Vuelta España 2019 had just finished and my season was about to end in two weeks time...
As a domestique in the sport, it's been a season I can be content with. Throughout the season, I had the usual ups and downs any WorldTour rider deals with year in and out, so without elaborating on that let me tell you how my season ended. Two weeks after Vuelta España my season officially ended and it was time for the much anticipated rest. Little did I know that my so called "off-season" will be cut in half by delayed complications caused by my many Vuelta España crashes.
Long story short, my off season started with 3 extracted teeth, a few strong courses of antibiotics and an immense amount of pain. I told my wife what a fucking curve ball that was. You wait almost a year to fully embrace and enjoy that off-season just to get caught out by the smallest pebble in your shoe. Initially I was excited and thought hell yeah! No more dieting, no more being caught up in small hotel rooms, no more feeling sore and fatigued... HAHAHA!! Try broken, infected, toothache and 3 courses of antibiotics to start your off season with.
After I painfully solved the problems...and after putting our newly bought house on Airbnb we left Andorra. Yeah, so to my friends out there and the Youtube community, I'll post a video of a Tour through our house shortly and you'll be obliged to promote it. ;).
Anyways, after a quick stop in Valencia, to leave most of our belongings there to kick off the season in January 2020, we were off to South Africa. Ahhh yeah, the start of BootCamp. The first session back is always the hardest! The pedalling part is the easiest, but getting your mind used to the long hours on the bike is a different story...Oh yeah, and the cold. We South Africans are not really big fans of that.
A short three days after arriving in South Africa I was already on my way again. (Not much time for rest.) This time around it was just a much shorter flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town for the 2019 edition of Wines2Whales. Without elaborating too much, I Basically got back onto a mountain bike for the first time in two and a half years and without any training the previous month, as it was my off-season.
Funny enough, I was very careful and cautious of not crashing without focusing too much on my knee, which has been giving me problems over the last two years. So, jumping back onto a brand new bike, without any conditioning, no warm-up before the stages and obviously very little sleep I had set myself up for a disaster. (No wonder so many recreational cyclists get injured!!)
I very well knew that what I was doing was all about taking a big risk, but on the other hand It didn't bother me too much, because I had lost such a big chunk of my off-season (because off my teeth), and I just wanted to have a little bit of fun. That fun however, very quickly turned into a nightmare when the fascia in my right VMO ripped away from the Muscle halfway into stage two of Wines2Whales. But being a Professional rider I wasn't just going to sit next to the road feeling sorry for myself. so I rode all the way to the finish, which is possibly the worst thing I could have done...
This is where I realised I was handed a bad apple and all the fun has come to an end. The initial plan was to stay a couple of days longer after wines2whales and to have some fun in Stellenbosch. But my off season has come yet again to a sudden end and I just knew I had to get my knee looked at, without yet knowing the extent of the injury. I took the earliest flight I could find back to Pretoria to find out what was going on. If you understand anything about being a professional athlete, you'd know that getting an appointment with a really good sports Doctor is mission impossible, especially on short notice.
Another big fear as a professional athlete is miss-diagnosis... because for obvious reasons that could possibly prolong your rehabilitation by months and could mess up your next season as well. Messing up your whole season could also be putting you out of contract for the following season. Career done. Oops!. So yeah, despite everything, thats why I take any injury very very seriously regardless of the extent of it, as I have seen first hand how the smallest injuries have ended athletes careers.
Photo by @cyclenation
Jaco Ferreira is the biokineticist at Loftus Medical Services. He coached me for over 7 years. Jaco has known about the problem in my right knee area for quite some time and recommended to me to come see Dr Gerhard Vosloo at their practice. He works with Dr. Philda de Jager who is one of the only Sports Drs who's advice Ive always trusted in my career. (Well Dr. Jeroen Swart is also excellent but he doesn't live up North). So Dr. Gerhard had a pretty high bench mark to reach.
After extensive examinations by Dr. Gerhard and Dr. Philda I pretty much knew I was literally being handled by two of the best doctors in the world. Not just South Africa. Trust me I have experience. It quickly became very evident how good Dr. Gerhard is in his occupation and the passion he had for it. In just two weeks himself and Jaco made immense progress with the tear in my right VMO. To put it into context I rode 94.7 on a tandem with Gert Fouche and we would have had the fastest time of the day if we didn't have a puncture in the first 500m. (We had to ride 7min back into the leading tandems in 70kilometers to win the tandem category.) We couldn't just go home empty handed. And we rode all the time on our own in the wind. Thats how fast their practice and rehabilitation got me back on a bike. Saying that, I would not recommend it as it is a risk getting back on the bike so soon and pushing so hard. A risk that was my own decision. But my knee felt so good I had full confidence. And saying that, I just came out of the off-season, so that's with absolutely no form or conditioning in the legs.
If you would like to know the exact extent of my injury you can read further on down below ...
The nature of the injury was acute on chronic. This injury was coming over a long period of time due to biomechanical instability and/ or biomechanical errors that occurred throughout the last season or two. These biomechanical errors occur secondary to previous injuries that are not fully rehabilitated/ healed in season because of limited time in season because you have to continue riding/ race again. My body adapts to the new position it is in the whole time, which leads to the rest of my alignment and setup to be out again. During this change is alignment and setup, specific areas of my VMO worked harder than other areas, which leads to over development of certain areas. In my case, this lead to increased friction between the Femoral condyle (bone attachment) and the VMO head (muscle) which caused thickening in the fascial layer which caused chronic pain over the last two years.
During wines2whales I was exposed to a completely different biomechanical task on my lower leg/ knee, and this along with the increase in torque caused this fascial thickening to tear. This fascial thickening can be seen as chronic scar tissue that formed over the last two years, due to chronic inflammation and irritation to the knee. Mine was classified as a grade 2 tear which is a complete dissociation between the Fascia from the muscle body.