back on the way up with a solid result at a German national round leading into the Albstadt and Nove Mesto World Cups. If you haven’t checked out the races on Redbull.tv, do, as they were pretty epic.
Albstadt was a beautiful mess of mud and bikes and certainly one of the most technical races I’ve done in the super slippery conditions. While on the other hand, Nove Mesto was just a mess. Last year, I crashed off the start after one of the top riders snapped his chain. The Nove Mesto start is one of the fastest being on smooth hot mix and crashing on it hurts, a lot. This year the exact same thing happened, though this one hurt a lot more. A rider in front of me snapped his chain and I went straight into the pile up that had formed. There is very little time to react when you’re going over 45km/h and I was down before I knew it.
I’m not sure what happened but I guess I landed on my right foot and rolled it, or it was rolled over by someone’s wheel. Either way I was in the most pain I’ve ever been in, so I took my shoe off to poke my ankle and see if it was deformed or broken, which it wasn’t so in my mind, at the time, it was good enough to ride. I made it around the track for the start loop and one lap just as I had done the previous year.
But, continuing wasn’t really an option considering the size of my ankle, so it was off to the hospital. The whirlwind of doctors and nurses ended a week later with the results of an MRI showing ruptured ankle ligaments and bone bruising. I had read some pretty lengthy recovery times when I searched my symptoms on the internets, before my MRI, that had me a bit worried. DON’T SEARCH SYMPTOMS ON THE INTERNET!
I really should know that, but anyway. The doctor was optimistic, I would be back within a few weeks. I then read every medical research report on ankle ligament injuries there is on the internet to confirm. It did confirm his thoughts, shocking, but really just made me feel better. Being treated overseas for an injury that could have been season ending was tough, even with a doctor who spoke English and had travelled through Bright, where I live in Australia.
Overall, it was about two weeks completely off the bike with another week of gym and light exercise. I’m calling it my ‘mid-season’ break at the moment. Getting back on the bike was a nervous time not knowing where my form was going to be or even if I would be able to pedal properly. Thankfully, once my ankle was strapped the ankle ligaments didn’t cause much trouble with the fairly static position the ankle was in when pedalling.
The real problem was the bone bruising and general bruising throughout the foot that was limiting the amount of pressure I could put through the pedal. With some extensive rehab and icing though, the bruising recovered much faster than expected. As I pushed the ankle further in training, I started to realise I could handle a lot more than expected and started to dream of my return to racing. I had planned a return after seven weeks back on the bike though this quickly changed to one! I was in Kirchberg, Austria at the time and that weekend the Kitzalp marathon was going to be held.
At 90km with over 4000m of climbing, I thought it might be a little ambitious. But with an eye on the World XCM Championships in September, I wanted to see where I stacked up and thought it would make a good test. What I didn’t know until the night before was that the race would be the Austrian National marathon champs! So, some of the best climbers in the world of mountain bikes would be battling out for a title in a race with a lot of climbing. It was going to be fast!
Spot me! 🙋♂️ Nothing like a 20% grass pinch at the end of a 40min mountain climb! 😬😅Having to dodge cow 💩mounds was also great! 🙄🤪Absolutely brutal but cool with all the spectators! #Kitzalp festival is over, now for the next one! #kitzalpbike • • #norcobicycles #pocteam #rideshimano #ridefoxaustralia #maxxis #iamastagescyclist #stansnotubes #swiftwickaus #krushingit #stagescycling #powerforeveryrider #fesports #weknowpower #xcperspective #kitzalpbike
I didn’t really ‘race’ the marathon and instead ‘rode’ it very conservatively knowing I only had around 4 proper training rides completed in the week leading up. Even riding conservatively, the race was still brutal with multiple long climbs over 12% with some very steep sections. I was surprised to make it to around 4 hours in before my doors completely blew off! This was at the base of the final 8km climb, which should have taken me around 40 minutes but took me closer to one hour. Even so, it was still an amazing race with epic views across the Austrian Alps. Crossing the finish line was almost just as amazing given everything that had happened leading in. It was also cool to find out I had been sitting 27th before I blew up, which was a bit of a surprise and pretty cool.
Looking forward, I’m going to give the ankle a bit more time before I get back into an XC race. Riding is fine but running the first climb and rocky descent due to bottlenecks at this weekend’s World Cup in Val di Sole probably won’t be good for my ankle ligaments. It’s disappointing, but I’m glad to still be riding and even hitting new personal bests in training. I still have some great XCO races planned in a few weeks but for now I’m sticking with the slightly more predictable and less hectic XCM races and one of the biggest races in Europe, the Dolomiti Superbike this weekend. The start list is stacked with a lot for the world’s best XCM racers, which should make one of the fastest marathon races even faster. I definitely won’t be conservatively ‘riding’ this race and look forward to seeing how I go at full race pace!